Looking to game consoles to predict the future of the iPhone

With section 3.3.1 of the iPhone SDK terms of service agreement Apple has once again ruffled the feathers of those that support them. 3.3.1 mandates that no intermediary language can be used in the creation of iPhone/iPad applications. Steve Job’s suggests that this to maintain quality control, but technically that’s what the App Store review process is for. Personally I think “quality control” is just a cover up for marketing insecurities. My buddy Arpit captures this point with a touch of humor

“He really should go and look at the crap apps that currently flood the apple app store, so much so that Apple has started to remove apps with “limited functionality” and “objectionable content”. But hey, iFart is still one of the top sellers but at least it was done in Objective C. “.

Since the release of 3.3.1, the bloggosphere has been flooded with people’s opinions and there is no need to reiterate these points. One of the best reads on the subject comes from The Tao Effect, as it covers both Steve’s responses and makes some solid points on the subject. And others are reminded of the 80′s when Apple (under Steve Jobs) followed a similar path with the desktop market only to watch the market be completely overtaken by windows/intel based computers. TechCrunch waxes more deeply on this subject. One thing I haven’t seen referenced yet is the history of the game consoles and how closed/”locked-in” system worked or better failed to work.

If you look at the gaming console market you can see how “locked-in” versus cross-platform support plays a bigger role in the success of the console then the hardware or even market dominance. When Microsoft entered the market Sony’s PS2 and Nintendo were the dominant players. And Microsoft had zero clout in the gaming world, especially against Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation. But what Microsoft did have was a way game developers could code the game once and get it on both the new XBox console as well as millions of PC. Fast forward to today and XBox is now the platform of choice to gamers the world over despite the PS3′s better graphics and hardware. Why?

Because it’s the games that draw the users just like it’s the apps that make the iPhone what it is. Sure the iPhone revolutionized smart-phones and is the current market leader, still there are more non-iPhone smart-phones everyday. With Android being offered free to phone manufacturers it’s sure to increase market share despite anything Apple does. As developers start realizing they can reach a larger audience (make more money) by developing cross-phone applications the iPhone will start to feel the pain Sony felt with the PS3.

As a customer I want to get the most for my money, currently that’s an iPhone, but when my contract is up and I’m looking at the next few years will the iPhone continue to offer me the best deal? Based on moves like section 3.3.1 the iPhone’s future just got a little dimmer.

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