Take a tour of Apple’s walled garden with WSJ’s Joanna Stern (video)

“If Apple’s walled garden is so good, why does it need these walls to keep us in?”

From “iPhone? AirPods? MacBook? You Live in Apple’s World. Here’s What You Are Missing.” ($) in the weekend Wall Street Journal:

Those of us living with multiple Apple gadgets know the garden is pretty darn nice. We’re suffering no more than that person seated in first class next to the lavatory. But are we missing out?

I set up camp in the increasingly harmonious Android/Windows garden, talked to experts and dug through court documents. In the end, I found three strong reasons to justify Apple’s garden—and three strong reasons we need more holes in its walls.

Cue the video:

My take: By the end it’s clear that Stern is happier inside the garden than out.

12 Comments

  1. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Joanna could also be talking about Disney/Six Flags/Marriott Great America parks or living in one country vs another. You can say same for working in companies. (Generalizing, peeps).

    There are minuses but I go because of the pluses. And it’s my choice to do so, no one forces me.

    12
    June 5, 2021
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Romeo A Esparrago: Precisely, Romeo. As I denoted in my comment below, “… There is a reason all this is referred to as the “Wall Garden.” Your examples of Disney, Six Flags, and other Wall Garden experiences are no different then what Steve planned and work hard to have for users’ experience with Apple products.

      2
      June 5, 2021
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    It was Steve’s quest for perfection that led to his compulsion for Apple to have end-to-end control of every product it made. He did not want great Apple software running on another company’s crappy hardware. And he abhorred the thought of unapproved apps or content polluting the perfection of an Apple device. These are facts Judge Gonzales Rogers needs to understand. The Wall Garden is there for a reason: to enhance the consumer experience, not to establish a monopoly in business. In the early 2000s Steve’s insistence on end-to-end integration gave Apple an advantage in developing a digital hub strategy which allowed your desktop computer to link seamlessly with a variety of portable devices. Some may look skeptical at the control of a Wall Garden over the users’ experience but that control is what highlights the drawback of Androids’ openness leading to fragmentation. Various handsets & tablet makers modified Android into dozens of variants & flavors making it difficult for apps to remain consistent or make full use of their features. Steve believed the integrated approach was a matter of righteousness, and Tim continues that belief today at Apple. In Steve’s own words: “….. We do these things not because we are control freaks…..We do them because we want to make great products, because we care about the user, and because we like to take responsibility for the entire experience rather than turn out the crap that other people make.” It is for this reason that using an Apple product can be as sublime as walking in one of the Zen gardens of Kyoto that Steve loved. There is a reason all this is referred to as the “Wall Garden.”

    5
    June 5, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      That makes Apple’s abandonment of its networking hardware all the harder to understand… 🙁

      5
      June 5, 2021
      • Bart Yee said:
        @David I can’t say for sure but maybe Apple decided that market was too small, wireless routers were being offered by every major internet provider, or there was less potential to innovate that market? Plus high (and at the time relatively cheap) competition, and unable to control the silicon networking chips used.

        IMO however, that doesn’t mean Apple couldn’t re-introduce effective and ecosystem enhancing networking products running A12-series CPU’s, eventual 5G modem chips, and strong security and firewall protocols. Plus feature matching design aesthetics to other Apple products for consumer or office use.

        It could happen.

        2
        June 5, 2021
        • David Emery said:
          Given the complexity of setting up -secure and reliable- wireless, I’m not sure why Apple would abandon this as both a -market- and as -part of the infrastructure/ecosystem-. Yeah, there are a lot of companies producing wifi hubs, but just “lots of competition” hasn’t dissuaded Apple from a quality alternative. More importantly, a lot of the new investment is not in the wireless hardware, but in software services such as better routing (e.g. separating IoT devices and smart appliances on your network from your computers/phones/pads) and better cyber protection. I still see this as a market where Apple could provide a distinctly better solution.

