Apple's slippery slope.

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I've always been a fan of Apple, but I have to admit that recently, my feelings about the brand are starting to sour. The stench of monopoly is in the air: You can buy our phone, but you have to use our provider. You can buy our media player, but you have to buy your music and videos from our store. Starbucks is advertising on Apple's portable devices and interfacing with them. I hear rumors of further such exclusive deals on the horizon. (Apple portable devices are becoming a tightly controlled channel for highest-bidder companies rather than just simply cool, well-designed multimedia devices. Even early adopters (Apple's one-percenters) just got fleeced by the company they thought was "different".

(Hint: Everyone expects to pay a premium to be the first to buy a hot new product, but at least wait five or six months before dropping the price. Not just... two. Apple could have waited until Halloween or Thanksgiving or something. Dropping the price so soon after iPhone's initial release was wicked bad form, and no one will soon forget it.

The whole thing with AT&T being the sole wireless provider for iPhones? Eh. I think it sucks that Apple decided to go for the easy buck rather than put its customers (err... users) first. What scares me is that the at&t iPhone deal may have only been the tip of the iceberg.

I am not saying that Apple shouldn't make tons of money. They should. But the way the company is going about it isn't exactly great for users, and that worries me. Its current strategy may be great for Apple and whomever is willing to pay big bucks to broker an exclusive deal with Steve Jobs, but it sucks for the rest of us who want THE FREEDOM to use Apple's products with applications we have already invested in.

And let's face it: We're the buyers. We're the users. We decide where the money goes, in the end. If you make it impossible for us to use your pretty little boxes in the way we see fit, someone else will come up with pretty little boxes that will let us do what we want, however we want it.

You are steering the conversation away from design and branding, and towards usability, freedom, and choice, Steve. You may not see it coming, but you are digging your own grave with your autocratic, monopolistic attitude.

This isn't a question of whose OS is better. We are way past the operating system debate here. We neither need nor want Steve Jobs or any other CEO to make these types of decisions for us: What programs to watch. What coffee to buy. What airline to fly with. What online store to buy our music from. What wireless provider to contract with.

What I am talking about is Apple telling me that if I want to own an iPhone, I can't choose between Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Alltel or whomever I please. I have to use at&t.

If I want to download music or TV shows into my iPod, I have to do it from iTunes. I can't do it any other way.

If I want to download a ringtone into my iPhone, I have to do it Steve Jobs' way too.

If I want to own any part of Steve Jobs' gadgets, I have to do it on his terms. His way.

And that, my friends, for better or for worse, sucks.

Good thing Apple doesn't make iCars, because they would probably only work with iGas. Screw BP and Shell or anyone else who isn't willing to sign an exclusive deal with Steve Jobs.

Sure, you can have an iShower installed in your house, but you'll need to buy your iWater and your iSoap from Apple.

Give me a break.

I want to go back to Apple. I really do. But I can't justify losing my freedom in order to become just another Apple sheep. Just being pretty and expensive don't cut it anymore.

Whatever happened to Think Different?

Oh, I know. It sold to the highest bidder. Kind of like whomever Steve Jobs has been buying his one "signature" outfit from for the last twenty years. (Somebody please buy the guy a shirt or something.)


(Via Orange Yeti) Wil Shipley gives us a brilliant essay on where Apple is screwing the pooch. (He offers some simple advice to Steve Jobs as well, which I hope he will read and take to heart.)

Here's a taste:

What should Steve do? Well, for starters, give up on trying to control everything. It's only going to keep hurting Apple, more and more, to control content and hardware and software. It's going to make them into the kind of mega-monopoly that we always, ALWAYS end up hating. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. 100% of the time.

Apple should license FairPlay, or allow iPods to play PlaysForSure (ha! I love that doublespeak) music. Either one. Basically, Apple should allow other music stores to sell DRM'ed music that works on iPods and iPhones.

Why? It's simple -- then Apple could tell record companies "go fug yourself" if they don't like Apple's terms, but Apple would still have a full range of music to play on its iPods. Remember, Apple makes all its money selling the hardware, not the songs. All Apple needs to do is to make sure there is a broad range of content available for iPods, it doesn't have to sell all that content itself.

And, in fact, it hurts Apple to sell all the content itself, because it makes Apple a focus for battles between the record industry and consumers. If there were a range of stores selling iPod-compatible music, with a range of different DRM rights, then the market could decide what terms it liked best.

The iTunes store could be the white knight -- it would only sign deals with record companies willing to "give" consumers the same rights they've had for years with CDs; eg, we can do whatever we want with our music as long as we don't broadcast it or give it to others. Other music stores could sell restrictive DRM'ed music, and, well, if the record companies are right, people would go to those other stores, and we consumers would all get what we deserve.

Read the entire post here.

Apple, please please please stop this nonsense before you become your own worst nightmare.

Other reads: Brian Solis on PR2.0,, Andy Dornan's piece on IW, Thom Hogan's contrarian view, and of course, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.

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