The Killer Product

I became a lover of Apple products in late 2002 after getting frustrated with my SUSE Linux setup that just wouldn’t work the way I wanted it too. I had already sworn, and with very good reason,  never to use a Windows system again and Linux seemed like the perfect choice. Unfortunately, Linux never lived up to its promise, although it is starting to now… My Ubuntu 10 laptop is working near perfectly.

What attracted me to Linux was the nature of the Free Software movement and a commitment to openness. Values, I think, we as a society should consider fundamental to our future hopes and goals.

No-one I presume wants to live in a totalitarian, or at the least, a very highly controlled world, except of course the ones of us out there who control or would control such a state of affairs or the very religious.

The following article (available at: http://www.newsweek.com/2008/05/01/a-killer-product.html) considers the future of the Internet and what it might become if we, the Internets users, don’t take responsibility for what has so far made the world more open for everybody, the Internet.

My inspiration for this post is Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet Law at Harvard Law School.

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Will closed devices like Apple’s iPhone murder the Web?

If you say that the iPhone is the greatest invention of your lifetime, few would bat an eye. If you stay up all night playing Halo 3 like some deranged supermarathoner bent on blasting strangers a continent away on your Xbox Live, few would question your sanity. But dare to claim that devices like the iPhone and the Xbox are killing the Internet as we know it, you’d be laughed out of town. But this is the central argument of a new book, “The Future of the Internet–and How to Stop It.” Jonathan Zittrain claims that the very thing that makes the Internet great–its “generative” or innovative nature–is being locked down in a new wave of closed devices like the iPhone, Xbox, TiVo and the OnStar system. Zittrain, cofounder of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, claims the Internet’s ability to serve as an open platform for innovation is being undermined by these “tethered” toys that can’t be easily modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners. “The Internet has been a collective hallucination,” says Zittrain, who is also a professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University. Zittrain spoke recently with NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker about his qualms with Apple, Facebook applications, spam and government filtering.

Excerpts: NEWSWEEK: There seem to be a bunch of books coming out attempting to grapple with where the Internet is heading and what it’s doing to us.

Jonathan Zittrain: I certainly think this is a particularly fertile time to be thinking about the future of the Internet. From my point of view, it’s because we are racing to embrace a number of new technologies that could greatly change the way the system could be regulated.

NW: You’re talking about the threat to the generative quality of the Internet.

JZ: Correct. Through historical accident, we’ve ended up with a global network that pretty much allows anybody to communicate with anyone else at any time. Devices could be reprogrammed by them at any time, including code written by other people, so you don’t have to be a nerd to get the benefits of reprogramming it. [But] this is an historical accident. Now, I see a movement away from that framework–even though it doesn’t feel like a movement away. [For example,] an iPhone can only be changed by Steve Jobs or soon, with the software development kit, by programmers that he personally approves that go through his iPhone apps store. Or whimsical applications that run on the Facebook platform or the new Google apps. These are controllable by their vendors in ways that Bill Gates never dreamed of controlling Windows applications.

But Bill Gates has total control, doesn’t he?
No he doesn’t. That’s the ironic thing. Bill Gates is Mr. Proprietary. But for my purposes, even under the standard Windows operating system from 1990, 1991, you write the code, you can hand it to somebody else and they can run it. Bill Gates has nothing to say about it. So it’s funny to think that by moving in Steve Jobs’s direction it actually ends up far more proprietary.

obs is notorious for creating a very closed ecosystem of products that include the iPod and iPhone.
Yeah, it’s amazing to me how much the progress of Apple has tracked the trajectory that I’m concerned about. It was Steve Jobs who brought us the first PC in ’77–totally reprogrammable, totally generative. It was Steve Jobs who then came out with the Mac that made it so much easier to use while retaining the generative quality and allowing everyone to write code for it. Now Steve Jobs is bringing us the iPhone, which in version one is completely locked down. And then in the most recent announcement Steve Jobs says, “OK, we’re going to allow third-party apps, but you can’t just hand an app to someone, you have to put it through the iPhone store, and we reserve the right to take a cut for every app. And if we don’t like the app, we can kill it.”

Apple isn’t the only company you’re critical of. You also take Facebook to task. What are they doing wrong?
Facebook is doing what comes naturally. I don’t blame them at all. But in the big picture, they’re developing a platform where–again, quite naturally–they’re retaining the right just in case they need it to kill any app they don’t like and to control the flow of data.

cont….

I hope that you are interested and you can get the rest of the article here

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