Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trolls attacking the walled garden



While this case is not new and the whole patent troll thing has been going on for a while; I was interested by this article and some others about the point of views expressed by the app developers and Apple.  The developers were feeling threatened and begging for help (which Apple has delivered) while the patent troll is still hanging around and acting threateningly...

Recast this in terms of a feudal lord with a castle containing a market place. The app developers are peasants trading in the market place and the lord taxes them for the privilege.  Now a predator ( bandits, wolf, whatever) has appeared and is trying to predate on the peasants. The peasants are easy picking for the predator. The question is what does the lord do?  Does he sit there and wait for all the peasants to leave for a safer market place run by his neighbor ( destroying his tax base and standard of living) or does he harden up, get out his big stick and go out to defend his peasants? 

The thing that I find amusing is just how little abstract thought has gone into this whole exercise.  Clearly Apple has to step in because its peasants are being attacked by a predator (correctly named as such in the comments section)  Apple is making a nice living off the developers who choose to live in its "walled garden" and  And while there has been lots of whining about being somehow contained in a walled garden, that has all gone quiet now there is a predator lurking around and the feudal lord has come out and chased it off. 

This is digital feudalism. 

The same strategies will now start to play out.  Apple can choose to be a good shepard or ignore their flock.  One will result in fat happy peasants and a fat but constantly fighting shepard or the other... a scattered flock running and hiding from predators ( cause more will come if one tastes blood) and a lord in their tower sitting on a dwindling tax base.  (But well fed predators)

This is all pretty obvious... but now test your history knowledge... what happened to the feudal system?  Nobility was enforced by birth right.... good and bad nobles husbanded or exploited their peasants, rules were created and enforced to control the peasants... and finally when there were enough peasants who were angry enough and not afraid of predator anymore ... revolt.  Seize control of the market place and run it as a democracy/comunism/whatever (not a feudal system)
At some point Apple is going to have to cede control of the market place... or be abandoned for greener pastures.  Alternatly, they can keep the fear level high and "help" the developers to stay safe and warm and taxed in the walled garden.

Expect FUD campaigns by the various market owners.  Either way, Apple, Microsoft, RIM etc will all eventually loose control of their walled gardens. Not through technological means ( cause we all know they can force their users to only use their market) but because the pastures will become so much greener elsewhere that they will starve themselves to death and consume any peasants who remain loyal. 

That's another fun concept... the peasants are much more mobile. Their code bases are portable ( to a degree) and there is no way to apply force to coerce them to return to the garden if they do get out.  ( Expect black lists and other "exit penalty" mechanisms.  (There are already "entry costs" to create an exit loss, but these will become more vicious as the competition between the markets ramps up.

At some point there will be some sort of public attempt to wrest control of the marketplaces away from the current lords.  This will be doomed to failure due to the law being on the sides of the lords.  There will be attempts to open unofficial marketplaces (already happening) and private markets (I think they are possible on the Microsoft platform, in a limited way) and then there is the "open" android market....

What about a market that is taxed by a single lord, has restrictions enforced by the lords minions but has a crudely painted sign saying "open" tacked over the portcullis?  How is it open until its run by the community, for the community and to the community standards.  "Open" is like "random"... lots of things are possible that cannot exist in a "controlled" marketplace.

We shall see.

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