Tim O’Reilly is a bright guy, but many of the things he’s quoted as saying in this Wired article are either false, or betray a fundamental lack of understanding about the kind of customer understanding and tradeoffs required to develop successful software products.
Speaking about the growth of Apple’s desktop apps that expand the application beyond the desktop, he says:
“Apple is the first old-world computer company to get this,” said O’Reilly. “Apple has started to take that network concept, the idea of reaching beyond the single device, and they’re starting to build that into their applications.”
While Tim is absolutely right in his belief that desktop software is heading this direction, he’s pretty mistaken in his belief that Apple is the first innovator. QuickBooks has done this for at least three years, with integration of online bill presentment, merchant card services, website creation, etc. etc. He continues:
However, O’Reilly said the implementation of this idea is often inconsistent. For example, O’Reilly noted that songs can be bought online through iTunes, but it is not possible to buy stock photos through iPhoto, Apple’s digital photo repository.
C’mon, Tim. One of the major reasons iPhoto has been successful is because it was designed with a very clear goal in mind: helping consumers with digital cameras organize, print and share their photos. It’s not a tool for graphic designers, who are the prime consumers of stock photography. What percentage of digital camera owners do you think have ever had the need to buy a stock photo?
Likewise, iTunes allows music to be shared automatically across a local network using Rendezvous, Apple’s zero-configuration networking technology, but there’s no equivalent service in iPhoto for sharing pictures, O’Reilly noted.
But there is! It’s called .mac, and it enables iPhoto users to share photos by uploading them to the web. If you asked digital camera users whether they’d rather share their photos with people on their home/local network or over the web, the vast majority would say the latter. And that’s what iPhoto and .mac do.
iTunes is different. though. Its sharing model is design to help families and small groups of people to avoid the hassle of duplicating MP3 libraries for all the different points in the house or local network where they want to listen to music. Sure, some of them would like to share them over the web, but that’s simply not going to sit well with the recording industry — a key partner for Apple in the store.