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The Apple business model

This shouldn't surprise nearly as many people as it has.

Now the the iPhone has caught on, Apple is taking active steps to make sure nobody tries to use it any other way than Apple's way:

Thursday afternoon, Apple released the scheduled update to the iPhone software. And the gadget blogs confirm that it does, as Apple threatened, wreak havoc on modified iPhones. Some phones have indeed been “bricked.? In others, unofficial applications have been disabled. And there are worries that hacking the updated phone will be harder.

The software-modification community is naturally up in arms - many feel entitled to modify the machine however they want once they buy it. To them, I say: Aren't you familiar with any of Apple's other products?

Apple computers have a reputation of being slick and stable. One reason for that is good design; another reason is that Apple is very strict about allowing third parties to write software or build hardware that's compatible with their systems. They make sure everything works together nicely by micromanaging everything.

And the good design has its own little caveat. If you think the interface is really accessible or the appearance is really snazzy, great. But if you think anything can be improved just a little bit, you're wrong - customizability is not the Apple way. Steve Jobs knows what's best for you; if any features are missing, it's because you didn't really need them. Like using a carrier other than AT&T for your phone (arguably, that's not even an underhanded corporate favor, because there are some advantages to using AT&T on an iPhone). But until recently, you could break Apple's rules and unlock your iPhone if you really wanted.

I don't mean to imply that this is a bad design concept. Windows shows how poorly things can work if you make some aspects of your product rigid and others flexible; it's for good reasons that a lot of people prefer Apple machines' consistency. But Apple's my-way-or-the-superhighway approach is completely at odds with the Web 2.0 pseudorevolution that's enabling bloggers to scoop real journalists, Linux-based operating systems to become serious contenders in the marketplace, and idiots with webcams to think they can influence elections, all for better or worse. Even a thoughtful, careful megacompany is no match for the collective time and energy of a billion nitpicking hackers. Apple's unique paradigm certainly made sense in the past, but perhaps now it's becoming... obsolete?


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