Apple, Instagram, and corporate paranoia

commentary Senior Apple executive Phil Schiller apparently has quit Instagram because it "went to Android." Did he jump, or was he pushed?

commentary I find it remarkable that despite using a service for months and enjoying what it has to offer, one would cease using one of the most popular smartphone applications on the mobile market this year, simply because it expanded its service to a rival platform.

That is, unless you're an Apple senior vice-president and your job is to market the iOS platform in the best possible light to the hundreds of millions of potential new customers.

Smile! You're on Android. Or not.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice-president for marketing did exactly that, apparently confirmed by a direct message to a Twitter user, seen by 9to5Mac, asking him why he had stopped using Instagram.

"It 'jumped the shark' when it went to Android," he said.

Instagram for Android was released on April 3, only a week before Facebook bought the photo-sharing company for $1 billion. It was until then an iOS only application. A three-times spike in Instagram's user base in the short space of a week pushed Zuckerberg into buying the company, it is believed.

Facebook and Apple have a good, but arm's-length, relationship. Many questioned why Apple opted to join forces with Twitter by offering the microblogging service with 140 million users to its iOS platform, instead of Facebook with more than 850 million users.

It could be that Apple and Facebook drifted apart since the social network's early years, when the technology giant advised Facebook on its company focus, management and direction, seemingly eyeing future potential in the then-startup. Facebook may not have been willing to play ball with Apple with an "incompatible" set of privacy controls and different ideals.

Or, it could be because Steve Jobs thought Mark Zuckerberg was a "f**king a**hole," according to veteran blogger Robert Scoble.

I'm not picky on which, nor does it particularly matter.

The question still looms as to why Schiller deleted his account. Logically, it makes no sense. Emotionally, at a push, one might be able to empathize. If one loves a platform so much to the point where a trusted product reaches out to 'the enemy' in a bid to grow and expand, I can see the human side to Schiller's dilemma.

But Apple's closed nature put Schiller in a difficult position. Should he abandon a service he clearly enjoyed because the company expanded its business to accommodate the largest section of the U.S. mobile platform market share? Or maybe his public relations team told him to?

Regardless, it points to either a paranoid Apple executive concerned about the public perception of using a service on a rival platform, or Apple PR's paranoid state of mind in telling Schiller to dump the app for much of the same reason.

Knowing how secretive Apple is over its company, its products and its processes -- to levels that if such symptoms were found in a person, they would be a psychologist's dream come true -- it would come as no surprise if Apple told Schiller to stop using the software in the wake of its expansion to the Android platform.

Apple's "thermonuclear war" against Android continues. For a senior figure at Apple, a commander in the war on Android, to use a service owned and operated by the opposition forces is like driving a Russian tank down Wall Street while burning an American flag and whistling "Hail to the Chief" in a somber D-major.

It makes sense for a company to provide only software, products and services it creates to its staff. It creates an ecosystem around which its employees can self-evangelize and get to know the products they are working on better. Apple gives out MacBooks and iPhones to its staff, just as Microsoft gives PCs and Windows Phones to its employees. It recently outlawed its staff from buying Macs and iOS devices through company accounts, according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, but at least the Redmond giant experimented and didn't give its operating system rival the cold shoulder.

A hint of paranoia mixed in with a strong scent of impending hypocrisy. While Apple continues its battle against Android in the courts, if its senior vice president carries on using an app on his iPhone, but has a second-degree connection to Android, Apple could be seen as two-timing on its own brand of platform.

And that's where Apple will fall down. Its closed-minded nature means the company does not look outside its four-walled eutopic garden, seemingly denying the existence of Android, while making some considerations toward its lesser rivals such as Windows -- which Apple still develops for -- but only because Microsoft's own market share dominance forced it to.

An Apple spokesperson was unavailable for comment at the time of writing. For all we know, they're probably locked in a panic room a hundred feet beneath Cupertino's streets.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Apple's paranoid public image: Why did Schiller quit Instagram?"

 

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