Tim Bray on the iPhone vision

XML co-inventor Tim Bray, on leaving Sun to be Google's Android developer advocate: "The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet's future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It's a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord's pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it. I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom's not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient." Amen, Tim.


  1. I think he should differentiate native apps internet and the internet you can view with safari, that doesn’t omit sex and freedom

  2. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the phone-buying public don’t give two shits about freedom. They just know that the iPhone is way cooler than the nerdy android thing.

    1. If I had a share of AOL for every time someone said the same thing about how no one would use the Web because it was too nerdy and AOL was so cool and easy, I’d have millions of shares, and they’d be worth basically nothing.

      1. If you had a share of Apple for every time someone said the same thing about Apple you’d have at least one share of Apple, and it would be worth a shitload.

        Of course this says nothing about Apple’s ethics, so I’m wondering what the relevance is.

        1. I’ve owned dozens, if not hundreds of Apple products. Not one of them was limited to running apps that had been approved by a Star Chamber in Cupertino. The iPhone vision of the future is a break with the Apple vision, too.

      2. People will use Android in greater numbers eventually, but comparing Android/iPhone to Internet/AOL is silly.

        Android is not marketed to the average consumer like the iPhone is. Even the name is indicative of the difference between the two. Furthermore it is not nearly as polished as the iPhone is in apps or interface (despite being superior in many ways).

        The majority of Android users don’t use the functions that the iPhone doesn’t have, because they don’t know about them, don’t know how to use them, and don’t know why they should care.

        I find widgets and main-screen setting toggles to be awesome features of Android, yet the majority of the people I know who use Android have no widgets set up and find the settings menu to be confusing. I even know people who are still getting the hang of the drop down notification screen despite having the Android phone for months.

        Google and the various phone hardware companies are just not good at making these functions intuitive to non-techie users or explaining their benefit. Apple is very good at this, even though the iPhone has fewer functions, they are all painfully obvious how to use.

        Freedom of speech doesn’t matter when 99% of your users don’t care. I hate the censorship as much as any of you, but they are not censoring/editing news content, just titillating apps and useless apps.

        Sure I want a Google Voice app on my iPhone, but the majority of people don’t even know what Google Voice is.

        1. Actually, Apple is “kinda” censoring content – they not only refuse to sell stuff like Playboy via in App Purchase, they yank applications intended to sell stuff like via a 3rd party.

          As an Northern European who accepts full frontal nudity in afternoon TV programs or teen magazines, Apple’s policy is quite puzzling to me.

          Personally, I do not care too much, as Apple isn’t big enough to force the entire market. An annoyance, no real threat. yet.

          So I accept the annoyance, because Apple gave me the freedom to use a mobile device w/out the hassle I came to know and hate. If android delivers the same as an open platform, I’m all for it.

          However, seeing that Google makes it money by paying users cheap technological trinkets and herd them as targets for ads, I’m not holding my breath.

  3. You guys must be looking at a different iPhone than I am. After all, if the App Store is “the iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future”, then why is Mobile Safari so robust, and why has Apple made it possible to make webapps that look and act like native ones (with custom icons, loading screens, and the ability to completely remove the browser context)?

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Glyphboard (http://mrgan.tumblr.com/post/125490362/glyphboard2) and PieGuy (http://mrgan.tumblr.com/post/257187093/pie-guy)

    There are many, many problems with the App Store, but that has absolutely nothing to do with Apple’s “vision of the mobile internet”, and everything to do with Apple’s vision for distributing native iPhone apps.

    1. Thank you! To add to that… WebKit, Apple’s Open Source rendering framework, is the basis for even Androids default browser. Apple’s control over the App Store != control over the internet and especially has nothing to do with control of content on the internet (or what content from the internet is available on the iPhone). There are numerous things about Apple Products and Policies that one can validly argue with, but the internet thing isn’t one of them. Even the App Store issues are blown out of context, Apple didn’t wish to allow native iPhone Apps to begin with and rather relied on an open internet… people complained… Apple opened up the native API while still facilitating anyone to create any web app they choose to run on the iPhone. Meanwhile Apple wants to have some control over products they sell in their stores… again this shouldn’t be a problem. Now, should Apple allow other stores to sell apps Apple doesn’t approve of? That’s certainly an argument that has validity.

