The New York Times had an interesting take over the weekend on Apple’s Mapocalypse noting the House That Jobs Built has something of an unfortunate history when it comes to Internet-based services, from Ping to MobileMe to the often hard-of-hearing Siri.
“I always felt if you had to name an Achilles’ hell for Apple, it’s internet services,” Andrew Borovsky, a former Apple product designer who worked on MobileMe, told the Times. “It’s clearly an issue.”
Yet not a surprise. The internet, by design, is the ultimate open platform, and Apple, by design, doesn’t do open. Apple’s signal contribution to web-based content and services, after all, is the app. And the ideology of the app is the antithesis of the internet.
The app is a self-contained, self-referential world in which the user experience is predetermined and constrained by the app developer. It is the opposite of the user experience of the internet, which is open-ended, user-directed, and contingent.
There are voices claiming Mapocalypse would never have happened were Steve Jobs still alive, and voices calling for the heads of those who allowed it to happen now that he’s gone. But their verdict strikes me as unfair. Steve Jobs was the author of Apple’s ideology as surely as he was the author of its justly praised design aesthetic. The two can’t really be separated. It’s Tim Cook’s burden to try to reconcile what Jobs himself never really could, or would, and the struggle will only get harder and more urgent as consumers increasingly embrace web-based services.
It’s a task made harder still by the fact that Apple’s failures — post Jobs — may be getting judged more harshly than is deserved.