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Technology (Apple) Businesses Apple Technology

Apple Platform Lock-Ins, A 3rd Party Dev's Opinion 411

Iftekhar writes "Wil Shipley, of Delicious Monster fame, has written a very candid essay on what he perceives as Apple's growing trend toward platform lock-ins. He writes: 'Why is the iPhone locked to a single carrier, so I can't travel internationally with it? There's really only one viable reason: Apple wanted a share of the carrier's profits, which meant giving AT&T an exclusive deal. Which meant, we get screwed so Apple can make more money. It's that simple. [...] As Apple gets more and more of its revenue from non-Mac devices, they are also getting more and more of their revenue from devices that simply exclude third parties. Consumers suffer from this. We suffer from increased prices and decreased competition and innovation. We suffer so Apple can make a few more bucks, when Apple is clearly not hurting for money.'"
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Apple Platform Lock-Ins, A 3rd Party Dev's Opinion

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  • Still... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:45AM (#20719483) Homepage Journal's Apple's choice. No matter how dumb or greedy it seems. As consumers, we get to vote with our wallets and optionally grumble. Where I live, there's no AT&T, so Apple makes no iPhone sales here. I'd love to buy for my family — that'd be 5 units — but without a carrier, it's just a glorified iPod and there's no point.

    It does sting a little... we've got a lot of Macs between us and consider ourselves loyal Apple customers... oh well.

  • Translation (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yurka ( 468420 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:56AM (#20719595) Homepage
    Apple maliciously wants to keep all the money from their products to themselves, instead of giving some of it to me, the struggling developer. Those filthy rich bastards.

    Look, every purchase, be it a loaf of bread or an iPhone, is an exercise in weighing potential benefits of the thing acquired against the sum of money needed to acquire it. If for you the lock-in is a deal-breaker, don't buy. When enough people do that, Apple will listen. Before that - I wouldn't bet on it.
  • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:57AM (#20719609)

    Why is the iPhone locked to a single carrier, so I can't travel internationally with it?

    It's called roaming, and you certainly can with the iphone.

  • by also-rr ( 980579 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @12:07PM (#20719689) Homepage
    On powerbooks and macbook pros the wireless card is locked to channel 1-11. This is fine for the US but, unlike other cards, there is no way to unlock it when you go to Europe (where channels up to 13 are used). This can be a major PITA on a customer site... but at least a spare wireless card is cheap, unlike...

    Apple are about the only company that ship the very restricted form of DVD drives. Most will let you read the _data_ from an out-of-region disk, meaning that you can use VLC or another libdvdcss2 solution to play the DVD. The drives that ship with Apple laptops (since late revision powerbooks) totally block reads for out-of-region disks so VLC won't work.

    This sucks as it means that my legally purchased region 2 DVDs won't work. There is now a RPC1 de-region crack for macbook pro drives but it requires a copy of Windows to install.

    So much for it just works. You would have thought their testing would have involved taking one over the pond for a week of business travel.
  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @12:07PM (#20719691) Homepage
    In the US, you can easily buy an unlocked phone (Amazon [] or EBay [] are good places to look), and any carrier will sell their services without a subscription plan, although they won't advertise it - it's mandated by law. It's also mandated by law that you can hold phone numbers when switching between carriers.

    When I'm in the US, I use an unlocked cell phone bought in a foreign country, and a local GSM card, it's easy. The only thing to watch out for is that the US uses 850&1900 Mhz GSM, most countries use 900&1800. So make sure the phone is at least tri-band, or better yet quad-band.

    Really there's nothing difficult about getting an unlocked phone in the US, it just isn't well advertised. And really it's not a bad deal to get the phone bundled with a long-term contract, if you're going to have to have a cell phone anyway.

  • by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @12:27PM (#20719851) Homepage
    ... if you plan for it. I bought an iPhone for my wife (I kept my trusty Treo 650) and we went to Germany about two weeks later. Of course, I did call AT&T to discuss International rates and set us up on an appropriate plan for while we were there. I put us on a $6.95/month plan that dropped our per-minute fees by over 60%. I canceled it when we returned. Was still it expensive? Of course - our bill was a couple of hundred bucks when we got back - but that's no worse than with any other phone. We did know what we were getting into, though, and had planned accordingly. And more importantly, we could both send and receive calls while we were there - we both own our own companies and people have to get ahold of us. Ironically, her phone worked perfectly while my Treo had all sorts of problems (but to be fair, I'm pretty sure it's because of some frigtarded AT&T setup issues).

