Jason Calacanis is Wrong: Part 1 of 5
For those of you who haven't heard of him, Jason Calacanis is the serial entrepreneur responsible for Weblogs Inc. (and therefore TUAW, a wonderful apple blog, albeit corporatized by AOL) and Mahalo. Jason is a fantastic blogger who, of late, got sick of all the comments he was getting on his blog and switched to an email list instead. The email list is great too, and I suggest you subscribe. He covers a great variety of topics, and his recent writing on the Yahoo-Microsoft deal was the best out there, bar none.
However, last week Jason posted an email he had sent out on his email list to his blog entitled, The Case Against Apple-in Five Parts. That piece now has 71 comments on his blog, and is growing. If he was sick of all the comments he got before, he will surely be sicker by the time people have moved onto the next thing. Possibly influenced by a friend of Apple Matters: C.K. Sample III, Jason switched over to Apple a few years ago, and is now having second thoughts, to say the least. He makes his case in 5 parts, and as founder of Apple Matters I feel it is my duty to respond to his attacks in turn. After all, you can't be right all the time, and in his case against Apple, Jason missed the mark.
Jason's reason #1. Apple has Destroyed MP3 player innovation through anti-competitive practices.
Jason has a few key points here:
- There is no technical reason why iTunes can't be open.
- There is a dearth of MP3 player options in the US (as apposed to Asia), which he infers is Apple's fault.
- Apple should open an API to iTunes to allow 3rd party players to work.
Of course there is no technical reason why iTunes couldn't be open. Same way there is no technical reason why TUAW couldn't post a link everyday to a story on Apple Matters, or why I don't have access to your bank account. TUAW doesn't do this because it is against their best interests as a business to link every Apple Matters story (although I may beg to differ!). And you don't allow me access to your bank account because it is your money.
The bigger question here is why on Earth should Apple make iTunes available to any hardware manufacture? There are a plethora of alternatives other hardware companies could use to manage music for their device on both the Windows and Macintosh side including writing their own damn software. It is not up to Apple to open up iTunes, it is up to the competition to come along with something better. Even so, crappy third party devices, like the Sony Walkman do have some iTunes integration. On Windows Vista a Sony gadget loads and you can simply drag and drop any song (or songs) from iTunes onto the Gadget and they copy over.
His point that, "Think for a moment about what your reaction would be if Microsoft made the Zune the only MP3 player compatible with Windows." is complete FUD. Or, to put it another way, it is a fallacious comparison. You can use any number of mp3 players on the Mac including an Archos 5, Sony WalkMan, SanDisk and others. They all suck compared to the iPod, and yes, you cannot use them with iTunes (without a bit of hackery) but you can use them on a Mac. On the other hand, you can't use a Zune on a Mac.
As for his second point that Apple is somehow to blame for the lack of other MP3 players, that is pure and simple nonsense. Just because these devices don't work for iTunes doesn't mean they couldn't garner market interest. The reason you see 100's of different mp3 players when you go to Asia is because that market is entirely different. The iPhone doesn't do well in Japan precisely because of its lack of "features" and its focussed product and interface design. Its not to say it is better or worse that the West generally appreciated nuanced and focussed design more than just jamming a bunch of features into a product but there you have it. This isn't the fault of a missing iTunes API, this is just a cultural difference. The market is wide wide open for anyone to come along and out-innovate Apple in the portable player space, it just hasn't happened yet.
Jason has 4 other points in his case against Apple, I'll debunk the next 4 as the days go by. In the meantime, what do you think? Does Jason have a point about iTunes and Apple's power over the MP3 market?