    2. Excellent, thanks for those links. I’ll be tinkering with all that malarkey for sure, and I’d certainly contribute to a Paypal tip jar for an well-made app I wanted that used that system. And as mrgan points out in one of his more recent blog posts (responding to the same quote Cory posted here), this setup seems very similar in spirit to Chrome OS…

  4. I appreciate Tim’s thoughts, but found Neven Mrgan’s post to be an interesting rebuttal:

    “What I specifically find interesting/weird is the complete conflation of the concepts of “the Internet” and “App Store”.

    The App Store – the only supported way to distribute native apps for the iPhone – is a closed, controlled environment. You’re at Apple’s whim and mercy there.

    But the web is as open on the iPhone as it is anywhere else. You can use it to visit the naughtiest sites in the world. You can throw dicks in Apple’s face in Mobile Safari all day. You can write a user-installable, offline-capable, rich, fullscreen web app for iPhone and tithe Apple no money and no control. It’s been done.

    Now, JavaScript is no Cocoa, and CSS is no Core Animation. I’m not saying web apps are peers of native apps, on any current system. But you know who is saying that?Google.”


  5. Yep, he’s right. Apple’s success at pushing a censored platform does not bode well for freedom of speech. It also means developers have to put their labors (and thus their paychecks) up for review to a board of approval that they have no control over.

    It’s a crappy deal and it needs to stop.

  6. frijole is absolutely right. Apple may have a cramped vision of the iPhone’s future, with a walled garden of approved apps, but that has not a thing to do with the internet’s future.

    Nor is this a freedom (in a political sense) issue, the kind of freedom that isn’t optional. Rather, this is a competition issue. Developers make iPhone apps because they can sell a lot more of them than they can on Android. They make iPhone apps, too, because the iPhone allows for, well, better apps than Android (I have an Android phone and an iPod touch and there’s simply no comparison between the two when it comes to quality of software and user experience). If developers value “freedom” like Cory and Tim do, they’ll stop making iPhone apps and run to Android. So far that hasn’t happened.

    Really, this seems like another example of the standard, “People don’t value exactly the same things I value, so it must be because they’ve been duped by evil machinations” argument. The obvious rejoinder is simply to point out that maybe, just maybe, people can reasonably disagree on values.

    1. Really, this seems like another example of the standard, “People don’t value exactly the same things I value, so it must be because they’ve been duped by evil machinations” argument.

      You mean like all those Apple fanbois who are convinced that the only reason anyone would choose Windows is because they have either been duped, forced into it by evil MS machinations, or are simply stupid?

      1. Err, yes. While I do think that many people just bought Windows just because they don’t *know* alternatives or because they didn’t want to drop for a Mac, that doesn’t make them stupid. I just refuse to help them with problem they have because of that decision.

        1. Which problem is that, all that extra money burning a hole in their pockets? Oh wait, guess I forgot to add, “because they are cheap”, as a silly condescension the Apple fanbois use. Or should that read poor?

          1. The usual stuff. Trojans right from the original install disk (like with the HP TouchSmart we got a couple of months ago), totally bogus error messages, which do not help, bad set-up mechanism. Please understand that I have nothing against Window per se. As an old UNIX/Linux user both Windows and Mac were only secondary platforms for me, until Mac OS X became usable.

            I have simply spent too much time on the phone, solving petty problem caused by crappy inconsistent interfaces. And I do consider Mac OS X to be in that camp, it’s just the least crappiest of the bunch, at the time. (Windows 7 might be less crappier, but I don’t know that too well.

            Them having more money in their pockets doesn’t concern me, as long as it doesn’t represent free support on my part.

            Regarding poor: If someone is really, really poor, he or she should get a cheap Linux machine, which is totally sufficient for E-Mail and accessing information on the web. Anything more is luxury.

          2. @ peterbruells

            Trojans? I think you mean bloatware. Claiming bloatware to be a trojan is fearmongering. Simple fix, insert disc that came with computer and choose clean install. At least that is how the Asus works. With regards to setup, Win7 is much better than previous versions.

