Learn the secrets to Apple's design success

All big companies have their critics. But what's interesting about Apple's detractors is universal surprise. Their disappointment often stems from finding out that Apple isn't the company they thought it was. So I'm going to do all you would-be critics a favour, and explain some fundamental aspects of Apple's culture. Next time, you won't be blindsided and confused.

Here are four things that Apple believes that explain the unexplainable:

1. Everything Apple sells is an Apple product

Developer Paul Graham wrote an impassioned post this week called "Apple's Mistake," where he expressed his shock and disappointment at Apple's heavy hand with iPhone developers. Graham said the "App Store approval process is broken." Apple doesn't "understand software."

"They treat iPhone apps the way they treat the music they sell through iTunes," he wrote.

That last statement is truer than Graham realizes. Everything Apple offers on iTunes is viewed by Apple in the same way they view music: They're all Apple products. When you drop 79p for Lady Gaga's newish single, Paparazzi, you're buying an Apple product, according to Apple. In fact, Ms Gaga's only function in life is to make a marginal contribution to the overall Apple experience.

Graham thinks his product is his, and that Apple simply makes the hardware and software it runs on. But Apple views all of it as part of the Apple experience. If you want to sell an iPhone app, Apple will dictate the shape, size and look and feel of the buttons, windows, typeface, and how most of the user settings will appear. They will reject and ban it if it competes with another of their products, or even with possible product directions. If it offends Apple in some way -- either because of sex, politics or religion or some other banned topic -- Apple will simply deny it. And they'll take their sweet time deciding, too. As a developer, you have two options: love it or leave it.

This would make no sense if your assumption is that Apple is just another hardware and software maker cultivating an applications ecosystem. But it makes perfect sense if you realize that Apple views app developers as employees or contractors who have been allowed to work for Apple as long as they follow the rules.

Another bit of evidence for Apple's world view emerged this week. Long story short: A software company called The Little App Factory was put on notice by Apple's legal department to change the name of their product, iPodRip, because it contained the word "iPod." The owner wrote an impassioned letter to Jobs practically begging him to intervene and allow the product to keep its name. The man professed his undying loyalty to Apple, and pointed out how he even dropped out of school to devote his life to creating software for Apple products. He said he has 6 million customers, and the product has been recommended by Apple itself.

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