    If you really need to cut costs when you travel internationally, buy a disposable phone or rent one or use the old phone you've got lying around when you're in the country you're traveling to. Otherwise, remember the Law of the Seven P's - Proper Previous Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance (not to mention sky-high phone bills).
  • by Iphtashu Fitz ( 263795 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @12:32PM (#20719901)
    In the US, you can easily buy an unlocked phone

    Precisely what I have done with my last few phones and I've never had any problems using it on AT&T/Cingular. I also used to have a RAZR that was locked with AT&T but needed it unlocked when I went to New Zealand & Australia. There are two things you can do to get your phone unlocked. Simply call your carrier and lean on them a bit and they may simply send you the unlock code. Or you can spend $20 or so with a service that will unlock your phone for you. It's typically a matter of having a cable that will connect your phone to your PC and some software that you run. You can find all sorts of unlock services on the internet - just search for your carrier & phone model.
  • by ratbag ( 65209 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @01:10PM (#20720183)
    On powerbooks and macbook pros the wireless card is locked to channel 1-11. This is fine for the US but, unlike other cards, there is no way to unlock it when you go to Europe (where channels up to 13 are used). This can be a major PITA on a customer site... but at least a spare wireless card is cheap, unlike...

    My MBP (2.33Ghz Core2Duo) goes from 1-13 just fine, thanks (just clicked Airport, Create Network, Channel, 1-13 are offered). Can't comment on the DVD drive.
  • Re:You know what? (Score:2, Informative)

    by kms_md ( 991224 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @01:25PM (#20720323)
    Perhaps you can see what Daring Fireball had to say about it - [].

    Terrific essay from Wil Shipley on Apple's growing hubris
  • by thegnu ( 557446 ) <thegnu&gmail,com> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @01:27PM (#20720341) Journal

    Steve Jobs makes Bill Gates and Ballmer look like open source zealots.

    I hate Apple as much as the next slashdotter (unless she's porcupine8, in which case, more), but really. The difference is that Apple has done this with the quality of the experience they sell, and not with government backing. Of course, it was very good for the US to have American software on all the world's computers, so I understand how everything went down from a tactical standpoint, but comparing Apple and Microsoft for tactics is ridiculous.

    I also admit to the Jobsian RDF and the Apple zealots. But Apple is no Microsoft. *Ahem* Yet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2007 @01:38PM (#20720421)
    Because you bought yours in the UK (.uk address). However these machines are possible with international travellers and not all of them live in countries that support 12,13 (europe) or 14 (japan) and so they get 1-11 which can screw you over sometimes.
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @01:49PM (#20720497) Homepage

    It wasn't long before hardware hackers (and there were many then) realized that by carefully removing the 64K chips and replacing them with 256K chips, the new Mac could perform almost as well as a CPM machine or even a RadioShack Trash-80.

    Well, for the benefit of anyone who didn't use computers in that era, one thing to explain here is that you're comparing apples and oranges. The mac was a GUI, and that was why it got popular. TRSDOS didn't have a GUI, and CP/M didn't either. (Digital Research did eventually develop an interest in marketing an OS with a GUI, but it wasn't a marketplace reality in 1984.)

    Another thing to consider is that when the TRS-80 first came out, Radio Shack envisioned it as a closed platform. For the first year or two there actually wasn't any software, except for what you could code up yourself or type in from a computer magazine, but eventually there was Radio Shack-branded software in wire racks at Radio Shack stores, and that was what you were supposed to buy. They eventually bowed to marketplace reality and stopped trying to lock out third-party developers, but they were by no means paragons of openness.

    The comparison with CP/M is also bogus, because CP/M was a generic OS that would run on a wide variety of hardware. Digital Research didn't sell hardware like Apple or Radio Shack did, so it was in their best interests be compatible with a wide variety of hardware.

    Realistically, the benefit of buying a Mac in 1984 was that I got a computer with a GUI, and the hardware and software had been carefully designed to work together. The downside was that nothing matched up with the emerging PC standard, so peripherals were often expensive and/or only available from Apple. I got my ram upgraded by a third-party shop, however, and never had a problem with it. I can't remember now whether I had a 128k or 512k mac, or what the rom version was, but it sounds like you're just complaining about standard early-adopter issues. I don't remember the early Macs as being a closed system at all. The whole system was pretty well documented. They sold a book called "Inside Mac" that was the size and format of a telephone book, and it documented all the system calls; it was even reasonably cheap.

    Apple's strong suit has always been providing a good user experience by making the hardware and software work well together. If you want that, you buy Apple; if you don't, you don't. There have always been some things about their systems that were open, and others that were highly proprietary. If you want that, you buy Apple; if you don't, you don't.

