Apple’s struggle for closure – by “Ben S”

I’m in love with my Droid.  I ordered it the first day they were available, even putting up with my unusable Samsung Juke and its shattered screen for an extra week, just so I could get my hands on what I saw as the first tenable challenge to the iPhone–one of the main draws, for me, at least, was the fact that anyone could design apps and put them on the “Android Market” without putting them up for review before some ominous Comité de salut app.

One of the biggest shortcomings, however, was the lack of Adobe Flash, which, Android owners kept being promised, was “coming,” and after waiting months, the news in June that Flash 10.1 had finally been released and was Android-compatible was somewhat muted by the fact that it was actually compatible with Android 2.2, whereas all Droid users were still stuck with 2.1 for the foreseeable future.
Finally accurate

So while at this point I could have manually rooted the “Froyo” update to my phone and used Flash to my heart’s content, a call to Verizon confirmed what I had suspected–any manual installation of the new OS from a source other than Motorola or Verizon would void my warranty (which, when buying a phone with a plan allows you to get it at 1/5 of the non-plan cost, is a real consideration).

And so I waited, patiently, until late August to get my update, download Flash, and then find out Hulu was blocking all mobile phones from viewing videos anyway.

So, although iPhone users all over the world are likely still more than a little heady about the Librarian of Congress’ clarification to the DMCA allowing for, among other things, “jailbreaking” the device, it is certainly worth noting that, while Apple can no longer use the threat of legal action to keep all its devotees in line, it still has a plethora of tools at its disposal to discourage users from straying from the Way of Apple, including, yes, voiding your warranty:

Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience. As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably. [Emphasis added]
It’s not that they’re controlling, it’s just that they know what’s best for you!

To be fair, they have a point–there have been instances of jailbroken phones being exposed to vulnerabilities, especially those that use SSH and don’t change the password from the default.  Naturally, the more open a technology is, the more risk there is for malicious attacks–and when the openness is not officially sanctioned, Apple has little reason to fortify the rogue phones against attacks.

Indeed, though there is absolutely no indication that they plan to do this, Apple could even, if they so chose, develop viruses themselves that specifically target jailbroken phones, or, more legally ambiguously, introduce some internal fuse designed to detect modification, and, if any such modification occurs, melt the phone.  Not, of course, that Apple would ever deliberately introduce defects into their products

But back to the probable: Apple has absolutely no incentive to provide any sort of support for those who use the phone in ways that Apple has said it should not be used–and while communities of jailbroken iPhone users will certainly continue to grow and evolve, coming up with patches and fixes themselves, what, ultimately, is the point in taking technology from one of the most closed consumer technology companies in existence and trying to make it open?  Why not just get technology that is open in the first place?

So, in short, if you want an open, generative phone, then buy an open, generative phone (one that you can also hold any way you like).  Don’t be a putz.

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