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“Only Apple could do that”

I read this post when it was published last week. In usual Daring Fireball style, there were some rather subjective statements like this one:

Google makes a lot of software with terrible user experiences for users who have poor taste.

And this one:

An iPad email app that doesn’t support split-screen multitasking for five years is, by definition, not a good app.

That didn’t bother me too much, I mean, we’re all entitled to our opinions, no matter how biased they might be. Then I read this statement which got me thinking:

Apple undeniably wields great power from the fact that the App Store is the exclusive source for all consumer software for the iPhone and iPad. Why not use that power in the name of user experience? Imagine a world where the biggest fear developers had when submitting an app review wasn’t whether they were offering Apple a sufficient cut of their revenue, but whether they were offering users a good enough native-to-the-platform experience. Video app that doesn’t support picture-in-picture? You’re out of the store. App doesn’t support dynamic type size but clearly should? You’re out. Poor accessibility support? Out. Popular email client that doesn’t support split screen? Out.

Apple could get developers to implement features for security and privacy, and to block any app if they don’t comply to these widely-agreed safety standards and features. But I think it’ll be a stretch to categorically include nice-to-have features like split screen and picture-in-picture, because blocking a developer for these features could be misconstrued as monopolistic behavior. I think that’s something they’d rather avoid being added on top of their ongoing antitrust investigations.

It’s also rather naive to think that Apple didn’t already consider this. They probably did, and product counsel most likely didn’t want to take the unnecessary risk. I don’t think Apple would take business risks like these.

Rather than watch Apple face antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe with a sense of dread, I’d watch with a sense of glee. “This company is abusing its market dominance to take an unfair share of our money” is an age-old complaint to government regulators. “This company is abusing its market dominance to force us to make our apps better for users” would be delightful new territory. Only Apple could do that.

I’m quite sure this “delightful new territory” is not something Apple wants to be number 1 in. In this context, “only Apple could do that” might not be the badge of honor John gleefully thinks it is.