            Unix/linux user who spends a ton of time on the phone with tech support over interface issues? I call shenanigans. Linux users don’t call tech support; they are tech support. ;P

          3. No, Trojans. Got reported by security right after we unpacked the machine. Besides, if it had been a false positive it would have been nearly as bad.

            And what you describe as a simple fix should be nearly inexcusable in a consumer device. I’m quite amazed how long people put up with that kind of crap for simple stuff like mail and web, which they just consume.

            Regarding your sheenigan-call: Please read agains. Yes, as an Unix user – admin/developer even – I *am* tech support. That’s why I do not provide it for free, apart from my wife and my 75 year old mother.

      2. Probably, yes. One can advance arguments why Apple products are better (whatever that means) than Microsoft’s, or why Microsoft’s are better (again, whatever that means) than Apple’s. But that those arguments are not persuasive (to some) is not evidence of those people being dupes or of a malicious influence.

        My trouble with Bray’s comment — and Cory’s cheerleading — is that they’ve defined “freedom” to mean something very specific (open access for developers to release whatever they want on a specific technology platform/device), while trying to hold on to the warm fuzzies that go along with the broader meaning of freedom, and then implies that anyone who doesn’t think their specific definition is all that significant rejects the broader notion of freedom entirely. Or something like that.

        1. ” … they’ve defined “freedom” to mean something very specific (open access for developers to release whatever they want on a specific technology platform/device), while trying to hold on to the warm fuzzies that go along with the broader meaning of freedom, and then implies that anyone who doesn’t think their specific definition is all that significant rejects the broader notion of freedom entirely.”

          Well I’d say their definition of freedom matches the dictionary meaning. Free(adj): able to act at will; not hampered; not under compulsion or restraint. The iphone is not a free device; some people (not you) take issue with that. In this instance you are the one trying to redefine what free means.

          1. Well, there’s more to freedom than just freedom from coercion. There’s also freedom from want.

            Even a decent dictionary, limited as these things are, acknowledges this. See the entries for “free” and “freedom” in Merriam Webster, for example.

            Yes, the iPhone is a less-free device, in a technical sense. Because it’s artificially limited, like a region-encoded Blu-Ray or DVD player. It’s also quite unfortunate, that Appe extends this to content sold on the platform, like the apocryphal ban on porn by certain video manufacturers.

            Linux, and mostly by extension, not by design, Android fares much better in this regard. But this freedom is only hypothetical to a vast majority of users, because a fragmented market doesn’t deliver consumer goods in an easy, accessible manner. And programs have become consumer goods.

            I wish it would, but I haven’t seen that happening in the 20 years I know and and GPL programs – that’s still very much a developer/business market, with a hefty amount of non-paying enthusiasts thrown in-

  7. Can I trot out this?

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    I know my network/application security pals love apple’s closed model

  8. Tim Bray’s job is to hype Google and slam any competition (especially Apple). Hardly a balanced opinion.

    If I want porn on my iPhone or if I want to exercise my freedom of speech, I can use the Safari app. Apple is simply defining the types of applications it makes available in the App Store. (True, their guidelines & policies should be clearer.) Just like any store offers items to present a predefined image it wants to convey. (You mean I can’t buy dildos at the Disney Store? A travesty! Censorship! Walled garden! How dare they limit ME!)

    1. It may not be balanced, but I think his point is still sound – either your platform is open or it isn’t. It’s free, or it isn’t. If it’s free, oh, except for dildos, than it’s not free. Dildos are just as valid as Jesus. It’s too bad that Apple chooses not to embrace openness with it’s app store – going against it’s previous track record in so many other facets of it’s business.

      1. If you were running Apple, would you want to be in the position of drawing a line in the sand when it comes to “obscene” apps? (Yes, this is the age-old question of how to define “obscene”.) Would you approve (the hypothetical) “Cluck F**k” game where you compete with other farmers to see who can boink the most chickens? OK if it’s animation? OK if it’s videos of real people?

