The Apple Effect

On June 29th, the day the iPhone launched, I posted the following to a private mailing list:

I suspect there’ll also be an ipod/DRM effect. Once the ipod got super hot, you had folks demanding that Apple “make it compatible with other music stores.” What a riot it was to see even the ex-head of the RIAA make this demand, as if the RIAA had nothing to do with the hell that is DRM. The ipod was hot, and people started wondering why this hot little item was not fully interoperable. And since there’s no good consumer reason for DRM… well it’s starting to go away.

So the iphone is hot, and already people are saying “hey, why can’t I get this thing to run on Sprint… oh different technology? okay, how about Tmobile? Oh AT&T doesn’t like that idea? Who the @#$@#$ are they?”

Until now, nobody cared deeply enough that you couldn’t get a given phone on any network, because phones are not that different: they all more or less suck. With the iphone, people will care, and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before someone at the FCC says that Apple is “closed” because they “won’t let” their phone run on other networks.

Interoperability matters a lot more when one of the items is in super high demand.

I wish I’d posted it to this blog, because I suspect this is happening a lot faster than I suspected. Here’s Ed Markey, Congressman from Massachusetts, talking about this issue. As Markey says, “I believe this is stultifying innovation and unquestionably diminishing consumer choice.”

Maybe, maybe, having a really hot product like the iPod or iPhone lets people see what happens when the platform isn’t neutral.