We HATE the iPhone (and toddlers+paint=trouble)

Hogwash! It's IT Blogwatch, in which the iPhone backlash continues. Not to mention why you shouldn't leave a gallon of paint with unsupervised toddlers...

Randall Stross opines in Sunday's NYT:

The iPhone [is] gorgeous, feature-laden and pricey ... music-playing function will be limited by factory-installed “crippleware” ... [that term] balances the euphemistic names that the industry uses for copy protection. Apple officially calls its own standard “FairPlay,” but fair it is not.


The name for the umbrella category for copy-protection software is itself an indefensible euphemism: Digital Rights Management. As consumers, the “rights” enjoyed are few. As some wags have said, the initials D.R.M. should really stand for “Digital Restrictions Management.” As consumers become more aware of how copy protection limits perfectly lawful behavior, they should throw their support behind the music labels that offer digital music for sale in plain-vanilla MP3 format, without copy protection.

Even if you are ready to pledge a lifetime commitment to the iPod as your only brand of portable music player or to the iPhone as your only cellphone once it is released, you may find that FairPlay copy protection will, sooner or later, cause you grief.

Cory Doctorow is, predictably, happy to read that:

Although Apple claims it adds its DRM (which locks you into buying Apple products) at the behest of the music industry ... many of the copyright holders whose work Apple sells in the music store have asked it to switch off the DRM. An Apple lawyer has gone on record saying that Apple would use DRM even if the music industry didn't want it. The iTunes/iPhone/iPod combo is a roach-motel: customers check in, but they can't check out.

And it doesn't stop with the iTunes DRM. Apple and Cingular have been trumpeting the technical prowess they've deployed in locking iPhone to the Cingular network, to be sure that no one can switch carriers with their iPhones. Even the Copyright Office has recognized that locking handsets to carriers is bad for competition and bad for the public.

There's another thing you can't switch with the iPhone: the software it runs. You can't install third-party apps on handset. Steve Jobs claims that this is because running your own code on a phone could crash the phone network, which must be news to all those Treo owners running around on Cingular's own network without causing a telecoms meltdown.

But Matt Buchanan isn't convinced:

I'm not sure most people think of continuing to buy Apple products as "grief." While it may be a closed system, it's also what makes the system work as well as it does. iTunes only has to work with the iPod and vice versa, and together they provide a pretty seamless experience. Besides, if FairPlay really caused the average person that much of a problem, they could (and probably would) just load regular MP3s onto their iPod.

So where do I sign that lifetime commitment? Will it get me an iPhone early?

Marc Hedlund is worried about the "No 3rd party apps" issue:

I'd like to add a few stories, though, from my four years as an owner of three different Treo phones -- not theory, not politics, not necessarily supergeekdom, just practical reasons why the open PalmOS software has mattered dramatically to my use of the Treo.

  1. When the Treo 300 first launched on the Sprint network, Sprint did not provide text messaging for it. A third-party developer called PDAapps came up with Treo300SMS, an installable application that acted as a gateway to Sprint's web form for sending and receiving text messages ... As a result of having an open platform, PDAapps made the Treo 300 more useful and appealing ...
  2. The Treo has always come with an email application, and quite frankly that application has always been pretty sucky ... Fortunately, a third-party developer, SnapperMail, implemented a fantastic email client ... Because the Treo lets me install third-party apps, I'm not stuck with whatever crappy email program Palm decides to give me, and probably frees them from customer demands they otherwise would have to rush to fulfill -- again, to their benefit ...

  3. When the Treo 300 came out, it did not have Bluetooth; that didn't arrive until a later model. It did, though, have a USB cable for connecting to your computer, and the clever developers at JuneFabrics came up with PdaNet, which allowed you to use your Treo as a laptop modem through the USB cable ... I know from people at Palm that Sprint absolutely flipped out when they heard about PdaNet ... Like the movie industry reacting to VHS, what they thought might be the death of them instead turned out to increase the utility of their network, and made people like me happier with their products ...

