Aw, gee... Apple doesn't love those hacks


To quote myself from a month or so ago about the iPhone update then:

The other interesting thing about the 1.0.2 update is that Apple didn't try to prevent the hacks that are out there. This is still up in the air, IMHO, in terms of whether it will continue or not. It's a losing battle, Apple knows this, and the hackers know it, but the carriers are dumb as dirt and AT&T or their next mobile partner (whoever that may be) may insist on some sort of effort on Apple's part to crack down on the hackers. If we see 1.0.3 and 1.1 and 1.2, etc. and there's still no attempt to thwart the hackers? Then we'll know for sure, still... one would have assumed that Apple would have done *something* in this release as a sort of "shot across the bow" but they didn't, which bodes well for a future, more open platform.

Well, update 1.1.1 has come, and we now know that in fact, the new cool open Apple is still the old insane closed Apple of old. There is no "benevolent Apple" which is looking the other way while hackers "extend" their platform, there is simply the dictatorial Apple of old. This is shown quite clearly by both the latest update which hammered all the iPhone hacks out there, and by the iPod Touch, which has ZERO real reason not be an open platform.

The fact that Apple hammered the unlocking hacks doesn't surprise me, or actually many others out there one bit. (Unlocking, to be clear, means that the iPhone would be able to use a SIM from any carrier). We all know that there's a contract somewhere with AT&T and now O2, T-Mobile Germany and Orange which guarantees exclusivity. At worst Apple might have been in legal hot water if they couldn't demonstrate their ability to keep their phones locked to those carriers, at best the ease which anyone could unlock their phones would hamper Apple's ability to sign exclusive partners in the future. So the fact that Apple came down on this? No brainer.

The fact that these unlocked phones have been more or less bricked? Wow! Harsh.

But what about all those other, less umm, threatening hacks out there? Why did Apple hammer all those "third party" apps which power users have been enjoying for a month or so now? They've become so common, David Pogue of the NYT did a video review of them just yesterday! Like David said in the video, apps like a little Sudoku game isn't going to hurt anything, why hammer them? Maybe this was simply an offshoot of the unlocking fix, and by closing whatever holes that enabled the iPhone to use any SIM card, they just happened to hammer the ability for it to run third party apps. Well, though I have no doubt that this is what all the Apple apologists will claim, in general I'm thinking that's pretty much bullshit. Disabling third party apps gives Apple back the complete control over the iPhone's apps and was most likely a specific goal of this update.

The fact that it's been 24 hours and we haven't seen a "fix" for the new update by the hackers? Well, that's a pretty good sign that it's a non-trivial change, most likely designed specifically to make it more difficult for future hacks. Like I said a month ago, this is a losing battle, and Apple knows this, but right now they're not ready to give it up just yet. I'm sure the long term plan *has* to be to be an open iPhone/handheld platform, but Apple is going to do it on their terms. Mostly likely with a "one more thing" type announcement that will put the zealots into a frenzy of excitement when it happens (like when Marines let you take a dump by yourself the first time after bootcamp), but this won't happen for a while yet.

The amazing thing though, is that Apple is Apple, so they can continue to do this and get away with it. Tim O'Reilly - one of the great proponents of open source and open platforms - expressed what can only be called "minor frustration" yesterday that the iPhone wasn't open, rather than what would probably be outright wrath with any other vendor that had such a locked down, proprietary system. It's quite amusing to see.

I won't pretend I understand it, and I won't hope fervently that the hackers out there wasting their time on the iPhone turned their attention to better pursuits (like extending the open N800, or developing Symbian apps for the more powerful N95) because history has shown that Apple continues to engender a "special relationship" with the tech community that for whatever reason, continues on regardless of their actions. Like the codependent spouse of an abusive alcoholic, the Apple zealots just keep coming back for more.

Well, I hope at least the sex is good.


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