That iPhone update thing

Tried publishing as an edit, didn’t work, so, now it’s a new post. Oh well.

Now that the furor has turned into a low growl, a few thoughts. I’d “hacked” my phone with iFuntastic. Mostly because I missed the ringtones on my E61, where I could pick any media file on my phone to play. So, I tossed in a few of those ringtones.

Yeah, I get that the RIAA figured out there was big money in ringtones, so they came up with special licensing to extract money for that too. However, because of the RIAA’s heavy handed tactics, and actively attacking customers, informing us that paying for music doesn’t mean we actually own how we use it, I have to admit, I, like it appears the majority of their customers, aren’t big fans of the RIAA. Just a hint, when you actively, and even more, proactively alienate your customers, you will eventually go out of business. And, you cannot regulate and intimidate behavior change with your customers. All the more so when the “competition”, i.e. unsigned artists, are better, by and large, than the “product” you’re peddling. Nya.

So, most of my ringtones are from non-RIAA sources. I have several friends who are musical artists, I have their “personal label” CD’s, and their express permission to use their music however I want, short of reselling it. And, some are from old recordings for which no ringtone rights have been negotiated. So, if the music isn’t popular enough to license as a ringtone, does that means it’s explicitly not licensed as a ringtone? I don’t think so. I don’t see any EULA in my CD packet here for my Mozart symphonies dictating what I can and cannot do with snippets of the music I bought. But, Apple needs to placate the mesozoic media companies, so I guess it had to make deals with the devil to agree to disallow any random ringtone creation.

Anywho, so I did that. Then folks figured less arduous ways of putting ringtones on the phone. That was cool, but I already had mine set up, so I didn’t mess with that. Then the infamous 1.1.1 came out. Now I was a little nervous. I knew I’d eventually want to upgrade, but now I might have a pending brick.

Now, I think it was a poor marketing choice for Apple to go this route, but I don’t see anything inherently evil. They came out with an update, they knew it would and in some cases would brick phones, so they warned you before you updated. Threw in a special “Danger, Will Robinson!” dialog and everything. At that point you could a) say to yourself “self, I modified this phone, do I really want to risk updating”, or b) take your chances.

When I bought the phone, I got a device, and a set of software with it. That’s all I got. Folks found a way to hack that version of the software, great, if I wanted to use it, that’s my choice. I don’t have any illusion that I bought that and the right to tweek it, and the right to free updates from Apple. If I want to use a device, with the restrictions that were made clear to me when I bought it, that’s my choice, and if I choose to disregard those restrictions, which I often do, well, you break it, you lost it.

The train of thought that you bought the phone, so not only can you hack it, but that Apple owes you compatibility, and owes you not to unhack it? Sony has been battling back and forth with the PSP for a very long time, and DirecTV had a similar battle with people unlocking all the channels for a long time, until that got pretty difficult to pull off as well. Not everything you buy is a general purpose computing device. A Palm, mostly a general purpose device, other smartphones? Kinda similar. The iPhone, well, not so much. And, if it wasn’t so absolutely brilliant at doing what it does do, then we wouldn’t really care, now would we?

So, how about this, if you want to hack it, fine, hack away, but don’t update until the hackers catch up with Apple, and if Apple does something that makes future updates just not work, well, enjoy what you’ve got. Works for the PSP folks, should work for the iPhone too.

Now, does this cause Apple some headaches? Well, sure, when there’s some real hardware/software competition to the iPhone, and it’s open and developer/hacker friendly, then there will be some migration.

But, remember, Apple didn’t build and market the phone to developers/hackers. Just like the iPod wasn’t opened up, and yet became the largest selling music player, they’re betting that same thing will work with the iPhone. And, for non-power users, that want power a different way, they may be right.

I’m gonna enjoy the heck out of it, just like I did my E61, until the NEXT killer device/platform comes along! I’m just excited that Apple kicked the mobile industry in the butt with a platform that could be built today, if only other providers had thought out of the box enough to do it. The iPhone is, as a friend told me, “The Mac on a phone”, it’s kinda like Frontpage. Apple’s got a way they want to interact with Consumers, and a lot of it is in limiting the customization. That’s got a similarity to my day job, looking at ways to make general purpose hardware and OS’s more like an “Appliance”, once you know what you want the device to do.

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