  4. PalmOS has over 20,000 applications available for it, developed over the ten years the platform has been around ... The result of this is that I am far more bonded to the Treo than I ever would be without those applications. As a phone, calendar, and contact manager, the Treo is nice, but with that list above, it becomes much more ...
It would be smarter for Apple to figure out how they can make others (and not just Cingular) successful on top of what they build, rather than trying to own and control everything. For me that strategy is a deal-breaker, and I think it should be for you, too.

Robert L. Mitchell agrees:

Apple's newly announced $499 iPod cell phone, iPhone, could be a disruptive force in cellular service. It could be the first widely successful "unlocked" cell phone, capable of working with different carriers' service offerings (see the news story). It could be the world's first wildly popular dual-mode phone, allowing calls via WiFi or cellular. It could be a contender. But it's not.


If you really want the iPhone to be a revolutionary product, make it dual mode. And unlock that phone.

Michael Markman wonders how Apple gets such bad press:

Apple scored a PR coup this week but in true Hegelian fashion the iPhone rocks thesis was quickly followed by the iPod sucks antithesis ... Much of what Apple does comes out of the standard PR playbook. Offer access; expect coverage. Nobody asks for favorable coverage. It just happens. (If it doesn't happen, you may not be asked back.) ... Of course, the bigger the star, the more the leverage—because the bigger the star, the better for circulation, (or page views). And Apple is a huge star with a devoted fan base.

Dave Winer adds:

Sylvia Paull, who worked at a Mac software developer when NeXT was rolling out, explains how they fooled reporters into thinking that there was working software for Steve Jobs's new computer ... She invited reporters to look under the table where there was a Mac that was actually running the supposed NeXT app, but they wouldn't look. If they reported the fiasco, they'd lose access. This kind of deception is the rule, not the exception, in Silicon Valley.

I've heard from people who were at the Jobs presentation this week that there was a wire connecting his cell phone to something. I can't tell you myself, because I am not allowed to attend Apple press events. If I were there, I would tell you.

Dana Gardner, for one, welcomes our new Orwellian overlords:

I for one will be happy to enter a quid quo pro (as I already do with iTunes/iPod) with Apple on iPhone. I will pay more and have less openness, but you must make me highly productive right away. You must not waste my time with slipshod product, security and support. You must make my convenience and time the primary motivations for your design. You must do the integrations for me, not force me to converge the elements as an after-thought


Problem is the current generation of smart phones are insufficiently differentiated in features and functions that they are left mostly to compete on price — a vicious downward spiral of diminishing returns for users and investors. Users get the cheap end of product, billing, and support. Investors get RAZR thin margins from a business that should not yet be in commodity mode. Apple can ultimately help reverse the current self-imposed stranglehold of bottom-line starvation by redefining the industry, and allowing for price migration upward based on compelling features, service, convenience, and more use of associated business models such as direct media/content sales and mobile commerce advertising.

Steve Borsch wonders if all publicity is good publicity:

Apple has hit a nerve with the iPhone ... Long masters of event marketing, Steve Jobs has often been held up as a model for how to launch products


People don't appreciate how many companies are lined up to crush Apple and ensure the iPhone fails. The mobile telephony companies don't want Jobs to succeed as it will obviate much of their crappy attempts at video and music downloads; the device manufacturers with weak software on their smartphones now have to play MAJOR LEAGUE catch up; Microsoft and Adobe are obviously troubled since both don't want to see a mobile device succeed as a gateway since they can't play; and the ecosystem of developers and sophisticated users (most tech bloggers) who want to maximize the device itself and extend it for fun and profit can't play either.

But the only way to mainstream sophisticated technology at the level of sophistication like the iPhone is to make the overall experience seamless, easy and fun.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Toddlers + Paint = Trouble [hat tip: Sagags@Digg]

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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