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« Apple announces iPhone deal with T-Mobile Germany | Main | Ilium Software List Pro 5.0 review »

September 28, 2007

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Chris Carlin

It's really interesting to see the spin different people are putting on this.

The NYT article, for example, says Apple "threatened" to break hacked phones. Why the harsh word? It's more accurate, and far more friendly, to say Apple *warned* that updates will break the phone.

Anyway, no, I think you (and many news reports) are mischaracterizing this. It's not Big Brother squashing a rebellion; Apple and AT&T could do far more to stop the hackers.

There are two possible things going on here, and I don't believe we have proof of which it is:

1) The company is giving away free goodies to users but not working extra to ensure that every possible user can use the offer.

2) The company is offering software and updates in exchange for cooperation.

Neither is devious or evil: since Apple is not required to provide these updates a user doesn't really have room to complain that he can't take advantage of them because of his own actions.

So at best it's basically limited generosity or a business transaction. No squashing of rebellion here.

Stephen Skarlatos

Back to my comment on my post here http://www.mydigitallife.us/2007/09/ilium-software-.html , right now my belief is that they deliberately went out way to break 3rd party application by changing the file system’s encryption algorithm. The last time I checked file system encryption did not have very much to do with APIs or structural design of the OS, especially when they are using OS X. What would you think generally of Microsoft breaking XP or Vista so it could not run on a Mac or certain PC vendor’s machine?

And let’s get real, the only reason they chose to provide this upgrade free was to add the iTunes store WiFi functionality to drive more revenue. The usability enhancements just made sense (like the double tap for a period ala Blackberry) and helps keep the device competitive. But as they have shown with the iPod, for major functionality upgrades you will have to buy a new device. The problem for the consumer is that every consumer electronics company does this, it is not an Apple only issue but right now since they are in the public eye, they have become a good target.

Chris Carlin

The problem with your theory is that Apple does not and doesn't seek to profit off of iTunes. It basically breaks even on the platform, and has expressed that this is in fact the plan. The entire point of iTunes is to make sure Apple devices have content to play without having to license other peoples' DRM.

And now certainly doesn't seem like the time to change that plan, considering the recent high-profile defections from the platform.

So why would Apple care that much about pushing through a new version of iTunes?

No, these upgrades are just Apple's side of the Apple-AT&T-customer relationship: Apple gives the customer free upgrades while the customer, in return, shops at AT&T who then pays Apple.

And remember: Apple didn't change the encryption on every device, but only on the ones that want to take advantage of the upgrades.

Stephen Skarlatos

My theory, I thought it was your theory that Apple was providing a free update and I should be happy. I just pointed out that their upgrade is not altruistic. I understand they need to make a profit, it would not benefit anybody for them to go under. However adding the iTunes feature did not mean they had to re-encrypt the file system. On the DRM front your theory is incorrect; according to Steve Jobs' open letter (http://www.mydigitallife.us/2007/03/the_week_of_mar_3.html) they were forced into DRM by the music companies. Apple supports the MP3 format which is sold by Amazon and other online retailers.

Chris Carlin

Your theory was that Apple makes significant profit off of iTunes. Apple has denied this for years, and the external analysis I've read show that at most Apple is making only a tiny profit. Certainly iTunes doesn't bring Apple enough money to warrant the upgrade, so that can't be the motivation.

I agree (and point out routinely) that the upgrade is not altruistic. The customer gets the upgrade in exchange for playing by Apple's rules, thus benefiting Apple through its agreement with AT&T.

As for DRM I specified a specific flavor of DRM. The purpose of iTunes was to establish an alternative to Microsoft's rising DRM technology, which Apple would have had to license. Instead Apple brought out its own DRM that (you should appreciate this) gives consumers far more control over the information and arguably through that increased the success of mp3 players.

Also: Apple's real weight is behind AAC, a successor to mp3 that is far more open and consumer friendly. It supports mp3 in the meantime.

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