        So, you approve that one, let’s say. A few months later, your Apple App Store is filled with human / animal sex apps. The smut industry takes notice, and you’re bombarded with thousands of sex apps…many of which you find repulsive, but if you’re “open” and “free”, you must approve all of them. (The porn industry is huge, and the demand for porn is never-ending. So, this isn’t entirely hypothetical.) If you’re running Apple, is that really what you want? Is that what any of the major phone makers/sellers want?

        While I like the concept of “open” and “free”, real-world often gets in the way. I think the challenge for Apple (and others) is to define and adhere to their own set of guidelines so that everyone (developers and consumers) knows what to expect. That’s the goal of any business model.

        1. The point that you are missing is that on my laptop Apple computer, I can download any free smut application I want. Likewise on my Droid.

          It’s fine for a store to limit what applications it sells or makes available. The problem then comes when you also prevent anyone for installing anything else, except that which comes from that store.

        2. There’s a logical fallcay. Apple *could* allow installing software from different sources. That they don’t has a a couple of reasons:

          a) Security

          Taking root away and having one arbiter for software makes security cheaper.

          b) appStore income.

          They make some money of that. Not a very important business, but who knows, now that the get into the book market, too.

          c) user experience

          Apple wants to provide a singular, easy user experience with no problems. Not because out of the goodness of their heart, but because it sells better.

          1. I agree with you about why Apple doesn’t allow third-party installs on some of their devices.

            Maybe I’m not a normal consumer (or maybe I am?), but I see the iPhone and iPods as distinctly different experiences than my MacBook (or any laptop). Years ago, when I bought my first iPod, I knew going in that I was agreeing to Apple’s DRM, walled garden gadget, and I was OK with that because the user experience was worth it to me. Same with the iPhone and touch…I knew that to own those products, I compromised “open and free”. Apple made no claims otherwise. (Don’t know how I’ll feel about the iPad since I don’t have one yet.)

            I suppose that’s the crux of my argument: I (and many many others) are OK buying into the Apple ecosystem. If I weren’t OK with that, I would buy something else. In that sense, a person is “open and free” to buy / not to buy an Apple product. It seems silly to me for someone to say he wants an iPhone but then demands it to be something it’s not.

          2. Oh, I’m with you. I consider the iPad to be a glorified telephone, EPG, reader, etc. Not a full computer. That’s why I’m willing to compromise. Doesn’t mean that I have to like it. :.)

    2. “Tim Bray’s job is to hype Google and slam any competition (especially Apple). Hardly a balanced opinion.”

      And your proof that this is his job is…what, exactly?

      “(You mean I can’t buy dildos at the Disney Store? A travesty! Censorship! Walled garden! How dare they limit ME!)”

      If the only store in the world was the Disney Store, it would be censorship, a walled garden, and quite the limitation. If iPhone allowed apps to be installed from other sources, this whole issue would fall away. Apple chooses not to, and hence opens itself up to this sort of criticism.

    3. “You mean I can’t buy dildos at the Disney Store? A travesty! Censorship! Walled garden!”

      If your private parts could only work with a dildo purchased from a Disney store, and you really needed a dildo, you would probably find that to be a serious issue.

    4. “(You mean I can’t buy dildos at the Disney Store? A travesty! Censorship! Walled garden! How dare they limit ME!)”

      The difference, though, is that you can’t get your apps from anywhere other than Apple. Nobody else can set up an app store for iPhones. It’s precisely the sort of monopolistic scenario that Apple whined about regarding Microsoft – on steroids. Sure, you can jailbreak your JesusPhone, until Apple plugs the holes – and Apple will happily turn it into an iBrick if you have the temerity step out of their walled garden. So much for “owning” what you paid for.

      Apple has a long history of fantastic design hobbled by dickishness. From the original sealed-box Mac to non-user-replaceable iPod batteries, to the App Store fiasco, when will it end? Any time I’m tempted to buy an Apple product, these dick moves are enough for me to say, “No way.”

      We’re lucky there are other choices than what the two Steves (Jobs and Ballmer) offer. It’s a bit of a non-issue to me, anyway, since smartphones tend to be way too expensive both to buy and to use.

