Apple has managed through the years to portray itself as the friend of freedom and openness, while depicting Microsoft as the exact opposite. But the recent decision by Microsoft to approve the use of a jailbreak app for Windows Phone 7 shows that Microsoft embraces freedom far more than does Apple.
ChevronWP7 Labs has released a tool to allow people to jailbreak Windows Phone 7 devices, available for $9. It lets anyone install and run apps outside of the official Windows Phone Marketplace. It's good for a single device; to do the same on another device costs another $9.
Microsoft allows the tool in the marketplace. If someone uses the tool, the warranties on their phone will remain, and they'll still be able to get Microsoft support for their phone.
It wasn't always so. A year ago, the same company released a similar tool, and Microsoft had it removed from the marketplace.
This isn't the first time that Microsoft has embraced the hacking of its devices. After initially not allowing hacking the Kinect, Microsoft changed its mind, and encourages Kinect hackers.
Contrast that behavior with Apple, which fiercely controls what can be done with its hardware. In fact, the company has even argued before the U.S. Copyright Office in 2009 that jailbreaking the iPhone is illegal, claiming that:
"Current jailbreak techniques now in widespread use [utilizes] unauthorized modification to the copyrighted bootloader and OS, resulting in infringement of the copyright in those programs."
Apple is also notorious for banning apps from the App Store for unclear reasons. Even worse, it has done the bidding of Chinese censors and will not allow people in China to download apps from the App Store, or content from iTunes, about the Dalai Lama or certain activists.
Earlier this year, the New York Times reported:
Apple's iTunes service still forbids Chinese users from downloading certain applications that refer to the Dalai Lama and the Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer.
And Macworld found last December that in China Apple censors apps that mention the Dalai Lama.
So while Apple's marketing is clearly superior to Microsoft's in portraying itself as the friend of freedom and openness, the truth is, Microsoft is far more a friend of openness than Apple.