Saturday, September 29, 2007

Still waiting for Apple to do the right thing...

It looks like it's going to be a very long wait.

{{sigh}} I miss the days when Apple was a cool company.

But this week something dramatic occurred in the war for consumers' "freedom to tinker." Apple, a company highly regarded by its customers, staked out its position in the fight. The wrong position: Apple adopted a draconian policy against people who dared to do something perfectly legal with their iPhones, and thus came out in support of the wireless industry -- and against its own customers' rights. [...]

It's only in the cellphone business that anyone would tolerate such behavior. If a company tried this in any other industry, people would howl to the heavens. Imagine the outrage if Apple or Microsoft sold desktop PCs that allowed you to connect to the Internet only through Comcast -- and then, if you tried to use Earthlink instead, the company would shut down your machine. Or what if Ford allowed you to drive your new Explorer only to Wal-Mart to buy your groceries; if you went instead to Whole Foods, a company official would come by and slash your tires. [...]

Apple has now made it plain that anybody who buys the iPhone is not really buying it. What we're doing instead is more like renting it -- Apple remains your landlord, stern, controlling, and allowed to evict you at will. At whatever price -- $600, $400, $200 -- that's a very high cost to bear. If you care about your rights, don't buy an iPhone.

UPDATE: more from the NYTimes


sravana said...

Wow. That's really obscene! So much for MSoft being the evil empire!

glenH. said...

Have a look at


Al said...

When they bought the iPhone they knew it only used AT&T for a carrier. No surprise there.

When they signed the end user agreement they agreed not to hack the iPhone.

When they hacked the iPhone they broke the end user agreement.

They downloaded the update, after Apple warned hackers not to do so, They applied the update even though they were not entitled to do so having broken the end user agreement.

An illegal hack, an illegal use of Apple's update and a bricked iPhone that Apple is not responsible for in any way, shape or form.

The only draconian thing going on is you're outrage, and you're not even an iPhone owner, let alone an iPhone hacker.

DaveD said...

"Apple adopted a draconian policy against people who dared to do something perfectly legal with their iPhones..."

So breaking an end-user agreement is perfectly legal? LOL! An end-user has the "right" to modify something they bought.

Just as they have the "right" to simply NOT apply the update after they broke their end-user agreement.

Think about it.

Liz Traylor said...

The whole debacle shows one thing. There are a lot of stupid people with money out there.

matt said...

I can't see where the indignation is coming from. IF I had an Ford Explorer and hacked my fuel control module using a known insecurity so I could burn liquid hydrogen. Then Ford issued an update that closed it and removed the hack messing up the software, well, I guess I'd have to accept that I need a new module. There is a reason these devices say 'NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE'. (The ROM is a 'part') I don't warrant the products I produce if they are modified, there's no reason Apple would either. I swear it's like the internet is populated by 15 year old males that haven't worked a day in their lives! Me me me me me me want want want want no consequences no consequences no consequences no consequences. Once you use the hacker community to alter your iPhone Apple is no longer your source for your updates, the hackers are.

alice said...

And there you go -- you've gotten to the crux of the matter. If I buy an iPhone, and if I abide by the rules set down by Apple and AT&T, I'm stuck with AT&T for as long as I want to use that phone. If I move to a place where AT&T does not have a good signal, I not only have to change cell phone companies, I have to buy a new phone. IOW, if you cancel the contract, you lose the phone, because the phone has been designed to not work with any other carrier. Obviously, it's possible to the the phone to work with other carriers -- the hackers have proven that -- but that goes against the spirit of non-competition that is ruling this product line.

In that sense, I don't own the iPhone -- I am only paying a fee to use it as long as I am willing to subscribe to AT&T's service. It's the same with many (but, I think, not all) phones in the US -- the iPhone is just the most prominent example.

stelmodad said...

This isn't really a hack or don't hack issue.

What Apple (and other companies) are beginning to do is more akin to buying an Explorer but being told you can only buy gas for it at Exxon stations. The current (U.S.) mobile phone market is device independent - Apple (or perhaps AT&T) is moving toward being provider dependent.

