Why developers are terrified of speaking truthfully about Apple:
According to Ian Parker of The New Yorker, “Apple has made missteps, but the company’s great design secret may be avoiding insult.” It seems curious that they are able to avoid criticism and instead create a “reality distortion field,” in a way that so few other companies have been able to.
Some might explain this fear away as standard corporate procedure. Developers in relationships with Apple are argued to have been required to sign NDAs in order to test prerelease software. Indeed, some developers felt pressure to take down blog posts critical of iOS 7 because they did not want to go against their contractual obligation to secrecy. On the other hand, there are plenty of public screenshots and walkthroughs available during any of Apple’s releases and journalists and public commentators have made hardly a squeak when it comes to criticism of Apple, particularly relating to design. Non-disclosure agreements cannot be the explanation.
James Allworth, a former Strategist for Apple currently with the Harvard Business Review who partners on the Stratechery Podcast with Ben Thompson, sheds light on how Apple has gone about avoiding insult, and it has been anything but a passive strategy. He explains: “I’m generally pro-Apple. I love what they do, I’m completely invested in their ecosystem, I loved working there previously.”
You are surely noticing a pattern here where would-be critics are preemptively apologizing for admitting publicly that Apple is imperfect. Allworth was brave enough to continue at this point: “at the same time, it [Apple] shouldn’t be above criticism. But anytime you think about wanting to write something like this [anything critical] you just pause before pulling the trigger.”
In his days at Apple, Allworth recalls having been a member of a mailing list led by Apple’s Chief Evangelist at the time, Guy Kawasaki. It was on this mailing list that a brigade of devout Apple employees and fanatics would go about promoting Apple’s interests by destroying the opposition. Allworth described what was expected of him when Kawasaki would rouse the mailing list:
I was one of the ones that used to send emails to journalists that said anything other than kind things about Apple. Like they used to post negative articles about Apple and a whole horde of Apple proponents would bear down upon this poor unsuspecting soul.
This is why you’re a fool to buy into their walled garden. It’s like volunteering to live on the wrong side of the Berlin wall. And it’s why they’re never going to own the game market that they threw away after the Apple II. Android will eventually beat out iOS on all mobile platforms for just that reason; game developers are among the few developers where the users are essentially platform-independent.
Eventually someone is going to figure out what Intel did back in the late 90s and realize that they can dominate the mobile platform with killer game applications across the various game genres. And it’s not going to be Apple. Because fApplism.