iPhone - the roach motel business model

Randall Stross has a great op-ed in today's New York Times about how Apple's iPhone comes chock-full of DRM that will restrict your freedom and your consumer choice. He makes the great point that although Apple claims it adds its DRM (which locks you into buying Apple products) at the behest of the music industry, that many of the copyright holders whose work Apple sells in the music store have asked it to switch off the DRM. An Apple lawyer has gone on record saying that Apple would use DRM even if the music industry didn't want it.

It's ironic that a company whose name is synonymous with "Switch" has built its entire product strategy around lock-in. The iTunes/iPhone/iPod combo is a roach-motel: customers check in, but they can't check out.

And it doesn't stop with the iTunes DRM. Apple and Cingular have been trumpeting the technical prowess they've deployed in locking iPhone to the Cingular network, to be sure that no one can switch carriers with their iPhones. Even the Copyright Office has recognized that locking handsets to carriers is bad for competition and bad for the public.

There's another thing you can't switch with the iPhone: the software it runs. You can't install third-party apps on handset. Steve Jobs claims that this is because running your own code on a phone could crash the phone network, which must be news to all those Treo owners running around on Cingular's own network without causing a telecoms meltdown.

Lock-in isn't good for you. Does anyone really believe that Apple will make better products if its customers aren't free to switch to a competitor? Or that Cingular's network and pricing will be improved by lock-in?

Even if you are ready to pledge a lifetime commitment to the iPod as your only brand of portable music player or to the iPhone as your only cellphone once it is released, you may find that FairPlay copy protection will, sooner or later, cause you grief. You are always going to have to buy Apple stuff. Forever and ever. Because your iTunes will not play on anyone else’s hardware.
Link (Thanks, Robby and Craig!)

(Thumbnail of image taken from an illustration by Christophe Vorlet)

See also:
Apple sued for iTunes/iPod monopoly tying
Anti-iTunes DRM demonstrations across the USA tomorrow
Apple steals iTunes customers' paid-for rights to stream
Apple to iPod owners: "Eat shit and die"
How iTunes is bad for the music industry and the public
Why Apple is to blame for iTunes DRM
Indie band pulls out of iTunes, cites "crippled DRM"
Hillary "RIAA" Rosen: iPod DRM is cruel and unfriendly!
iTunes phone gratuitously crippled by DRM
Music labels: DRM makes you into iTunes' love-slave
Protect your investment: buy open



  1. This is totally true of the iPhone, but why is such a bad thing? After all it is a consumer choice whether you should check into this motel in the first place.

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