The Consequences of Apple’s Walled Garden

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Miller says that he had no choice but to sneak in his app to demonstrate that it could be done. “For the record, without a real app in the App Store, people would say Apple wouldn’t approve an app that took advantage of this flaw,” he tweeted.

The implicit argument is that the reasonable disclosure norm is not compatible with a closed platform like Apple’s. That’s debatable, but it shouldn’t be shocking when the logical consequence follows and Apple holds Miller responsible for his choice to break his agreement.

As similar App Store restrictions come to the Mac, we’ll surely see more stories like this one, with heartless Apple shutting out helpless developers in the name of keeping the walled garden unsullied. What we have to remember is that as strict as Apple may be, its approach is not just “not bad” for consumers, it’s creating more choice.

As New York Law School’s James Grimmelmann recently wrote about the Mac, “Apple is now giving users the best of both worlds, open and closed. Users who want the power of openness can install applications directly. Users who want the safety of closure can install applications from the Mac App Store.”

And as for iOS, as long as there are healthy competitors with open platforms like Android, the same is true. Consumers, developers, and security researchers all now have a choice about which universe they want to inhabit. This is a better state of affairs than an all-open or all-closed world.

For Miller, this means that he has to accept the consequences of breaking his contract with Apple, and it means the same thing for Apple—security researchers may well decide to suspend Apple for a year and release vulnerabilities without first informing it. Open and closed platforms are not intrinsically good or bad, but choice is certainly always a good thing.

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