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Apple: The Web 2.0 Misfit? 12 April 2010

Posted by pamkahl in Trends.
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It is iPad launch week, so naturally Apple was top of mind as I was reading O’Reilly’s What is Web 2.0?  Next to Google and Facebook, I would argue Apple has one of the highest profiles in the technology industry today.  New product announcements immediately generate rabid commentary within the blogosphere, David Pogue and Walt Mossberg eagerly write (generally) breathless reviews and hundreds- if not thousands – of people line up early in the morning to be the first to own the new shiny devices.

But as I read O’Reilly’s piece I was struck by the fact that Apple is hardly a shining example of the wide, wonderful, web 2.0 era.  Honestly, Apple is less Amazon, more Microsoft.  Apple has always tightly controlled both software and hardware arguing the importance of user experience.  It was a big deal when Apple announced the availability of an iPhone SDK.  Without it, the apps marketplace would be no where near as colorful and populated as it is today.  Yet, making an SDK available for developers is hardly a web 2.0 play – it’s more of a PC-platform era play.

Interestingly, Apple did get a mention in O’Reilly’s piece towards the back under the sixth heading
“software above the level of a single device”- although I would argue the “nod” was misplaced.  Apple is given credit for iTunes being one of the first applications designed from the ground up to span multiple devices.  OK, yes this is cool- especially since a significant weakness in the web 2.0 paradigm is the minimal role of mobile devices.  But to be clear– the “multiple devices” Apple is getting credit for supporting are all Apple products.  Apple does not directly enable iTunes compatibility with non-Apple devices. Third-party software developers are left to build that bridge.

The question is– if Apple is the misfit of the web 2.0 crowd, is this because they are behind or ahead?  Their penchant for control might lead one to conclude “old school”.  But if web 3.0 is going to be all about mobility (my prediction) then one might conclude Apple is acting more like an mobile operator than PC-era relic- putting them “ahead”.  Whether the mobile operator model is actually “ahead” is future post fodder . . .

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