While we agree with some others that Apple’s decision to focus on a walled garden approach to iPhone apps seems short-sighted, it certainly does open up an opportunity for competitors — and those competitors seem to be realizing it. A bunch of companies are starting ad campaigns around their mobile phone offerings highlighting how open they are compared to the iPhone. That would be competition at work, and a response to anyone who may be suggesting that Apple should somehow be required to open up. Of course, touting openness is just one part of the story. It helps to also have some really good technology to stack up behind it, and on that front, most of the competitors still have a long way to go. That probably means that Apple’s closed strategy won’t hurt it very much in the short-term, but it does open up a huge opening for someone who can actually get closer to matching the iPhone on the technology side.
Apple could respond by opening up a bit more (and there’s some indication that they’re doing exactly that), but building up a strong developer community from the beginning would help keep the iPhone miles ahead of the competition. In fact, the iPhone craze is somewhat reminiscent of the hype surrounding Danger’s Hiptop five years ago. It was launched on T-Mobile (under the “Sidekick” brand), but again as a closed platform. It took months for Danger to get a real developer program going, and even then it was pretty weak. Without a strong developer community, many other devices passed by the Hiptop, where it had had an early advantage. While Danger has been able to do okay with continual Sidekick updates, it never really reached its potential as one of the very first truly usable mobile data devices for the masses.