      1. Yes, there is a certain dickishness to Apple’s behaviour behind it.

        Personally, it’s a little like a snobby waiter in an upscale restaurant who won’t let you in with a tie, will frown at your choice of wine, refuse to bring you ketchup and give you a hefty bill afterwards.

        But the food’s good and free of salmonella and all other restaurants in town are uninspired at best and badly run fast food joints at worst.

        Guys, I’d *love* something like the iPad in an open format. Which means, glass, aluminium, snappy response time, consistent and snappy interface and mostly hassle free. Deliver that and I’ll at last *look* at it. I’m not promising to buy, because I already bought or loaded a bunch of iPhone apps, though. But I dumped my Newton, I dumped Palm when it became unbearable, I’m not married to Apple here.

  9. The success of the App Store is kind of remarkable considering that it isn’t powered by porn.

    But I find the main argument hard to swallow (he he) since you can access all the smut you want (and the rest of “dark side” of the Internet) on the iPhone through Safari (and Twitter apps, and RSS readers, etc, etc.)

    That doesn’t seem like such a bad compromise…

  10. I think there’s a little confusion stemming from Tim’s use of “the mobile Internet” to refer to the apps that Apple has removed. Native apps are not the Internet, and in many cases not even necessarily connected to the Internet. Apple ships a copy of Safari on every iPhone that makes no restrictions on where you can go or what you can see(aside from sites with Flash, a whole ‘nother can of worms). As far as the iPhone is concerned the Web is still “a platform without a vendor”. I personally have a hard time with the heavy-handed way Apple’s dealt with the App Store, but trying to draw parallels between that and restricting the Internet as a whole is inaccurate.

  11. Tim Bray says “It’s developer-friendly; the barriers to entry are very low for the several million people on the planet who are comfy with the java programming language.”

    I’m an iPhone developer, and I’d be an Android developer except – well, I have this crazy aversion to releasing software that’s not tested, and I have no confidence that any two Android devices will act the same way. Tim’s blithe assumption that the barrier to entry is all about being able to program in Java is either naive or deliberately misleading. An independent developer also has to be able to identify, market and sell to, and support his customers. Most people buying and using phones are unable to tell me what version of the operating system (OS? what’s that?), let alone know whether to have to kill another running application because its taking too much in the way of resources.

    If Google is serious about getting serious developers who will build serious applications for people who are not themselves developers, they need to exercise more, yes, _more_ control, not less. They need to have a standard distribution of Android that developers can count on, and they need to have the equivalent of the iPod Touch – a WiFi-only device that developers can use for development without having to pay contract prices to carriers. (RIM could use such a device, too). They need to pay attention to user experience for the non-geeky.

    Until the fractured nature of the Android marketplace is addressed, it will be a hobbyist developer marketplace.

    I’m not in any way defending Apple’s occasionally draconian app store policies, but I can say from experience that they take independent developers seriously. My latest application took less than 5 days from submission to approval, at the end of February. Apple has had their developer education team on tour with meaty technical sessions on subjects like, performance, memory management, OpenGL, and so forth.

    (if anybody cares, they can see my app at http://iliftapp.com)


  12. Maybe I’m just different from most people (most Americans, at least), but I feel absolutely zero desire to own any Apple products. I just don’t feel particularly driven to run out and purchase whatever shiny object the bald guy in the turtleneck is currently shilling.

    I use both Windows and Linux regularly, because they work, they’re familiar, and – most importantly – they’re reasonably priced. I don’t have anything against Apple, it’s just that they’re not offering anything I want badly enough to justify the added expense.

    For the record, I think ALL corporations tend to fall down on the evil end of the spectrum. Looked at relatively, though, Apple is FAR more evil than Google. At least Goggle thinks about it once in a while.

  13. Can someone please provide a link to “Cluck F**k”? I get a lot of–let’s call them “extraneous”–hits when I try to Google it.

  14. microcars raises an interesting point (even if done in an unnecessarily nasty way): Presumably the same people who would be interested in “hackier phones,” for lack of a better phrase, would just jailbreak their iPhones anyway. Isn’t that a reasonable alternative to that community? What’s to stop a group of like-minded individuals from developing/trading/selling their own jailbroken apps outside of the Apple system? (Pardon my ignorance if this is unfeasible for some technical reason I don’t know about.)

