Market forces bring us to decisions we often would not make on our own. Part of the beauty of our economy and our way of life is the creativity in both business ideas and implementation. Throughout our history men and women have had the opportunity to invent both products and processes. Every once in a while companies get too big for their own outsized egos and we all suffer, this is a necessary evil of freedom. A painful part of capitalism is the correction when a company gains too much influence and starts to force its way on consumers. Either consumers respond and dump a product or the government steps in. Either way is a bit messy.
US History is littered with examples of prideful corporate falls and the technology industry just keeps delivering up near monopolies. We are reading about search abuses by Google. Everyone knows about Microsoft’s tip toeing with the Justice Department. Anyone recall Carrier IQ? Now we get served up a doozy by Apple.
iBooks Author is a great idea. A tool that takes Apple’s strength of making things intuitive and turning it towards the publishing marketplace. We need good publishing tools from credible sources, just like WordPress opened up the world of web design to anyone with initiative, Apple had the same opportunity with iBooks Author. The problem is that if you use the tool then Apple controls your content and it can only be sold through Apple’s marketplaces. This is an amazingly ugly reach that has the industry buzzing.
All Apple had to do was treat consumers with respect. Anyone who creates content deserves the right to that content. At a time when I was starting to relax and was honestly considering buying a Mac, I am going to pause and wait. I have always been hesitant to lock myself into an ecosystem and this latest development renews my distrust. Consumers should not be put into a situation where what they create is controlled by someone else. Just like Apple supports Digital Rights Management (DRM) for content on iTunes, they should support their customers creative rights as well.
We have to remember that these computer systems we use can be broken down into three very separate and important components, hardware, software, and the user. I lump the user into the mix intentionally, it appears Apple does as well. In most computing situations the manufacturer/individual in control of all three of these areas are different. This typically leads to a separation that actually protects consumers from abuse. In the case of Apple they have almost total control of two thirds of the equation, and it looks like they want to control all of it.
Why should we care? Anyone who has ever been stuck in a bad business deal understands why. Usually, once you give up your rights you can never get them back. Just like times when Facebook has over reached with their EULA, consumers need to respond to this breach of trust. This will die down in a short time and most people will go back to life as usual. Here is hoping that industry watchdogs and our government is watching, I think Apple needs to be reminded of their limits.