Hey, You, Get Off of My Platform

That’s the message that Apple recently delivered to Adobe, and the message that Twitter might seem to be delivering to application developers.

Apple is the bigger firm, the bigger story, and is playing for bigger stakes. How big? I don’t think that Erik at TechCrunch exaggerated a couple of days ago when he put it like this.

I wonder whether he [Steve Jobs] is repeating the very same mistakes which relegated Macs to a niche market. Or did he learn from those mistakes so that Apple comes out on top this time?

Jobs is once again pitting Apple’s complete product design mastery against the rest of the industry, except this time he thinks he will prevail. Whether it is his repeated moves to keep Adobe’s Flash off the iPhone or his growing rift with Google over Android, Jobs is making the iPhone and iPad a relatively closed system that Apple can control.

While Apple is denying Adobe entry into iLand, Twitter is welcoming Tweetie into its fold. Twitter acquired Atebits, maker of iPhone Twitter client Tweetie. Matthew Ingram at GigaOm summed up and linked out well, indicating the range of opinion as to what the Twitter ecosystem will be in future.

I like many others, thought that something was up when I read Fred Wilson’s post about the Twitter platform’s inflection point.

Much of the early work on the Twitter Platform has been filling holes in the Twitter product… Mobile clients come to mind. Photo sharing services come to mind. URL shorteners come to mind. Search comes to mind. Twitter really should have had all of that when it launched or it should have built those services right into the Twitter experience.

But… What are the products and services that create something entirely new on top of Twitter?

I’m not sure I agree that Twitter should have had all of that when it launched. That would have held up the launch, and discouraged developers from filling the holes. Now there are some discouraged developers of Twitter iPhone clients who now have to compete with the official and free Twitter for iPhone. And there are others Twitter developers wondering if a similar fate will overtake them.

Although these two stories (Apple/Adobe, Twitter/Tweetie) are currently atop the Techmeme news site, the tension between firms that own platforms and firms that develop for those platforms is nothing new. Here’s a quote from Twitter founder Ev Williams, from a recent NY Times Bits piece, that could with just a word or two changed be about pretty much any platform.

There are tons of opportunities created by the Twitter platform, and things that people will probably be disappointed if they invest in… It’s a question of what should be left up to the ecosystem and what should be created on the platform.

So, if you invested in an iPhone app for the Twitter platform, would you be disappointed right now? Not if you were Loren of Atebits. While Twitter may have just dashed or dented the hopes of some developers, it has made one rather better off.

In some ways, that will encourage Twitter app development: will my app be the one acquired for that niche/hole in the product? That’s a different question from: will my app do reasonably well in an ecosystem with a large and diverse population of apps? But it’s still an interesting question. I’d say it’s a more interesting question than: what barriers and hoops will Apple put in my way next?

Rotten? Apple Acquires Lala

Much of my listening to music, particularly new music, involves Lala these days. Paying a buck to stream an album an unlimited number of times is a good deal, particularly since I can sample (i.e. stream once) before paying anything.

So I was interested in the rumor that Lala would be acquired by Apple. Brad Stone of the NY Times reports that the rumor has come true.

One person with knowledge of the deal, but who was not authorized to discuss it, said that the negotiations originated when Lala executives concluded that their prospects for turning a profit in the short term were dim…

This person said Apple would primarily be buying Lala’s engineers, including its energetic co-founder Bill Nguyen, and their experience with cloud-based music services.

Lala’s engineers have built a service that music enthusiasts say is very easy to use. Lala scans the hard drives of its users and creates an online music library that matches the user’s collection, making it painless (and free) for people to get their music in the cloud.

The reason I regard the news as rotten is that “Lala’s licenses for streaming music with the major music labels are not transferable to any acquirer.” So the streaming rights for which I’ve paid may go away. That said, they’d also go away if Lala went under, and I considered the possibility of that happening when I decided to buy the streaming rights. Jason at TechCrunch hopes that such purchases will be grandfathered, but we’ll have to wait and see.

It may well be time to look at other streaming services…

Jobs' Worth

How much is Steve Jobs worth to Apple? That’s the question addressed in an article by Jeff Segal (which I saw thanks to Om).

Jeff estimates the value of Apple’s businesses, subtracts the sum from Apple’s market cap, and attributes the difference to “the Jobs premium.” Now, any such calculation has to be based on some heroic assumptions. I want to quibble about one of them: the assumption that all the difference is due to Jobs.

What about other people, such as the designers? What about the Apple brand, which would still be strong even if Steve stepped down? I believe that there is some worth to those assets.

That’s not to deny that Steve Jobs adds value to Apple (even as he and Apple annoy me with their smugness). It’s to deny that he, or anyone, is alone worth anything like $20 billion to their firm.

Getting Cooler

Autumn is almost here, and we plan to go apple picking this coming weekend, probably to Tougas Farm again. Talking of local stuff, here’s the Boston area weather forecast: it will get cooler until I remove our air conditioners for the year, and then there will be a sudden heatwave.

This illustration by Christian Lindemann (via Drawn!) captures autumn rather well.

Web Week on Wednesday

Looking back over the past week (i.e. Thu to the Wednesday that finished an hour of so ago), the last few days seem to have been particularly busy. But representing the latter half of last week here is Jeremiah Owyang’s account of the many challenges facing the social media industry. Jeremiah starts with the lack of profits. He goes on to mention the cutthroat competition, and that’s one of the things driving profits down; I’d say the customer expectation that stuff on the web should be free of charge is another.

Gmail was the big story on Monday. Gmail Goes Down – Twitter Survives, as Frederic@RWW nicely put it. Many were tweeting about their lack of Gmail, but Twitter held up. The following day, Merlin Mann gave a good getting things done without Gmail (GTDWG?) tip.

As you can see, and as John at All Things Digital remarked, Apple (AAPL) has eclipsed Google (GOOG) in market value.

The blog comment service Disqus is high on many “I wish we had this at WordPress.com” lists, especially after its recent update. Mashable Adam wrote that Disqus has a shot at owning the commentsphere. But please don’t let its absence stop you from commenting on this post.