Apple’s Insularity Could Get Dangerous

It started with a question I asked Apple CEO Tim Cook during his presentation Tuesday at the D11 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Noting that Microsoft and Google offered cloud solutions that provided access to a wide variety of platforms, I asked Cook whether it was time for Apple to broaden its iCloud service to facilitate sharing for customers who are likely to own both Apple and non-Apple gear.

Cook didn’t bite. But Donald Leka, CEO of TransMedia, whose Glide service has provided cloud-based file sharing for a wide variety of devices since before anyone talked about the cloud, jumped in. In a press release announcing the release of a new Glide iPhone app that provides access to Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Google Drive accounts, Glide said:

“Consumers really don’t care that much what platform they are on, where their files are stored, or what the file types and file formats are,” said TransMedia Chairman and CEO, Donald Leka. “They simply want to be able to easily access and share a family photo, a letter to a friend, a favorite song or show.”

This drew an email response from a representative from Apple Worldwide Developer Relations (shared with me by Leka):

…We believe the best press releases for a product launch concentrate on that product. Your release is ostensibly for the launch of your iPhone app, but the copy actually references other apps on other platforms more often than it mentions the one being launched.  We think the customers, bloggers, and media who follow app launches are usually quite parochial — quite focused on specific platforms — so we counsel developers to craft press releases tailored to each individual platform.

And that brings me to my final point: the tone of your release and your product positioning is at odds with not just our primary marketing messaging, but the entire reason Apple exists. To wit, you are quoted in the press release as saying “Consumers really don’t care that much what platform they are on…”  Our drive, our passion, our singular focus on creating the best products we can make is rooted in the fundamental belief that customers really do care about the products in which they invest their time, money, and energy.  We strive to make the best products we can because we believe the right product will change a customer’s life.  And customers do indeed care about things that change their lives.

Our experience is that customers are interested in apps that help them get more from their iPhone, that give their cherished, chosen device exciting new functionality that fits their mobile lifestyle.  I’d encourage you to recast your messaging in this positive, affirmative way.

I suspect Apple’s customers are a lot less parochial than Apple is, or than Apple thinks they are. These days, it’s not unusual for someone to own an Android phone, an iPad, and a Windows laptop–and want to share information among all of them. I’m sure Apple prefers that they switch to an iPhone and a Mac, but that’s not the world we live in. By failing to accommodate their desires and instead to promote a closed, Apple-only ecosystem, Apple could be building big trouble for itself.