The EFF: ‘Apple’s Crystal Prison and the Future of Open Platforms’

Micah Lee and Peter Eckersley, writing for the EFF:

Apple’s recent products, especially their mobile iOS devices, are like beautiful crystal prisons, with a wide range of restrictions imposed by the OS, the hardware, and Apple’s contracts with carriers as well as contracts with developers. Only users who can hack or “jailbreak” their devices can escape these limitations.

I support the EFF on the whole, but particularly with regard to the First Amendment. But they’re losing it with this “prison” analogy. The analogy doesn’t work. Prison is an unpleasant (to say the least) place, and prisoners are not allowed to leave. If you own an iPhone or iPad you can sell it or throw it in the trash whenever you want. Everyone sees this.

If you want to go with a room-and-board analogy, I’d say something more like a strict condominium board is more apt than a prison. Or a long-term-stay hotel. And in Hotel Apple, everything is very nice — looks cool, smells good, everything is clean and looks like new. But: you’re not allowed to move the furniture around, and you’re not allowed to bring in outside food that hasn’t been approved by Apple. You can leave whenever you want, but most people enjoy it very much and are happy to stay.

The whole room-and-board analogy is not a good one, so let’s stop stretching it. But my point is that people choose to buy an iPhone. No one chooses to go to prison. And if you happen to be in a situation where you’re “forced” to use an iPhone or iPad (by your school or work, say), it’s highly unlikely that any alternative platform they might have issued you would be any less locked down.

The piece is supposed to be a criticism of Apple’s platform design and policies, but really, what they’re doing is criticizing users for enjoying it.

Thursday, 31 May 2012