Yes a contract is a contract, but the new business model being proposed is that in order to use the [insert particular phone device] you must agree to a fundamental change in your consumerism. The response to hacking is being motivated by a desire to own the device but not accept this shift.

Alice, I'm not sure if other companies are actively doing this or not. I know that the iPhone would be the most prominent example but to date I've never been in a mobile contract that married carrier to device (other than the GSM/PCS differences).

Keera Ann Fox said...

OK, so everyone knows it's AT&T only, no matter what, and still they buy the phone, and risk breaking it with hacks? As Liz Traylor said above: There must be a lot of stupid people with money.

In Norway, Apple fans are buying the iPhone, knowing full well they may never actually be able to make a phone call with it, and are also aware that hacking may break it. But the curiosity and some other nice features make it worth risking the money for them. They already know they aren't going to whine to or about Apple if the iPhone stops working.

alice said...

Keera, that's why I haven't bought an iPhone. And I won't buy one as long as they're being so draconian about it. I agree that people who did buy them, knowing full well that this is not the Apple we used to know and love, have no business whining about the agreement they signed on to.

But beyond that, I'm frustrated by this shift in the Apple company culture. As I said in my post, I liked it when Apple was a cool company, because it made me feel good when I sunk what, to me, is a large amount of money into their products -- I currently have 4 mac laptops (one's a clamshell that no one uses anymore) and a mac mini in my household. Now I feel fairly ambivalent about giving any more of my money to Apple, Inc. I don't have a good alternative, so I'll probably keep buying macs, but I'm sad that the era of being happy about it seems to be over.

I'm also very disappointed on a selfish level because I was very excited about the iPhone when it was first announced and at one time I was looking forward to getting one for myself. But I can't in good conscience buy one under the current conditions -- I don't want to reward their behavior (and I won't do business with AT&T until they're the last company on earth).

I'm also concerned by what this means for the industry in general. If other companies look at what Apple is doing and decide to follow suit, what is going to happen to competition and innovation in these fields?

Like I said... {{sigh}}

Keera Ann Fox said...

As I understand it, developers can and do make 3rd party apps for the iPhone, mostly widgets. (I may be wrong, because...) for me this whole issue is fairly theoretical, because the iPhone has, so far, not been an option for me. Even if I did want an iPhone (not terribly likely), I'm hard pressed to see Apple as a bully. Apple wants a certain functionality for its phone, and from what I've heard/read, AT&T is the only one who can provide it in the US. In Europe, Apple is facing a similar challenge, one that risks excluding several countries as a market for the iPhone.

I think Apple's cool factor is still there - if you look beyond the iPhone. They went pretty exclusive with that one, versus the ubiquitous iPod, say. I'm not sure what to make of that, but it certainly doesn't mean Apple has been unfair to hackers or to consumers. Limiting, perhaps, but not unfair.

PS: What color's your clamshell? Mine's orange and I still like it.

alice said...

I don't have first-hand knowledge (for obvious reasons), but the reports indicate that third party apps are not currently permitted (for example, theiphoneblog or mobile-tech-today).

{shrug} Like I said, I'll probably keep buying macs (and, maybe, eventually another ipod), but I won't be all warm and fuzzy about it anymore. The more I look into Apple's current company culture, the more they sound like Microsoft.

(my clamshell is a blue one. I still love the handle!)

Keera Ann Fox said...

This little blog post and all its comments shed some more light on the matter, and after reading the comments, I'm inclined to start to see things your way. :-)

(That handle is ingenious!)

alice said...

That's a fascinating thread!

Keera Ann Fox said...

Here's a psychologist's version of what's going on with the Mac community ("the kids") vs. Apple/Steve Jobs ("Dad"), if we all were in family therapy. :-)

alice said...

Thanks for the link! It took me a while get to reading it, but it was worth the wait! (I never had a step family but I will own up to my problems with authoritarian types. Perhaps that is one thing that's niggling at me in this whole Apple-turns-evil episode.)