  • Re:Duh (Score:2, Informative)

    by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @02:50PM (#20720997)
    Newsflash: Very few people outside of open-source fanboys (and application developers who want a royalty-free codec, but then they build support themselves) gives a shit about ogg, much less knows what it is. Crawl out of your shell once in a while.
  • by Bemopolis ( 698691 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @03:44PM (#20721357)

    Right, because I blame motorola for my verizon service sucking.
    Of course you don't — but you can blame Verizon for your Motorola sucking, once they've decided what features in the phone they will and will not allow you to have access. But that's not the approach Apple is taking with the iPhone (or really, any of their stuff.) It's the difference between the manufacturer saying "Here's how the phone could work, depending on what the provider will allow" and "Here's how a phone should work, and only this provider agreed to the required modifications in infrastructure." (Plus, of course, all of that sub rosa stuff that is sadly part and parcel of the US cellco market).

    Now, as for

    Silly me, after paying $1500 for the damn thing, I was walking around under the mistaken impression it was my computer.
    It is. Feel free to wipe your computer (or iPod) and install Linux; Apple doesn't care. They are focussed on people who run their OS; in fact, if you replace "...good experience on their computer" with "...good experience under their OS" in the GP post I think you'll get the point he was trying to say.
  • by DECS ( 891519 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @03:53PM (#20721441) Homepage Journal
    "If you think that people would pay $2.50 for a track, you would be wrong."

    Ever hear about the multibillion dollar ringtone business? Sprint charges $2.50 for a song CLIP that expires after a few months. Verizon charges $3 for the same thing, but they last for a whole year. Verizon uses Microsoft's DRM to accomplish this.

    Had the music industry not been blindsided by Apple's iPod, your Creative Zen and the rest of the Microsoft PlaysForSure players would have weened the world off MP3s years ago and made certain that all commercial popular music was only available in WMA format, which expired at the content providers whim, and was offered for sale at whatever price the high end of the market might bear.

    As for comparing the Mac to the Zune, go back to math class and learn about how percentages are not comparable between numbers. The Zune claims ~3% of the US retail MP3 player market. Apple has 3% of the worldwide market for all servers/desktop computers, a market that is 70 times larger. That's why Apple still makes more money from its 3% share in PCs than its 70% share in players with the iPod.

    Also notice that Apple just grabbed 1.5% of the smartphone market in its debut month, outselling every other model, eclipsing Palm entirely, nearly matching RIM, and biting out a chunk roughly half of Microsoft's entire Windows Mobile licensee pool.

    You might like your Creative Zen, but the company is only a follower behind Microsoft, and supported the plan to homogenize the world being one absolute DRM dictator. It's in your own interests that Apple kicked Microsoft's ass, because otherwise your CDs would have WMA files on them and the only download stores would be Urge and Walmart and other MediaNet supplied DRM subscriptions.

    Forbes Prints Insanely Self Serving Attack on iTunes by MediaNet CEO Alan McGlade []
    Forbes, best known to many readers as the soapbox Daniel Lyons used to promote--perhaps unwittingly--a pro-Microsoft agenda backing SCO and vilifying Linux and open source, has taken another opportunity to present outrageously false information serving the interests of Microsoft: an impassioned outcry of rage over the success of iTunes.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Informative)

    by Vexorian ( 959249 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @04:14PM (#20721615)
    Yeah, although I would say MS just lost a huge legal battle to the EU for doing much less than what apple is doing right now with the iphone and most importantly the ipod, we are locked in a single music store, music manager, etc. It is monopoly abuse.
  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @04:15PM (#20721625)

    Right, because I blame motorola for my verizon service sucking.

    Not to take away from your valid point, but maybe you should blame motorola.

    I thought T-Mobile sucked because they kept dropping my calls, then one day my Motorola phone died and I replaced it with a Nokia (whatever was free at the time) and I haven't experienced a drop call since.

    Just food for thought...

  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @05:33PM (#20722163) Journal
    Given how this thread has become an anti-Apple bitch fest, as opposed to an anti-iphone bitch fest:

    I have three Macs, one PPC Powerbook laptop with Adobe CS2 on it for compatibility with work, where they still use CS2 and two Intel Macs with all my development tools and my Adobe CS3 suite. My Macbook dual boots into Windows where I have Office 2003 pro for compatibility with our customers. I also have a Windows machhine at work with XP, Adobe CS2 and a host of other stuff that is very modern, but which I am using less and less.

    Why? I personally am happy with and use Windows, Linux and OSX, so why do I go with the most expensive option?

    Mainly, because OSX is, in our design business, the easiest to use, has the least downtime and is technically optimal for certain things. In terms of ease of use, Mac OSX is very simple compared to XP (or Linux). The configurational options are much easier for the majority of our workers, most of whom are designers, compared to Windows. There are many things in OSX that make a designers life easy, such as the Expose feature, the Zeroconf networking, drag and drop in almost every application, built-in spell checking in all text apps, decent built-in font managment and color sync. Added to that is that fact that modern Intel macs run Windows just fine for those of us who need it for office use or 3D work, and Apple's workgroup servers are many more times easier to use and configure than Windows or Linux machines.