    The closest analogy I could think of would be car mods. I doubt Honda explicitly or implicitly endorses slapping glass packs and homebrew air intakes or bolted-together spoilers on stock Civics, but aside from know-how and laws prohibiting unsafe vehicles, nothing seems to stop the youngins’ from doing just that to their cars, and nobody accuses Honda of censorship.

    1. BookGuy, There are people who sell their unapproved apps to jailbreak users.

      Don’t know how successful they are, though.

  15. I use OS X and Linux regularly. And there are times I could kill Apple for how they limit the configurability of their desktop. As of now, there is not a single illegal iPhone app out there that I want.

    It should be noted that I used Linux on the desktop regularly from 1998 to 2004 or so, but I gave up when I realized that I spent more time configuring the workspace than working. Now I use Linux only on servers, etc.

    Perhaps I like the Apple bondage.

    I wouldn’t mind having an iPod touch like device to play with android on, though. Do they make those? I already have a phone, that happens to be an iPhone. Sue me.

  16. As John Gruber puts it:
    “What’s interesting here is that the iPhone is a better system for HTML5 mobile apps than Android. For all the attention Apple is getting regarding the tight control it maintains over native iPhone apps, I think what they’ve done to enable native-like mobile web apps — with no control — is mostly ignored.”

    iPhone is not equal to ‘the internet’. Use whatever you want to use, whenever you want to use it.

  17. Speaking only for myself, I’d say that 99% of my iPhone usage involves the apps that came with the phone (Safari, mail, calendar, iPod, phone, etc.) as well as Echofon and the Facebook app. I have a few other apps, and I even paid a grand total of about $9 for a few of the non-free ones (some proprietary and some open source) but they are at best occasional adjuncts to what I see as primarily a communications and web browsing tool. I don’t lose sleep at night worrying that there might be a better music player that Apple is keeping me from downloading, or lamenting the fact that my $9 investment in apps will be forfeit when I switch to another platform. The phone does what I want it to do in a pretty intuitive and hassle-free manner. It works as advertised, and I got it based on that. It’s not as though there is any information or content that is permanently tied to the iPhone or any of the iPhone apps that will prevent me from migrating to something else one day.

    The iPhone is not “the mobile Internet’s future;” it is one device that offers a particular set of features. If you want just one device that lets you do everything you’d ever want to, this isn’t it. But neither is the Android, or any other platform: they all have de facto constraints. Notwithstanding that, even without *any* add-on apps from *any* source, the iPhone would have a pretty rich and compelling set of features. Third party apps are nice to have, but they are the icing on the cake. Web, mail, phone, calendar, address book, media player: these are the core functions and the main reason, I think, most people get a smartphone in the first place.

    Open, standards-based, general-purpose computing platforms are awesome, but not everything has to be such a device, and we don’t benefit by insisting that absolutely everything be completely open and unmoderated. There is room for both iPhone and Android and the capabilities they offer; there is no need to take sides or pick winners.

  18. I love this quote, and agree with it. I also had to chuckle at the comments, I kinda knew before reading past #2 that the MacZombies would go nuts on this :)

  19. “I’ve owned dozens, if not hundreds of Apple products. Not one of them was limited to running apps that had been approved by a Star Chamber in Cupertino…”

    Cory, this is a glib statement. There is no such dramatic reversal of Apple’s policies. Apple does not allow anybody to upload and publish albums on iTunes. iTunes is a controlled environment. Apps are more like iTunes albums than they are like OSX software. Apple manages the revenue, sets the standards, manages the distribution, and collects royalties, just as with music. They take a greater responsibility for the success of apps than they do with 3rd-party OSX software. What they are doing fits exactly with their history of providing a controlled experience for iPods and consumer products in general.

    If Apple were to allow unfettered upload and publishing for music and apps, the result would be an undifferentiated mass of poor quality apps and questionably licensed music that would downgrade the quality of the iPhone experience significantly. While you would have your glorious freedoms, iPhone users would suddenly find it impossible to navigate the myriads of porn apps, spam apps, poorly written apps, and the other dregs created by such an open-door policy. While such a product may be marketable, it is clearly not the product Apple wants to build. That is their prerogative, and it is not likely a threat to our constitutional rights.

