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Monday, October 16, 2006
Mac: Apple's Reign of Terror on Small Developers

Following right behind my previous post about why Microsoft's platform evangelism is rocking the world, here's a fairly exclusive 8 or 10 month old story about Apple's reign of terror on their own ISVs.

Before I get into the facts, the first thing we need to be reminded of is some marketing fundamentals. Before anybody except Apple legal starts writing their counterpoint, we first need to establish that there is absolutely no such thing as "trademark dilution". In fact, it's been demonstrated that the activities which lead to so-called brand dilution, are actually the most desirable consequences one can ever have for a brand.

Nevertheless, even though Apple claims to be a "marketing company", it is clear that they still don't know the first thing about brand marketing.

Let's rewind the clock a bit.

I like iPods. I have a collection of them. I, like many, made a pilgrimmage to an Apple Retail store during the week of the video iPod's introduction to pick one up. I did the same with the original Nano. My favorite is the chewing gum pack shuffle, but I digress.

The first thing we notice about the video iPod is the lack of means to get non-iTunes-Music-Store content on the device. Not to worry, seemingly hundreds of Cocoa developers jump immediately on the task of converting video for the iPod. Myself, I'm always looking for that flawless, free Mac application that works exactly the way I want it to. It's an endless quest, a quixotic journey, but hey, it's a life. Because the video iPod is my new favorite gadget, I'm spending way too much time on the Apple downloads site looking for new Mactoys for the newest member of my iPod family. The Apple downloads site has a list of the top downloads in each category, including iPod. Sure enough, during the few months after the video iPod release, the top-10 list is filled with video iPod tools, including some of my favorites.

One day, I notice that one popular item, Podner, has suddenly disappeared from the Top-10 list. A further inspection of the Apple download site indicates that Podner no longer has a listing. I'm thinking something weird is up, so I go over to versiontracker.com and check out the scene there. Nope, Podner is alive and well at versiontracker. Next is MacUpdate - over at MacUpdate, Podner is flying high.

Putting 2+2 together, I start looking around Apple downloads for other iPod products that use the wordstem "Pod" in their name. Curiously (at the time), products containing the word Pod have been removed, but products containing the word "Podcast" remain.

A short time passes on the Internet. Suddenly, Podner is reborn as ViddyUp! I start asking around and learn that Apple is waging a silent war against it's own ISVs who are using the word Pod in their product names, systematically removing software listings from apple.com which include the forbidden word (We are the knights who say POD!). The Apple faithful, however, are like an abused wife. They live clinging to the dream that one day, Apple will requit their love and devotion in kind. Naturally, once Splasm has bent over and received the long hard


from Cupertino's Infinite Loop, ViddyUp! is once again restored to the Apple downloads site. Needless to say, from that point on I preferred to search on the independent software tracking sites.

The absolutely best part of this story is the word POD itself. Apple does not even have a trademark on the word POD as it APPLIES to portable MUSIC devices. If you follow that link to line6.com, you will find the ® symbol adorning their product name, POD®. The ® symbol indicates that the trademark has gone all the way through the US trademark chain and been granted by those whose job it is to officially bless trademark names. Between the POD and the iPod, which one is doing a better job of helping ordinary people be creative? The iPod, which turns people into rote consumers of mass media, or the POD®, which helps people achieve their dreams of writing the next "Smoke on the Water" or "Purple Haze".

In the early 90s, Microsoft, after untold millions in soft campaign money, bribes, and lobbying, was successful in it's bid to trademark the word "Windows". Microsoft, as well, decided to pull heavy on some of it's ISVs, but they did so with class and honor. I was close with some Windows tool vendors who had a Windows-based development platform that used the name "Windows" as part of the product name. When asking them about why they later changed the product name, removing the word Windows from the name, they told me that Microsoft had requested it. This was a small company, less than $1M a year in gross sales, and what Microsoft did was send one of their main VPs to have a private conversation about the change. The trademark had been granted, Microsoft was putting it into use. The request came from Microsoft with class, honor, even "a please", no particular rush. Unlike Apple, Microsoft actually appreciates the ISVs who get behind the company's strategic direction.

Apparently, since nobody protested or said anything about it, they've expanded the scope of their terror campaign to other kinds of Apple enthusiasts.

I think about Apple, the iPod, and the POD® anytime I need to blow my nose and ask people in the vicinity for Kleenex.

Tags: apple | cocoa | carbon
By : NeXT!0x0000DEAD Apple's Reign of Terror on Small Developers



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