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.


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 :-)

About the author

Mathew 2429 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

52 Responses to “Thanks be to Steve for locking us in”
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  2. […] An interesting development, tucked away in an article at Fortune magazine about the company behind the Parallels software program, which allows Mac users to run Windows in a virtual machine and switch back and forth (relatively) seamlessly. For all the hiccups and lag that some users have reported, it is still an amazing feat – and I would wager it is making MacIntel boxes more appealing for people who still need to use Windows. No rebooting, no emulation. Two OSes side by side. Now, it seems that the company that makes Parallels is working on an upgrade to the software that will let Windows users theoretically run Mac OS X side-by-side with Windows on their cheapo Dell boxes, which Dell would be happy to do. Heresy! The only problem with that, as the article and others are more than happy to point out, is that Steve Jobs likes that idea about as much as Bill Gates likes the idea of open-sourcing Windows code. According to Engadget, “VMware’s own upcoming virtualization software for the Mac has been hamstrung by the trouble VMware has gone through trying to get Apple’s blessing, and SWsoft’s Parallels has been “crippled” in particular ways to make it more difficult to get Mac OS onto a non-Apple machine.” But as the site points out, the pressure on Steve Jobs to set the Mac OS free is only likely to increase. It will likely happen thanks to hackers anyway, but will he eventually allow it? I for one hope that he does. Obviously, as more than one person has pointed out during the whole “iPhone/closed system” debate of a week or so ago, part of the Mac OS experience comes from the fact that software and hardware are all one harmonious whole, working flawlessly together, etc., etc. But why not let people who can’t afford those gleaming white boxes get a taste of the Mac magic? Comments Add to Del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit | Furl Bookmark WebProNews: View All Articles by Mathew Ingram Receive Our Daily Email of Breaking eBusiness News About the Author: Mathew Ingram is a technology writer and blogger for the Globe and Mail, a national newspaper based in Toronto, and also writes about the Web and media at http://www.mathewingram.com/work and http://www.mathewingram.com/media. WebProNews RSS Feed More Blog Talk Articles Contact WebProNews […]

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