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Sharecropping with the Apple iPhone: Joe Hewitt on the ‘middle-man’

"… ‘I’m pleased to note that a lot of people have realized that taking part in the iPhone (and other locked down mobile devices) ecosystem is sharecropping’: please do tell. what are the ‘other ways’? …"

In the days prior to consoles, the Web the only way you could get games was by going to the store and buying them in a box. But some smart folks worked out a way to by-pass the stores and go direct. Id software teaming up with Apogee to avoid sharecropping their product on the shelves of computer stores.

When the web came along it was difficult to set up a web server, web page or forum for most in the early days. Geeky types could sidestep places like geocities for web-pages and AOL for access by getting their own machines, building their own Linux stacks connecting to ISPs and hosting their own web services.

If you don’t want to be reliant on commercial services like MT or even the free ones like WordPress there is nothing stopping you getting your own machine with a full stack of software using your own software. Dave Winer does this at scriping.com

You don’t need to be in the system to use it. For each example I’ve given above users had the choice to work entirely within the restricted stack and somehow subvert it. The big problem here is while the Internet is open the telephone/wireless system is not. But if enough people. companies build systems with a workaround even this won’t be as much a problem at some time in the future. In the case of the iPhone you can just as easily create a iPhone interface via open technologies and you are not locked into Apple. A combination of technology problems and mindset.

a bit later on…

"… it’s better to be a sharecropper making money than a farmer whose crops sell for nothing. The iPhone is a goldmine for developers… in my experience it’s much easier to make money selling apps than building a website. …"

You are both right and wrong. An alternative way of looking at it: ‘find a problem, take a risk and look for alternatives which have a much higher potential payoff’. Having said that you have to choose your battles carefully. But I wonder in Apples search for "purity"[0] there is a lot of "muck" that could be made money finding alternatives for disgruntled developers.

[0] As a side note there was a gallery of images of Jobs floating around of un-released images. One particular image stuck out more than any other that might help explain why the iPhone distribution platform is broken for developers. I looked at one image of Jobs in this house with no furniture save for a very expensive looking sound system. Could jobs aesthetic and psychology for pure look & sound be behind the approval process?

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