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Is Apple becoming another Microsoft?

You know what pissed off Linux/Unix folk about Microsoft and Windows? My best guess is that it wasn't Open-Source. Thus, their suggestions weren't taken into consideration as much as they should have. Microsoft was controlling its own software too much for its own good. Now Apple is doing the same thing. Let me explain with the example of iPods.

If we take a look at any iPod model before the iPod touch, we notice that (internally in the filesystem) it's pretty simple. You have your music files and your song/other stuff database. The database(s) were plain-text and their structure could be examined and mimicked. This allowed for syncronization with software other than Apple's iTunes.

Now welcome the iPod touch... No more simplicity. iPhone OS keeps its databases hashed. Yes, you can put music files on there with non-iTunes, but they won't show up in your lists. It's like the files are orphaned. The only program you can sync the iPod touch with is iTunes. Oh, and if you don't have Windows or Mac, you're out of luck. Booted into Linux/Unix/non-Mac/non-Windows? You have to reboot into Mac/WIndows to sync your iPod Touch. Very convenient, Apple, very convenient indeed.

OK, good thing the iPod Touch has a WiFi chip. Now you can install apps without a computer. Yes!!! But wait, what apps? Yeah, there's a gazillion apps in the App Store, but how did they get there? With Apple's approval. Apple doesn't like it, and the app doesn't make it to the App Store. To illustrate the point, an update to a Twitter application had a toplist of some kind. When Apple was looking over the program, it just so happened that the toplist contained the F-bomb in one of its terms (or site names, or whatever). Didn't stay in the toplist for long, though. Nevertheless, the update was rejected! It's not like the developer controls the toplist and purposely manipulated the rating system to put the F-bomb on the toplist.

Well, good thing the iPhone-Dev team exists. With their jailbreaking process, the 1st gen iPod touch was jailbroken easily and non-App Store apps could be installed. This opened up a whole slew of features and tweaks and other cool stuff. But then comes the 2nd gen iPod touch. Apple realized where the chain of trust in the boot process was broken and quickly patched it up in the hardware. Uh-oh for the jailbreakers. But finally, after months of work, the redsn0w in-RAM tethered jailbreak was released and people could jailbreak the 2nd gen iPod touch, but needed a PC to boot their iPod. Then, after another month/month-and-a-half, people came up with a jailbreak process that didn't need a PC to boot the iPod. That awesome. Excellent. Kudos to the hackers who worked on this project. But, looking at Apple's track record, that's bound to be patched up and 3rd gen iPod touch users will have an even harder time jailbreaking.

So, now the end-user is (perhaps nor completely) statisfied. But what about the developers? I myself have wanted to write an iPhone app, at least for just messing around. Good luck doing that without a Mac, though. So you want Mac, eh? You have to pay for both Apple hardware and Apple software. Pretty good deal for Apple. But the Linux/Unix code junkies who are used to everything being free and open source? Too bad. Apple wan't you to use the iPhone SDK, but only on its products.

I hope I have demonstrated how Apple could become another Microsoft. It's just becoming a control freak. It's trying to control almost all aspects of its products' use, from what the developers can use to what the end-users can install. The end-users far outnumber the developers, which is why we have jailbreaks, but no Windows/Linux/Unix iPhone SDK ports. I personally hope that Apple will open up its software and allow others to contribute to it and use it however they want. But that's unlikely to happen.


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