Linked by Kroc Camen on Sat 29th May 2010 20:41 UTC
Apple I've been meaning to write this for some time, and for all the time I delayed the more poignant the point I wanted to make started to become as new news came out further solidifying my angle. When I begun writing this article the iPad had not yet been revealed, iPhone OS 4 was not on the map and Apple had not yet purchased Lala. You've probably just noticed that all of these events in fact point toward Apple embracing the web more and in this article I will point out why this is not the case because I believe Apple's agenda here is similar to something we've already seen in recent history.
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I think you're mistaking Safari - the browser - for WebKit, the rendering engine that Apple started and open sourced. Apple couldn't stop webkit's development if it wanted to, and it has no affect over whether other companies like Google, Nokia, and (soon) even RIM use it in their browsers. These companies are choosing to use WebKit for a variety of reasons, usually being that is a very streamlined and portable engine- it runs quite well on desktop *and* mobile devices.

So a WebKit-based browser can use Flash or any other technologies that you mention, or not. Safari uses Flash on the desktop, but not on Apple's portable devices. Google's Android browser - based on WebKit - will use Flash once 2.2 FroYo goes live for everyone.

These decisions are not, and never have been, up to Apple. If FroYo helps Adobe to keep Flash alive, and other companies are successful in pushing the new web tech you speak of, Apple will either need to follow along with Safari, or risk losing Safari's users. Don't forget, IE was the default browser on Macs for quite some time; it was pre-installed out of the box. We can always switch to another browser, as Firefox and now Chrome are very solid products on the Mac now.

But you're right in that Apple wants people to buy its hardware. At the end of the day, Apple is a hardware company, not a software company. The fundamental way that it is going to compete is by trying to build software and hardware that provide better experiences for users than web tech. If the day comes that the browser trumps native software in features, power, and experience, Apple may need to adapt or face extinction. Much like Microsoft is having to do with IE right now - didn't Firefox just pass the 40% worldwide install base? Microsoft is finally stepping up its competition with IE9 by supporting CSS3, HTML5, and other tech, and from what I hear, it's doing a pretty good job.

I think the "market share argument" is also a bit misguided, and it muddies discussions about tech and products like this. If Windows and IE still own the market, does that make ther Mac, Chrome OS, and Linux terrible products? Does that mean the Linux effort has "failed" or should be abandoned? Is BMW a terrible product because there are more Toyotas or Honda's on the road? No, they're all good products built for customers who want them.

Gmail is a great product, but it already has a ton of competition that plays by generally the same rules. Why does MobileMe need to compete with Google, and be monetized in the same way as Google's products? Yahoo, Hotmail, and a slew of others are all trying to play Google's game, which is why I choose to use MobileMe. I don't want ads in my email, I want a small bit of web hosting, and i want to be able to sync a ton of third party product data between a few Macs. MobileMe is the only solution I've found for that. Google doesn't offer web hosting, nor does it offer a syncing engine for third party applications like Sync Services in MobileMe and Mac OS X. But lots of people don't need these things, so they go with Google. It's good to have this diversity and choice in the market.

But when it comes to integration, none of these companies are required to support anyone else's products. Can i enter my MobileMe credentials in Windows or Linux to set up my email, or sync app data? What about my Yahoo creds? Can I even manually add my MobileMe address to any Windows client and sync down all my MobileMe email aliases? Can you add your Gmail credentials to Outlook and use Gmail Labs features or even labels the way Google intended?

Apple, Microsoft, and Google are pretty smart companies, and they all have their perspectives on how best to make emerging technology work for their business. It seems to me that Apple's approach will be to build strong native clients for web services where necessary. After all, the iTunes Store has always run in the itunes client, but the store itself has always been just a webpage. If the web truly is where the majority of our tasks and experiences end up, neither Apple nor any of its competition will be able to stop the stampede. They'll need to adapt or perish. It's pretty simple.

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