Sunday, October 7, 2007

Does Apple have a community?

Akshun J commented on my last post the Apple does not have community. The understandable point behind that comment is that Apple is doing some things recently that are very negatively impacting people that use their gear.

Whether or not Apple has community might be semantics, however according to any definition I have of the term, Apple does in fact have a strong community. They also have fans. They also have detractors, and in fact there is a community of detractors too.

I can't read Akshun J's mind here, but I think this might be a reference to the fact that Redhat builds community by actively sponsoring projects like Fedora, and SUSE has openSUSE project sponsorship, and LinSpire has FreeSpire, and Sun has among other things, and on and on. These are for profit companies that that actively try and build community.

Apple spends a fair amount of time doing things agains the community that has sprung up around them: that can not be denied. But to not call the folks at iPhoneDevCamp a community, or what happens around TUAW or any of the other pro-Apple community web sites a community is not accurate. They are a community, even if they are a community under seige. Apple may not value their community in the same way that Sun values theirs, but that does not mean that the community is not there. As an aside, the OpenOffice community has been hard at work on porting their excellent flagship product to OS.X, extending their community to include the OS.X one.

It can not even be catagorically stated that Apple is anti-community, because Apple is not just Steve Jobs. It is a large comapny, and there were Apple employees at iPhoneDevCamp, even if it was not in an official capacity.

The main point here is that community will exist around all sorts of things, and what Apple needs to watch out for is what their communities do may be inspired by what Apple does. Apple is creating the crucible that fires people into doing things like porting Linux or BSD to the iPhone so that they can be rid of the yoke that binds them, but still get to play with the device that they love. The same thing is true in Akshun J's references iPod article: Linux already runs on the iPod. I can have the device that I want, and use it the way that I want as well.

90% of the folks that buy iPods or iPhones are going to use them exactly as Apple designed them. Apple has no worries there. It is only that the 10% that will not use them as they are built are not going to just decide they were being silly, and they were really sorry, and "oh, OK I'll put it back the way it was meant to be" because Apple fired update 1.1.1 over their heads. The 10% are highly creative, and highly influential. They will either fix Apple, or Apple is going to find that "the next big thing" grew out of the community that they were firing at.

It is an easy fix. All they have to do is release an SDK for the iPhone to allow apps to be created for the platform. Problem solved. Or they can stay at odds with their community and be on the receiving end of the law of unintended consequences.


Akshun J said...

Excellent point! Supported by the company or not, I would agree that Apple does have a community. And I *feel* what the community is trying to do. I feel what they want. But Steve Jobs could give a crap. I truly don't think he cares about what the "community" thinks. You say that Apple is bigger than Jobs. Yes and no. It's like Star Wars. It's bigger than George Lucas, and yet Jar Jar still makes it to the big screen.

Steve Carl said...

Except of course in the Phantom Edit. :)

I guess the Phantom Edit told Lucas what the community thought about Jar Jar, because while he was still present in the next two, his screen time and dialog was significantly cut.

Community Strikes Again (tm)

Steve Carl said...

PS: If Phantom Edit is an UER (Unresolved External Reference), see here: