I am neither surprised or disappointed by Apple’s impending pull of “iDOS 2” from the App Store. The whole point of buying Apple hardware has always been to buy into a unique ecosystem: the “walled garden.” While the Mac has never been locked down to Apple’s Mac App Store, the iPhone has always been locked down to its App Store. It’s easy to forget now, but the iPhone grew out of Apple’s prior consumer electronics smash hit, the iPod, which was was completely locked down. It didn’t have an App Store. Neither did the iPhone at first, either.
I hate to side with one of the world’s biggest companies here, but I totally believe that the iPhone is a console, as Steve Jobs described it. I knew that going into the iPhone ecosystem, and that’s actually what I wanted, and still want, from that ecosystem. I want an apps console that (for the most part) just works, and doesn’t require a lot of my time and effort to work smoothly and securely. I came at this from the other wide: an Android users who jailbroke and hacked his phone into something completely different than what its manufacturer and mobile data provider wanted or intended. The thing is, all that customization led to a system that was unstable, and I had no idea if it was secure at all, because the code (apps and OS) came from a bunch of different places. I just had to trust, blindly, that everything was OK. The iPhone imposed guardrails on my hacking activities—guardrails that I wanted, because what I was doing wasn’t working for me anymore.
I think a lot of people chafe at the idea that their most useful device is a console because we reserve that word for entertainment devices like the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation, or the humble cable set-top box. It doesn’t matter, though, if the iPhone is more useful and more important than a video game system, though. What matters is how it is sold.
It isn’t exactly a secret that normal customers can only download iOS software from Apple’s App Store. Beyond hardware, access to that App Store is the fundamental thing being sold by Apple. Customers should know it when they are choosing a product. I doubt any of the complainers and hand-wringers commenting on this article on MacRumors didn’t know that going into their iPhone purchase.
I would love to run Windows games on my Nintendo Switch, but I can’t because it is a console and Nintendo does not allow it. That doesn’t surprise me, or anybody else for that matter. The situation is not really different than the one with the iPhone. If you want to run DOS on your mobile phone, the far-more-open Android universe is there for you—and it’s the most dominant OS platform in the world, too. Vote for it with your wallets and your time.