Steve Jobs vs. the world

Apple's CEO rules iPhone development with an iron fist and his arrogance knows no bounds. But a palace rebellion may be brewing

Contrary to popular belief in certain circles, Steve Jobs can't actually walk on water. But you wouldn't know it based on how he and his company have been acting of late.

Item No. 1: Over the weekend, a minor kerfuffle erupted when Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber noticed Apple had updated its Developer Program License Agreement to ban apps written using a cross-platform compiler. More specifically, "applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine," effectively nixing Adobe's Flash and causing Mac developer and blogger Hank Williams to declare, "Steve Jobs has just gone mad." Per Williams:

Take a pause and think about what that "originally" really means. Developers are not free to use any tools to help them. ...This is akin to telling people what kind of desk people sit at when they write software for the iPhone. Or perhaps what kind of music they listen to. Or what kind of clothes they should be wearing. This is *INSANE*.

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In response, Adobe product evangelist Lee Brimelow suggested Apple perform an act of love upon itself (that's the PG-rated version). He writes:

Personally I will not be giving Apple another cent of my money until there is a leadership change over there. I've already moved most of my book, music, and video purchases to Amazon and I will continue to look elsewhere. ... But this is equivalent to me walking into Macy's to buy a new wallet and the salesperson spits in my face. Chances are I won't be buying my wallets at Macy's anymore, no matter how much I like them.

After Brimelow posted his screed, Adobe made him issue a disclaimer stating this was purely his opinion, not Adobe's. Still, according to IT World's Steven Jay Vaughn, the company is on the verge of suing Apple.

Item No. 2: Now that the iPad is off Steve's bucket list, he seems to have a lot of time on his hands to respond to developer emails. (The nuts at eSarcasm have uncovered a slew of other allegedly "lost" Jobs emails.)

Mostly, he seems to be saying suck eggs. You don't like my rules, go develop for Android.

Take app developer ContactPad. Last week, Apple informed the company that its journalPad program could no longer be sold in the App Store. The reason? It infringed Apple's trademark on the word "pad." When ContactPad developer Chris Ostmo emailed Steve Jobs to complain, he got this characteristically terse Jobsian reply:

It's just common sense to not use another company's trademarks in your app name.

There's only one problem: Apple doesn't own the trademark on the word "pad." It's certainly not on the list of generic terms Apple has trademarked (which includes Aqua, Cocoa, Carbon, Charcoal, Chicago, Gadget, Geneva, Logic, Numbers, Pages, Sand, Shuffle, and Tubes).

No, Apple is simply arrogant enough to assert it owns the word merely by its inclusion in the name of an Apple product. Watch out MaxiPad, QuickMart, and Looney Tunes -- you may be next.

Memo to Apple: Making cool products does not give you carte blanche to act like flaming appholes. (Note: The phrase "flaming appholes" is not yet an Apple trademark, but that probably won't stop them from claiming it.)

Why do picayune decisions about App Store approvals matter? Because it's not just the App Store -- this level of control freakishness is built into Apple's DNA (and by Apple, I really mean Jobs). Because when it comes to integrating technology into our daily lives, Apple is driving the bus, and it wants to be able to say who can or can't get on and where the rest of us can or can't get off. It's a shift away from open systems and toward closed proprietary ones, and that almost never ends well.

You'd think Jobs was taking lessons from the Chinese government. Or maybe he's giving them.

Has Apple gone too far? Weigh in below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This story, "Steve Jobs vs. the world," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog.

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