Apple has acquired a popular app, and has reimbursed app buyers, but there’s a catch.
Workflow is an app in the Apple App Store. By all accounts it is a very useful app. The iTunes description reads, “Workflow is your personal automation tool, enabling you to drag and drop any combination of actions to create powerful workflows for your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.” It sounds like a handy app for iOS users, and it was a paid app.
It was announced that Apple would be acquiring the app, and the talent behind the app, last month, and would in turn make the app available for free. Beyond this, Apple is now issuing refunds to purchasers of the app. This is a good thing, and something I would not have expected from Apple. So good for those consumers that they still get their app, and don’t have to feel cheated that others are now getting the same app for free.
However, it’s no longer the same app. Apple has decided to remove functionality from the app itself. From the Workflow webpage, the latest update shows “Get Street View Image, Google Chrome, Pocket, LINE, Telegram, Uber, and Workflow Gallery submissions are no longer supported”. It seems that since the acquisition, Apple has decided to remove interoperability with outside services. Now this is something I would have expected from Apple.
This is a new age, this is the age of the IoT. Going forward, the world of tech will be all about interoperability. We want our gadgets to speak together and work together. We see this throughout the tech sector. We watch as Amazon’s Alexa controls our smart home gadgets, and we see Google racing to catch up with their own Google home. File manager apps are now judged by the amount of different services with which they connect. BlackBerry has created a whole new platform with it’s Enterprise of Things to enable others to work in this interconnected space, and do so securely.
However, I believe there is going to be something that will be dragging down progress in this area. And that will be Apple. Apple’s entire business strategy has depended upon their own “closed garden”. Ensuring that any product that seeks to work with Apple gadgets ends up paying some sort of licensing fee to Apple in order to do so. Indeed, if you see a product that is listed as working with Apple, you can be assured that a price has been paid. Workflow is a perfect example of what we can expect. An app which had the ability to work with other services, was acquired by Apple, and those services were ended. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see some of these services added at a later date, if those services choose to purchase their way back in, or if Apple adds them as in-app purchases for the consumer.
I wonder how this will end? Will Apple be left behind as customers realize that outside the garden, people are living in an interconnected world? Or will Apple slow down the arrival of this interconnected world through their business practices and popularity. I fear what the answer may be.