Market Reins in Apple

Carl Weinschenk

The most common way of interpreting Apple's relaxation of its developers' rules and promise to be more transparent in its app-approval process is that it feels compelled to play nicer due to the heat from Android and other smartphone OSes.

That's a great thing, if it is indeed the case. The rise of Android has been a terrific thing to watch. Gartner said this week that Symbian and Android will be first and second OSes in 2014. Android's growth-according to Gartner numbers quoted at Ars Technica -- is meteoric. The OSes controlled 3.9 percent of the market last year and will corral 29.6 percent in 2014.

The story also cites other studies that point to the same growth:

Gartner's predictions are based on Android's current growth trajectory, which has been explosive as of late. This year has already been filled with reports from other firms, such as AdMob and comScore, about Android's rise to the top at the expense of RIM and Apple, and there are undoubtedly more tales to come as Android phones continue to flood the marketplace.

The good fortune of its competitor gives credence to the theory that Apple is playing nicely -- or at least a bit nicer -- out of necessity. The Times story also says that Apple may be lodging a preemptive strike against potential intervention by the Federal Trade Commission. This is less persuasive: It's hard to see the haughty folks in Cupertino worrying to that extent about the Feds.


The story almost certainly is that Apple sees a real threat and is taking steps to protect its interests. The company understands the creativity and ambition of Google and can see the rest of the existing gang of OSes -- including Microsoft, which is getting into the game in a big way with Windows Phone 7, including paying developers for apps.

It's terrific to see that the smartphone market is working in a way that others didn't, such as desktops. There are many differences between the desktop and mobile world. The most basic-and one from which most of the others spring-is that no company has rushed to dominance in smartphones to the extent that Microsoft and its Windows OS did on the desktop side. Apple and the iPhone threatened to play this role for the smartphone, and the company is being reined in.

Any hint that Apple is backing down-and the caveat is that this week's announcement indeed only is a hint-is good news for consumers, business users, regulators who don't want a big headache, free market proponents <span>and, of course, developer</span>s.

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