Another look at the company’s in-app subscription rules, this time from 5,000 feet
His essay, “The Apple Strategy Tax,” which he posted Wednesday on Ars Technica, neatly sidesteps the emotionally charged tar pits in which so many commentators get mired. As he explained Friday at the end of his Hypercritical podcast with Dan Benjamin, he wanted to take the long view:
What did interest Siracusa was the big picture — the effect Apple’s policy changes might have on the company in the long run. And from his perspective, Apple is starting to look a lot like Microsoft (MSFT) in the ’90s.
But probably not in the way you think.
In Microsoft’s heyday, Siracusa explains, there was no aspect of personal computing software into which the company didn’t try to extend its tentacles. By the late ’90s, it dominated not only most of the major desktop applications — from Word to Excel to Internet Explorer — but it owned the platform on which they ran, the Windows operating system.
While that was great for Microsoft in the short term, it led to a kind of negative synergy that came to be known within the company as the “strategy tax.” For example, the team working on Internet Explorer was warned not to add too many features to its built-in text editor lest it start to compete with Microsoft Word.
Apple is probably as different from Microsoft as two companies can be, but there is one part of Apple’s business where its dominance is comparable to Microsoft in the ’90s: the App Store.
In fact, Apple has even more control over its App Store platform than Microsoft ever had over Windows, because Apple has the power to reject or handicap third-party applications in favor of its own — something it’s been doing quite a bit lately.
Which leads Siracusa to the meat of his argument:
Like Google’s (GOOG) search engine, Facebook’s social network and Apple’s mobile devices.
Also on Fortune.com:
- Apple’s new subscription policy could cost Amazon $80-$160 million per year
- Steve Jobs to publishers: Our way or the highway
- Apple’s spurned lovers
[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]