    Another thing is OSX' memory managment and multi tasking. Linux is excellent in this respect as well but Windows really suffers when RAM is almost full, and page swapping begins, and multitasking in Windows is much less smooth than it is in OSX.

    Another thing is that almost all of our fonts are still in the old resource fork format, and although we have some very good font conversion utilities, those fonts often don't work properly on Windows.

    I really prefer Windows XP for smaller tasks as the application startup time and general responsiveness of that OS is generally better than OSX in that case.

    Winodws Vista, however, is a non starter at the moment, even though it improves many issues, including color synchronisation. Its terrible responsiveness on brand new hardware reminds me of OSX back in 2001. It has a whole load of a way to go.

    Linux is still, sadly, a non option in a design agency. Inkscape, the GIMP, Scribus, Blender et al are improving, but until CMYK and color handling are integrated and synchronised, there is no way that they will be of much use there.

    If I were doing anythng else, however, I would probably be using Linux and Windows, although even in major development houses, OSX is starting to become mainstream. Apple's Cocoa/ObjC tools are just as propietry as Microsoft's .Net. There are OSS versions of both (Mono and GnuStep), but neither are of production qualiyt which means that in realiyt, if you want to do cross platform stuff you either go with C++, Java or one of the scipting languages like Python.
  • by Kalriath ( 849904 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @05:47PM (#20722255)

    You might like your Creative Zen, but the company is only a follower behind Microsoft, and supported the plan to homogenize the world being one absolute DRM dictator. It's in your own interests that Apple kicked Microsoft's ass, because otherwise your CDs would have WMA files on them and the only download stores would be Urge and Walmart and other MediaNet supplied DRM subscriptions.
    Oh bullshit. In case you weren't aware, there are TWO versions of the Firmware for the Creative Zen. One supports DRMed files, the other does not. If you don't like DRM, choose the "non-PlaysForSure" firmware and your Creative Zen will happily play MP3, UNPROTECTED ONLY WMV, and whatever else it supports (I can't find two places that agree on what the supported formats ARE).

    Apple is not the be-all-and-end-all of everything. Quit posting your bullshit. Apple is a semi-decent company that makes some awesome products, and some dodgy rushed products (iPod Touch anyone?) not some sort of religion. They can do wrong, and they didn't invent the planet.
  • by walnut_tree ( 905826 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @05:50PM (#20722269)

    Only Apple fans could possibly be surprised by Wil Shipley's article. Compared to other software and hardware vendors, Apple aren't particularly different in their outlook on keeping users tied to their systems. Steve Jobs said in an interview with Walter Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal (June 2004):

    "We don't want to get into something unless we can invent or control the core technology in it. And the more we look at it, for more and more consumer devices the core technology in them is going to be software. More and more they look like software in a box. And a lot of traditional consumer electronics companies haven't grokked [fully understood] software."

    Put another way, by controlling the software we can tie users to our products. It's an attitude shared by many other software and hardware companies and obviously Apple doesn't "Think Different(ly)" in this regard.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @05:55PM (#20722305) Journal

    with the iphone and most importantly the ipod, we are locked in a single music store, music manager, etc. It is monopoly abuse.
    You are not locked in to a single music store, you can use any music store that provides DRM-free MP3 or AAC files (e.g. EmuSic or Magnatune). You are, however, locked out of music stores that choose to use a format that provides music in a format owned by a single vendor which is Apple's direct competitor in several markets.

    The lock in to a single music manager didn't used to be the case; MusicMatch also worked on Windows. You could probably argue that it is the case with the newest iPods, however. Even though the the hash was cracked in a couple of days, the intention is the important thing.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @06:57PM (#20722705) Journal
    It could be argued that alternatives (some being less "harmful" to consumer) would actually be better at maximizing profits, than using lock-ins.

    Apple was moving this way by allowing multiple manufactures to make Macs in the mid 90's, but they were bleeding money and when Jobs came back, he stopped that and profits returned. Why should they do it again when it failed them once?
  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @09:15PM (#20723537)
    It doesn't matter anyway, because parent's claim simply isn't true. I've been using an Intel iMac and a MacBook for over a year now in the UK (both purchased in the States).
  • by DDLKermit007 ( 911046 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @09:57PM (#20723735)
    Yes, because the general populous knows how to flash their DAP to a 2ndary firmware (that should have been there in the first place) to make their current music library work. Guess how many people have to do that for the iPod? ZERO...It, just, works!

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