Despite all the hoopla about the iPhone, I begin to suspect that it's actually eVil. The iPhone follows the typical Apple pattern of locking other companies out and locking customers in. While that may make good business sense in the short term before people quite realize what they're getting into, in the long term it kills a product or innovation. Apple's Mac was far superior to Microsoft's junk in every way, but Microsoft was relatively more open and hence conquered the world.
Sometimes people call this business model a "walled garden," a method to create something beautiful and keep out baneful influences. I propose that we call this business model a "prison farm" instead: Yes, you can grow things on the inside; and yes, they will work and keep you alive. But guards with legal sanctions keep you locked up inside, and all the good things in life are happening someplace else. Apple is particularly adept at dressing up the prison guards in designer outfits by Gucci carrying weapons by Brooks Brothers, but they're prison guards all the same.
iPhone has (according to all reports) a wonderfully innovative interface, but at the same time iPhone locks to you to Cingular's wireless network. That's not the worst of it; the iPhone has just one approved supplier of software, namely Apple. If Apple doesn't bless the software you can't load it onto your iPhone.
Now, sometimes restrictions actually help a product, for example, the restrictions imposed by the wonderfully loony kosher cellphone providers. Apple may be able to sell their restrictions as a method to prevent viruses and malware from appearing on the cellphones; but since the "unintended" consequence of these restrictions results in a steady stream of revenue to to Apple, I admit that I'm a little suspicious. I am forcefully reminded of the amazingly overpriced ringtones that every cellphone company sells.
I fully support Imran Ali's call to create an open-source competitor to the iPhone. Imran provides a list of the most influential articles that complain about the closed iPhone, and then asks an important question: can the open-source community beat the iPhone at its own game? Of course it can; after all, the open-source Internet crushed the alternative networks, ones that were supported by huge companies with overwhelming market power. The question is will an open-source alternative be viable, and that's a question that remains, well, open.
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