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« Ilium Software List Pro 5.0 review | Main | The new Zunes »

October 02, 2007

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Chris Carlin

I'm afraid you're incorrect on one of your fundamental premises, and I suspect it's because you're asking the wrong question.

To put it simply, Apple has so far done absolutely nothing to prevent customers from using the devices as they see fit. Once you (the general you, to be clear) walk out of the store with the iPhone it's yours, and you have absolute freedom to do with it as you wish. On the surface you're getting precisely that which you're asking for.

But what about the difficulties of installing your own software? That's irrelevant: you purchased a device that won't easily take 3rd party software, and now you are free to try if you want. It's not Apple stopping you from using the device in ways other than how it's intended.

But what about the Apple update that breaks software you installed? Again, it's beside the point: it's your decision whether to trade the applications for the update, and Apple doesn't force it.

Warranties? Same thing: if you want Apple to provide you with additional services then you have to trade for it.

It's your iPhone, absolutely. Apple lets you do what you want with it, but Apple is clear that the customer is free to end the relationship at that point.

But the rest of your post suggests that it's not actually ownership of your own devices that you're really after. And there's nothing wrong with that, but intellectual honesty requires distinction.

Chris Carlin

So if it's not a heightened sense of ownership, what do I assert that you're actually looking for? Paradoxically, the absolute opposite.

Well, ok: what you're really looking for is for the consumer-provider agreement to lean further in favor of the consumer.

You don't just want a consumer to own an iPhone, you want Apple to avoid making it difficult to install things and provide updates that don't break consumer modifications. This goes far beyond ownership.

You don't just want a consumer to own a cellphone; you want to make sure the cellphone works with all providers possible. Again, that's in addition to ownership.

Same with, I'm sure, plenty of other examples you're thinking of: ownership isn't actually the issue.

The funny contradiction here is that by swaying the agreement through regulation you're actually diminishing the property rights of the companies while insisting that it's in the name of cementing the concept of ownership.

Now again, there's not necessarily anything wrong with wishing for the type of regulation you're outlining here, and clearly such regulation can do good (as you pointed out). The problem is that you're outlining the wrong motivation, and that causes non-academic problems.

So yeah, call reinforcement of consumer rights if you want, and accuse Apple of failing to be as generous as it would like to portray itself as, but don't call this an ownership issue or say that Apple is standing in the way of ownership.

Stephen Skarlatos

Big disconnect here, although your second comment is more on point for this post. There are two distinct issues with the iPhone. One is the computer side and the ability to run whatever application you want. The second is the ability to connect to whatever cellular network you want (technology permitting). These are two independent issues and this post deals with the second.

You seem to agree that open network connectivity is a good thing, however how you get there is quite obtuse, since you are still bent on protecting Apple's rights over the consumer. As an example: I own a land line phone used on a Sprint network, I move to an area which is serviced by Verizon. I do have the protected right to plug the phone into the Verizon network. Why I can't do the same with the cellular phone I own.

We can use our own cable modems, routers, and as of July 1st cable boxes. It is really just a matter of time until we have the right to do this. I agree that regulation of everything is not a good thing, but with their action companies like Apple and AT&T are driving us to it.

Chris Carlin

The first part was important in that by seeking your goals through misapplication of property rights you're taking entirely the wrong channel. Any laws based on that path will be flawed and just might come back to haunt us someday.

But now let's address this "Apple's rights over the consumer" thing head on. In short, what are you talking about? :)

Thus far the only right Apple is asserting over the consumer is the course of the normal sale: Apple hands the customer the iPhone and asserts the right to be paid the purchase price.

After that the consumer is free to leave the store and do whatever he wants with the phone.

Hopefully, from the company's point of view, the customer will sign up with AT&T and otherwise continue his relationship with Apple, but if he doesn't Apple doesn't demand the phone back or tell the person he can't use it. So far, at least.

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