It seems that it’s possible to downgrade a bricked
iPhone and get
it back into its pre-bricked state, complete with third-party apps and everything.
But really. Is this whole cat-and-mouse game really necessary? The geeks,
the early adopters, the people who make incredibly
enthusiastic videos and post them prominently on nytimes.com – is
it really necessary to piss them all off like this? It might be true, as Jack
Schofield says, that there are no
user groups for Maytags and that Steve Jobs wants his products to be just
that simple. But the worst that happens if you fiddle around with your Maytag
is that you break it yourself: Maytag themselves aren’t going to try their very
best to break it for you if they find out.
Steve Waldman makes
an excellent point:
Suppose, accurately, that I am a small software developer. Suppose I write
a shareware application that includes a click-through license that states,
ordinarily enough, that if you wish to use my application for longer than
a 15-day trial, you must pay me. Suppose, ordinarily enough, my application
periodically checks for updates, notifying users and offering to install the
updates when they become available.
Now suppose that in the click-through installation process, I include a warning,
in bold text even, that says "Warning: If you’ve been using this application
for longer than the 15-day trial period and have not entered a license key,
installing this update may cause your hard drive to be erased!" And,
suppose the update does just that.
I would be in jail. Not in a month, or a week, but yesterday.
One of the weird things about the whole iBrick fiasco is that Apple has historically
been quite good at turning a blind eye to the kind of things that the most enthusiastic
and sophisticated parts of its customer base get up to. Its latest strategy
seems to have lots of downside and negligible upside, so why are they doing
Apple is great at mocking Microsoft for selling crippleware: if you buy Windows
Vista, there’s a good chance you’ll end up buying one of the cheaper versions
which has been deliberately crippled by Redmond. But now Apple is going down
the same road, and deliberately crippling the palmtop computers that it has
sold well over a million of in the past few months.
Lord knows I don’t
always agree with Fred Wilson on matters iPhone-related. But he’s right
about this. The 1.1.1 update might have been great
news from a billing point of view for those of us who aren’t at the bleeding
edge of technology. But from a corporate-branding perspective, it’s a disaster
– or at least it should be.
But here’s the thing: Jack Flack says
that this kind of anti-consumer behavior on Apple’s part "never seems to
dent Apple’s groovy reputation, at least with anyone other than the truest of
geeks". I’m half convinced. Thirty seconds playing with Google Maps on
my iPhone convinced a technophobic English friend of mine this evening that
he simply had to have one as soon as possible. Apple’s design nous has always
been its strongest selling point, the iPhone’s user interface is its
design, and so it makes sense for Apple to want to have complete control over
that user interface.
But on the other hand, Apple has never been quite this unabashedly vindictive
and vicious in the past. Maybe it’s taking hints from AT&T.