    If you don’t like it stop buying their product and start your own company that shows the world how to do it better. You have that freedom.

    I have zero affiliation with Apple and I use Macs, Windows and Linux just about equally. But, from my perspective, the consumer benefits from Apple’s decisions “for the most part”, and I have yet to have my iPhone pop up a window in Safari or my email saying “Apple does not permit you to view this”. I see no censorship, no limitation of freedom, just product decisions like all companies make about assuring the customer experience.

  20. For all the nitpicky peeps who want the author to draw a distinction between the closed nature of the app store the supposed freedom of internet capabilities on the iphone… get a grip.

    While flash animation may suck the big one, it is a part of the internet, a part which apple continually ignores. If the iphone is unable to use a common internet format, then you can hardly claim the iphone’s net capabilities are unlimited.


    1. teapot, speaking of unsupported common internet formats, try viewing an animated GIF on an Android device.

      1. speaking of unsupported common internet formats, try viewing an animated GIF on an Android device.

        Thanks for the input, islave…. funny how you assume I am touting android phones, despite the fact that I didnt mention, don’t own, nor intend on buying an android product. Way to polish that fanboy badge you got there.

        … also what is your point, exactly? I’d take support for flash over animated gifs any day. It does seem like a ridiculous thing for Google to leave out, but I dont think your claim is 100% true anyway… it seems some Motorola phones running android have animated gif support via MMS & Image Gallery.

        Awwwwwww, disproven. Next!

  21. As I understand it, you used to have to ‘jailbreak’ an Android phone in order to get control of it and get root, and each subsequent release of the system closes the loopholes that made it possible.

    Is that no longer the case, and/or will Tim Bray change the policy?

  22. The thing about the iPhone that bugs the hell out of me is that unlike every other device, I can’t write my own apps. Theoretically, this could be a back door to installing software without going through the App Store, but it should be allowed. As far as I care, Apple can then bitch and moan about how you have to verify your code, no more warranty for Apple’s own apps, yadda yadda, but we hackers and tinkerers really are the lifeblood of innovation.

    That’s really all I want: a chance to compile my own code. Sure, I could just download the source code and compile it myself with no changes, but that’s my choice of what to do with hardware I own. If I want to swap out an aging battery and extend the life of my phone (like I did with my RAZR until the hinge finally broke), then don’t ast as if I am snooping in your underwear drawer.

    I prefer the Mac over the PC, and yes, the iPhone experience is very good, but I am still a tinkerer at heart. Steve Jobs never was, which is part of why he and Woz (the penultimate tinkerer) had such a falling out (though I understand they’ve mended fences since then).

    1. Saint, it wouldn’t be a “theoretical back door”, it would be a wide open front door.

      And “every other device” is just plain wrong. Can you write code for your postscript-interpreting prinzer? Your washing machine?

      If you want to tinker, jeailbreak your iPhone, seeing as you don’t mind voiding your warranty.

      Or drop 99$ a year.

      That said, there seems to be plenty of innovation on software on the iPhone platform.

      1. Actually, back in the day, writing postscript manually to create illustrations was quite common. Don Lancaster used to have a column in the early 1990s in Computer Shopper which described exactly that.

  23. @Jonathan Sorry, I was a little unclear about this. I used to hack postscript myself, though really just a little bit, like barcodes.

    I meant that people usually don’t hack their postscript engines, even though postscript is a turing complete language, requiring a powerful interpreter.

    The iPhone and more importantly the iPad take this on the next level, they’re the iPod for programs, of rather “apps”.

    That’s puzzling to the class of experts, probably even more puzzling than the idea of learning to read and write without being a merchant or priest.

  24. One vision for the future of smartphones (and other portable devices made for the general consumer) is something as open and tinker-friendly as a netbook running Linux. Another is something as closed and tinker-proof as a DVD player, pre-iPhone cell phone, etc.

