iBrick Update

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.

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