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How many companies did Apple declare war on with iOS 5?


June 7, 2011

This means war

This means war

I named Instapaper a killer app in my review of the first-gen iPad last year, and I was but one of many. So how did its developer Marco Arment feel when the Instapaper-inspired Reading List function in iOS 5 was announced at WWDC? This one word tweet says it all.

So why did Apple, with its near $70 billion in the bank, not buy Instapaper and hire its solo developer Marco Arment? What kind of message does it send to developers when you take 30% of their revenue by default, and then build the functionality of the very best apps into your platform without rewarding the trailblazers?

Arment is not alone - many other companies with apps on the App Store will be in strategy meetings today due to new found competition with the functionality in iCloud and iOS 5. It's not just developers either - I can't imagine Apple's partner carriers or RIM being thrilled about the free messaging of iMessage, nor Facebook being thrilled about the Twitter integration.

This post from Joel Spolksy in 2009 shows that this is far from a new problem for Apple developers, and argues that if you build a feature that's useful to everyone on a platform, it's just a matter of time until you're toast. If you want to build a long-term business on the App Store, stay vertical.

There's over 200 million iOS devices out there, and there's plenty of success stories from people who've managed to sell apps to very small percentages of that user base - but don't forget you're playing with Apple's ball, and they decide if, how and for how long you get to play.

About the Author
Tim Hanlon Tim originally came to Gizmag as a developer, much to the dismay of anyone who had to maintain, build on, or rewrite his code. After wearing every other hat that didn't have a head for it, he became CEO in 2010. Outside Gizmag, he trains Muay Thai and plays too much Destiny. All articles by Tim Hanlon

it is true, but then apple did just hire the jailbreak notifications guy. Why did they hire one guy and not the other ?


Time to sue.

Joseph Shimandle

Another reason why Android is the best ;)

Gustavo Centeno

Look, its the laws of the market. They saw a cool functionality that was trending and just grabbed it. It\'s not just instapapper in the market. There\'s ReaditLater, and a few others. Quite frankly, hiring this guy, they would need to buy his company and business which would increase the price and the service is not that hard to implement as we can see. It isn\'t that Apple just copied that. Instead, they integrated that function. Laws of the market. What to say of Android tablets with multi-touch gestures? Would we call that a copycat?

Rui Nunes

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Bruce H. Anderson

Bruce: It\'s giving Apple too much credit to say that they have absolute power. Between Windows 7 mobile and Android, there are plenty of places to build new apps.

Of course (and I say this as a hard core android fan) it\'s debatable as to whether they are -better- options. Google also takes some overhead (though you can always offer apps off the market) and I have seen them \"integrate\" several ideas. Sometimes Google does it better and sometimes they don\'t - I am sure the same is true of Apple.

I don\'t like Apple products, but honestly I\'m not inclined to complain about their business model. That said, I think they are implementing some pretty terrible ideas. Personally \"the cloud\" sounds like a complete end of privacy to me (we all know that Apple is so good at privacy anyway), and further it sounds like Apple has decided to take the RIAA by the horns. If I end up with an iPod/Pad/Phone, I think I\'ll sit tight and not pay for a service that is likely to make the pictures and music I store on my computer even less secure and more likely to get lost.

Charles Bosse

Some one needs to create an app for Steve Jobs to stop him from being a jerk.

Guy Macher

Apple in the past has fully bought or licensed lesser functionality versions of 3rd party software to integrate into their OS. The Mac didn\'t have the titlebar clock until Apple licensed Superclock.

But Apple has also done rather nasty campaigns to destroy companies who do something better. Instead of admitting Jump Development could do memory management far better, Apple repeatedly altered things in the System and Mac OS to break compatibility with RAM Charger instead of licensing the technology to make the Macintosh better.

Back in the early Mac era, Apple threw away an opportunity to be the largest player in the computer business in South America. The continent was a hotbed of apple ][ cloners. Best among them was Unitron. When Unitron reverse-engineered the Macintosh Apple curb stomped the company instead of co-opting it as a licensed Macintosh manufacturer to get around Brazil\'s anti-import laws on computers. (Which weren\'t repealed until 1992.)

Now Apple is just grabbing ideas without so much as a thank you to the people who are more creative than their own employees.

Gregg Eshelman

This is just a typical move from Apple, \'Apple\' didn\'t invent multi-touch \'Rui Nunes\', they \'stole\' that concept as well from the many previously documented multi-touch interfaces (see Bill Buxton\'s quite concise timeline of the technology\'s development dating from the 70s http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html).

Apple are just doing what they do best, claiming credit for work and ideas that just ultimately aren\'t theirs.


Well that makes a lot of sense dude.


Wot Pootin

You people make me laugh. Do you think that offline reading was something that didn\'t exist before Marco came out with instapaper? I love instapaper and I use it all the time, but I am not sure Apple is somehow banned from adding obvious features to their platform just because someone has come out with a paid version.

I bet the same people who are posting here about how evil Apple is for implementing this obvious feature would be up in arms if Apple sued someone else for implementing some other obvious feature that Apple had a patent on.


The funny thing is that Netscape won the lawsuit against Microsoft. iOS shouldn\'t be allowed to bundle any apps with the OS ;>)

Actually, Windows was a special case because they abused their monopoly. Hopefully the justice department will continue looking into Apple and break up their monopoly.


Its only a matter of time before the monopolistic closed ecosystem will destroy all fragmented opposition.

All fragmented innovation will simply be absorbed and improved upon by the unifying integration of the closed ecosystem itself.

As long as there is new innovation in the fragmented realm there will always be more for the integrated system to feed upon.

The only way to avoid absorption is to create a new ecosystem and integrate into it.

If a new ecosystem is not created with sufficient force to counterbalance the existing ecosystem, then it to will be absorbed.


Not to worry. The Apple fanbois will line up to tell Jobs how great he is, stuff billions into his G string, and decry the \"corporate greed\" of Bill Gates.

Iman Azol

Wouldn\'t you think that somebody who is obviously not long for the planet would try to depart with as many friends as possible?

Stuart Saunders

I\'m happy my work life is coming to an end. I have never been without a mac since they were introduced in 1984, but i have to say i am disappointed at how apple has degenerated into just another greedy corporation. For decades i have scoffed at microsoft\'s corporate mentality and how slimy it was compared to apple, but no more. apple is just as slimy now.

Christopher Porozny

Let\'s remember that the Mac grew out of a visit to Xerox PARC in the 1970\'s where Jobs saw what we were doing with our Alto computer and graphical user interfaces. Their record of appropriating ideas from others is old news. My concern is the hubris expressed by some Apple employees who believe that Apple invented everything they make.

David Thornburg

Thats why I also like Android which is based on LINUX just like the Ubuntu LINUX operating system on my current home-based PC. I switched from Windoz some years ago and have never looked back. I like the open architecture method best of all. It\'s not perfect but is a lot better than the much higher priced Windoz and Apple operating systems!

Will, the tink

What's new about Apple hijacking a smaller companies app? Microsoft has been doing that for 25 years.

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