          1
          June 6, 2021
  3. Fred Stein said:
    Supporting Romeo and Jerry: Most companies use all manner of tools to keep customers loyal (or dependent). Try yanking out Cisco routers or Oracle or IBM databases, all of whom wrap a ton of services around their products.

    Microsoft tries to integrate more services, with mixed results. LinkedIn creates dependency. They failed at SmartPhones and video conferencing. Their Surface lags iPad seriously despite Surface’s ties to the Windows and PCs, mainly because the iPad itself is better, and better integrated across the rest of Apple’s products and services.

    Usually, I love Joanna’s work.

    Joanna’s complaint about iMessage is false and irrelevant. False: iMessage can message with windows and Android. Irrelevant: iMessage is just one of hundreds of messaging services.

    7
    June 5, 2021
  4. John Konopka said:
    I only graded her video a C or C+. First of all, “Walled Garden” is a bit of a pejorative used by Apple critics. As a happy user I would refer to Apple more as an Oasis, a Refuge, a Sanctuary.

    I don’t think she made the case well enough for why Apple is so admired and respected. The quality of the products is so good that they last a long time and software support is there even for older products.

    On the other hand, she never really took a look on the other side of the Wall. Looking over the wall I see a barren wasteland full of bandits and criminals. If they don’t outright mug you they are selling snake oil cures and other cheats.

    It is not that hard to switch to another platform if you choose. It is not walls keeping us in, it is the fear of tangling with the mess that is outside that keeps me and others from venturing out.

    I use a Windows machine for work and struggle with it all the time. Recently I had to buy a bit of software for it. I was shocked at how hard that was. It was easy to find a site selling what I wanted, but the page was full of “Download” buttons, only one of which downloaded what I wanted. The others downloaded various kinds of useless stuff. It was like those pages full of ads where it is a challenge to find the link to the next page without accidentally clicking on an ad. It made me really appreciate the app stores run by Apple.

    4
    June 5, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      @John said “On the other hand, she never really took a look on the other side of the Wall. Looking over the wall I see a barren wasteland full of bandits and criminals. If they don’t outright mug you they are selling snake oil cures and other cheats.”

      Agree, the other side of the wall is NOT equivalent to Apple’s ecosystem by any stretch – it’s a fragmented mess populated by 6 versions of Android left astray by Google / Android and their low priced makers who can’t be bothered to support their “sell it and move on” hardware business. What exists in the upper to high end is still hampered by lack of unifying vision for app and hardware cohesiveness, the underlying ad revenue model, and just the overwhelming techy complexity that they expect users to navigate with. All that plus signing away any privacy rights you had.

      0
      June 5, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      @John also said “Recently I had to buy a bit of software for it. I was shocked at how hard that was. It was easy to find a site selling what I wanted, but the page was full of “Download” buttons, only one of which downloaded what I wanted. The others downloaded various kinds of useless stuff. It was like those pages full of ads where it is a challenge to find the link to the next page without accidentally clicking on an ad. It made me really appreciate the app stores run by Apple.”

      Yep, the crapware, malware, and Trojan filled world of web app downloading, plus “App Store” sites where you have no clue if the files you download actually have your desired software without modification, malware, or trackers embedded already. In trying to make a buck at all costs, many software vendors have partnered with the devils in the world, again with the user as the product to someone else.

      0
      June 5, 2021
  5. Lalit Jagtap said:
    Does Joanna will happily move to China ? OR give up a COSTCO membership because it only sales curated products? The best option Joanna should work with her employer WSJ and remove its paywall. I am shocked why the paid media cannot write ✍️ something more meaningful for society.

    5
    June 5, 2021
  6. David Emery said:
    Gruber’s take on this is worth reading: https://daringfireball.net

    “… That iOS is wildly popular not despite the “walls”, but because of them.”

    “Better than “walled garden”, I like the comparison to theme parks.”

    1
    June 6, 2021

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