Wednesday, 16 July 2008

On TechCrunch IT, in a post called "The New Apple Walled Garden," author Nik Cubrilovic makes a good point...

TechCrunchIT » The New Apple Walled Garden

Geeks and enthusiasts wearing Wordpress t-shirts, using laptops covered in Data Portability, Microformats and RSS stickers lined up enthusiastically on Friday to purchase a device that is completely proprietary, controlled and wrapped in DRM. The irony was lost on some as they ran home, docked their new devices into a proprietary media player and downloaded closed source applications wrapped in DRM.

I am referring to the new iPhone - and the new Apple iPhone SDK that allows developers to build ‘native’ applications. The announcement was greeted with a web-wide standing ovation, especially from the developer community. The same community who demand all from Microsoft, feel gifted and special when Apple give them an inch of rope. When Microsoft introduced DRM into Media Player it was bad bad bad - and it wasn’t even mandatory, it simply allowed content owners a way to distribute and sell content from anywhere.

How can people who preach and pontificate open systems be so enamored with a completely closed, proprietary system as Apple's? Now, don't get me wrong. I was in line at an Apple store last week with all the people Nik talks about in his article. I really like the iPhone and I think my Mac is great, hardware-wise (okay, the OS is not too bad either). But there's something that's always lurking there in the back of my mind, like a pestering little voice that doesn't want me to give in or forget lessons of the past. "A closed system is a system doomed to fail," the voice tells me. Either that, or it is so limiting as to stifle. Or both. Maybe I need to get my medication checked. On the other hand, maybe the voice is right. Or both.

Risking cliche cynicism, I think one has to consider whether The Church of The Steve congregation is further developing (or devolving, if you prefer) in its adoration, at the expense of long-term good. Blind faith, crazed unthinking people saying one thing yet doing another, the how-dare-you-question mentality... Sounds familiar. And that's coming from an Episcopalian. An imperfect, sometimes-questioning, sometimes-doubting, cynical one -- But you get the point. I hope.

Perhaps the scariest part of my thought process today is that I actually agree completely with Dave Winer on this one. He nails it right on the head. Okay, there are times when I agree with Dave, but until now I've never really admitted it in public. :)

What do you think about Apple's model? Fanboy? Concerned? Who cares? End of the world as we know it? Utopia? Told-ya-so?

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Wednesday, 16 July 2008 10:31:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Thursday, 17 July 2008 07:21:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Really great points and one of the few things standing between me and an iPhone. Not the only thing, just one of a couple of reasons that have stayed my hand; the monthly service costs being the other.

I think Apple are doing some absolutely amazing things and I truly believe the iPhone is going to help drive the phone industry forward once more in the way that iPod did for the portable music player. However, I can't silence that voice any more than you can: "Proprietary closed systems are sitting ducks for open platforms to pick off over time." I'm thinking of the word Android right now; not for the short term of course, but it has to be a consideration in this discussion.

After evaluating my options with iPhone, I've realized that I might just get the latest TMobile Wing or the Blackberry Curve. The only features my current phone (TMobile MDA) doesn't have is 3G and GPS, so it's a hard sell to sign a multi-year contract and fork over a few hundred dollars for just those two features. We'll see.

To get to your point though, I completely see the mismatch between the trendy following and image that Apple have projected when compared to a device that is more proprietary than any we have seen in years. My one (and truly just about the only one) frustration with my iPod is that I need a "special" usb cable to power it- when really the device is more than large enough to support a standard USB port.

On a final side note, I was one of those people burned by the Sony DRM rootkit issue. I have a total of five CDs that are coasters now because I have no way to digitize them in high-quality and have no use for carrying around music on optical media. I have boycotted Sony projects of every form for the last two years because of it. I'm pretty staunchly against DRM in almost every form, despite the overwhelming industry trajectory towards it. Not boycotting Apple, I love their stuff and at least they tell you up front unlike Sony did. Just a cautionary thought for companies that are so eager to protect their copyright and industry position that there are those of us out there who will vote with our money if they cross the line; and I have the discipline to boycott for a LONG time.
Thursday, 17 July 2008 07:24:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Realized that my previous comment sounded like I was against iPhone. That truly isn't the case. My fiancee is actually sick of me talking every night about how incredibly cool it is and how, if I could only justify the service charges, would buy one right now. They are bringing their unique sense of style and usability to a space that really needs the competition and impetus to advance their thinking. Go iPhone go. Just think carefully about DRM and closed technology choices.
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