    We think the first one is better because we like having a full computing device in our pocket. The manufacturers think the second one is better because they have more control, leading to a more polished and reliable product, leading to more sales. And as Tom Frog (comment #25) shows, developers don’t always prefer the open option either.

    The bottom line: Apple’s vision sells. Apple is a company, so that’s all we can expect them to care about.

    We can demand whatever we want. But if sales of a closed device (and its apps) will beat sales of an open device, then our demand is drowned out by the market demand of 40 million consumers who don’t even know what Linux is. Why should we expect Apple to cater to us, when their current vision allows them – AND most of their customers – to get “more” (as they see it) out of the iPhone?

    Most people want electronics to “just work”. If giving you the option to get creative with the device’s computing means that the device becomes less reliable or smooth, then this will hurt sales, and a sensible company will avoid it. What we want, and what most consumers want, are to some extent mutually exclusive.

    (Heck, I can imagine the iPad walled-garden approach taking over personal computing over the next few years. It’s quite possible that in 10 years, the only PCs that are as open as a current Windows machine will be in offices, and in the homes of tinkerers. Everyone else might soon have an iPad-type computer at home. You probably do tech support for your relatives; You know how much they would love to have a computer that works as reliably and intuitively as an iPad. And they wouldn’t know what they’re missing. Whenever I show my mother something remotely hacky on my computer [downloading streaming video, ripping DVDs, un-DRMing iTunes music so I can send it to her, etc] she says “I didn’t know you could do that!”. People with her mindset assume that what you CAN do is limited by what the hardware/software companies build into the device, rather than by your imagination, even though the device is a Turing-complete computer that should be able to do ANYthing. The idea that “it’s all just 1s and 0s” is completely foreign to her).

    Ours is a niche market. Maybe someday a device manufacturer will truly cater to it. Maybe not. Maybe someday a phone company will allow us to connect a device that is truly “ours” onto their network without charging us up the wazoo for data. Maybe not. I’m not holding my breath.

    My DVD player plays DVDs, as well as CD-Rs that have Divx and MP4 files burnt onto them. But not FLV files. Despite the fact that my DVD player neither plays FLV files, nor gives me an easy way to implement FLV-playing capabilities into it… I still like it, and have it, and use it. Same for the iPhone. It has limitations. Some of those limitations are caused by the hardware. Some are artificially imposed by Apple. But in any case, it’s a device that does a lot and that I enjoy using. Removing Apple’s restrictions voids the warranty, and I think this is fair: Apple can only guarantee what they can guarantee; their own work (and the work they approve).

    Do I resent Apple for making me have to jailbreak my phone in order to get Google Voice, tethering, flash-video playing, and emulators on it? A little bit. But I can accept that it’s a sound business decision on their end. They know who they’re targeting with their product. And it’s not us open-movement hippies. They have more to gain from being restrictive (and thus strengthening their relationships with music and movie companies and telephone companies) than from making us happy (with no detriment to over 90% of consumers).

  25. I had to hack my postscript engine just to apply for a US visa, once, as the visa form was designed not to allow saved copies to be saved, which meant I couldn’t take it from my machine to a print shop to be printed.

    My last two phones have been nokia communicators. I’ve booted them into DOS, run multiple different emulators on them, and had multiple editors and compilers on them.

    Since my last one got nicked, I’m looking for a replacement, and I’m looking strongly at Linux phones: I want a phone that lets me SSH into it remotely, and that lets me have root access. The Nokia N900 (Maemo Linux) is looking a strong contender, but I’ve not looked into it enough to know whether it does everything I expect.

    1. @Dewi Why did’t you just print it into a PDF file? And I assume that you hacked something on your computer, not on the printer you sent the PS to.

      1. Yeah, good point: I hacked GhostScript by commenting out the lines that said “if it asks not to be saved, then don’t save it”. I couldn’t print it to a PDF file without doing that, because that counted as “saving” it.

        Seems like there’s no way way to search back through older LJ posts, not even with Google or ljseek, so can’t find any details on it.

  26. Censorship is bad, yada yada. What I want to know is: who is trying to view porn on smartphones in the first place? Call me old fashioned but I think pornography is best enjoyed in a comfy chair with a big screen and a box of kleenex.

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