Today TUAW published an interview with Ambrosia Software president Andrew Welch on their iToner product (which the iPhone 1.1.1 update killed), and what it’s like to develop for a closed platform in general. Welch is pretty clear on his role on the iPhone ecosystem, but the way Apple has treated his product still stinks.
I think he’s right on the money with these remarks:
So I take it your position is basically that the user area of the phone should belong to the user and it’s not really fair for Apple to artificially restrict what you can put there?
Absolutely. Apple should no more be controlling what ringtones I want to use than they should be controlling what music I can listen to, or what photos I can look at.
Here’s a good analogy, I think. Apple came out with their online store, and they charged for music. They said “We know you can get music from elsewhere, but we’re going to make the user experience so good that you’ll want to get it from us.” And guess what? They were right, it worked!
The tack they are taking with the ringtones, though, is not “We’ll provide such great ringtones that you’ll want to buy from us” but rather “This is all you’re ever going to be able to use, too bad if you want to use something else.” I think they took a winning formula, and got it entirely backwards.
I fully understand that much of Apple’s behavior is the result of signing deals with multiple “devils” in terms of AT&T and the various music labels. So to an extent, I think some of the choices that Apple is making now are not their own. But I find it amazing that they’d take the exact opposite approach of providing fantastic content and a fantastic user experience to make you want to buy music from them.
I hope that this is not the attitude they are going to take going forward, because if they no longer focus on delivering the best possible content in the best way – and using that as a selling point – and instead try to sell things by restricting what you can buy, well. I think it’s really sad.