Thanks be to Steve for locking us in

by Mathew on January 13, 2007 · 52 comments

I wasn’t going to write any more about the Apple iPhone and its closed nature (great post by Tom Evslin here), but it’s been bugging me and I can’t help myself. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I am an Apple-basher, because I like Apple products a lot (although I don’t use many of them on a day-to-day basis, for a variety of reasons). I also just finished writing a piece for the Globe and Mail about how Steve Jobs and the team at Apple should get credit for seeing the value of great design. They make great products, there’s no question.

But Nick Carr’s piece earlier this week, which praised Steve for being the antithesis of Web 2.0, really got me steamed up, as Nick’s pieces often do (and I know how much he enjoys that). In a nutshell, he said that Steve is a true genius who couldn’t care less about what people want, and who has no intention of making devices that can be modified or improved (because by definition, of course, they can’t be improved). Hell, you can’t even change the battery in an iPod — isn’t that great? Thank God for geniuses like Steve.

As I mentioned in my comment to Nick — and to Scott Karp, who sang a similar tune in a guest post at The Blog Herald — this kind of attitude makes it sound like Mr. Carr is more than happy to take whatever the great man gives him, all because Steve is such a visionary and totally, like, a genius. How could we question the decisions of a genius? We should be grateful he gives us the benefit of his creative vision at all (here’s a list of all the things the iPhone can’t do).

jobs iphone.jpg

I know I’m in some kind of bizarre alternate universe when I prefer to agree with Dave Winer, but DW makes some good points in his post on the topic here, in which he argues that — in addition to getting fawning treatment from the media — Apple is taking the wrong route by trying to lock users in with the iPhone. As Dave notes, millions of people would use Apple products without that kind of lock-in, simply because they are easy and enjoyable to use. Why the chains?

As Clint Ecker has pointed out on his blog at Ars Technica, Steve is also guilty of using a little Microsoft-style FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to justify his decision to lock down the iPhone. He tells Newsweek that it’s because Cingular doesn’t want people using third-party apps and disrupting the network, but realistically there is virtually zero chance of that happening and Steve knows it.

He wants the iPhone locked because that’s the way he has always liked his products — locked, inviolable, pure. It was that way even with the first Mac, where Steve didn’t even want to allow users to open it and install anything. Yes, the iPod is a great device, but would it be any less great if we could change the frickin’ battery ourselves? No. Would it be any less great if we could install software to do cool things Apple never thought of? No. But Steve won’t let us.

Update:

Lots of sound and fury about this one pinging around the blogosphere (and in the comments here). So far, one of my favourites is from Ethan Kaplan at Blackrimglasses — great rant :-)

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