Apple mulls opening the gates to its walled garden

A whiff of grapeshot from Washington seems to have got Tim Cook’s attention.

From Mark Gurman’s “Apple Weighs Letting Users Switch Default iPhone Apps to Rivals” posted Thursday on Bloomberg News:

The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple’s closed system to prohibit users from setting third-party apps as defaults was questioned last year during a hearing of a U.S. House of Representatives antitrust panel. Lawmakers pressed the issue of whether iPhone users can make non-Apple apps their defaults in categories including web browsers, maps, email and music.

The company currently pre-installs 38 default apps on iPhones and iPads, Bloomberg News has reported, including the Safari web browser, Maps, Messages and Mail.

My take: When the king commands such loyalty from his subjects, he can afford to loosen the rules a bit.


  1. Bill Haymaker said:
    A little competition is always a good idea.

    February 20, 2020
  2. Fred Stein said:
    Sounds fair.

    I see a lot of Mac users who default to the Chrome browser and other Google Cloud services, and also to DuckDuckGo, ironically.

    February 20, 2020
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    I think a lot of work has been going on (hidden in plain view) in Apple’s apps and the result is that Cook now feels confident enough, about how future iterations of Apple apps will compare to competing apps, that he can be a little magnanimous.

    I know there are those that for one reason or another prefer a competing app. My guess though is that those feeling that way amount to no more than 5% of Apple users. Importantly, how many of those “switchers” will return?

    February 20, 2020
  4. Gregg Thurman said:
    My main desktop browser is Safari. However, I also use Firefox specifically because my online broker’s trading platform acts strange on Safari. I don’t experience those issues with Firefox. My guess is that Schwab’s Safari integration isn’t up to snuff as I don’t have these problems on any other site.

    The same issue exists on my iPad, but Firefox is terrible (my experience) on iOS.

    I won’t use anything developed by Google for personal reasons. For search I use Duck Duck Go very happily.

    February 20, 2020
  5. John Butt said:
    The elephant in the room is integration and safety. Some apps do bad stuff if they can.

    February 20, 2020
  6. Jerry Doyle said:
    Congress often is naive in these matters. Opening the gates to the Wall Garden imperils potentially, the purity of Apple’s integration of software and hardware; and, as John B stated, “Safety.”

    Folk think Apple is some kind of a “controlled freak.” All Apple wants to do is make high quality premium products mirroring Apple’s care about its users and in so doing, Apple always has assumed responsibility for the entire user experience rather than deal with the crap of some third party applicants.

    Tim C most likely will move cautiously in opening up Apple’s system because of his level of empathy in what is right. I prefer that he keep it as closed tightly as possible, for as long as possible.

    February 20, 2020
  7. David Drinkwater said:
    Allowing other (curated) apps within your own garden to be preferred over your own (noting that you own access to your own garden for such apps), is hardly opening the gates. The apps have to pass through controlled gates just to get into the garden to offer their wares!

    All is fair in the state of Denmark! (literary license)

    February 20, 2020
    • Bart Yee said:
      One of the issues will be what is the criteria for “curation”? Will it be a monetary payment such as Google has been paying to be a search engine, so similarly with Chrome? How would DuckDuckGo fare here?

      I would never want any mail client that would allow any form of ads into my mail experience. I would also want Apple to be running stats on just how often my browsing or mail or info is being shared with any 3rd party and have those stats shown to me weekly or monthly. Then I can decide if Apple Apps work better for me than others. So far, they have just fine.

      February 23, 2020
  8. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Most every walled garden I’ve had the pleasure of being in has been a wonderful experience.

    A comforting, fulfilling, safe and serene place that I somehow always yearn to return to.

    (Jus’ sayin’.)

    February 21, 2020

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