[FoRK] Clarifications and expansions... Re: What the hell just happened?

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Wed Apr 7 16:37:39 PDT 2010

The Right Rev. Tom Whoreo says:

> I think the point that keeps getting glossed over with the "oh its a
> harmless consumer appliance" is the tie in to the locked down app/os
> channel.

Tom, I think the only thing that's being "glossed over" here --- by you, by silky, and the typical crew of knee-jerk naysayers and duly-ordained anti-Apple reverends --- is that I and many of the other commenters on this issue have SPECIFICALLY STATED extreme trepidation and unease with this model...  just to drive home the point, here's some excerpts of what I said in the original post and the clarifying followup, with annotation for the those with Apple-induced comprehension dysfunction:

> It's the original Macintosh closed-world walled-garden vision writ large.  And that scares the shit out of me;  I already feel the same "must have own app" traction that applied to e.g. "must have own website" back in '97 or so...

Several points:  closed-world, walled-garden, cf. original Mac but more so.  Scary as shit.  Yet drive for companies etc. to have own app to control their own little piece of (sub)channel-to-customer (with Apple's blessing) may eclipse Web.  Apps vs. websites, bad joojoo.  Better for content companies.  But *apparently* worse in every other way (with caveats, see below.)

> Future of the Internet concerns, freedom to tinker concerns, etc.  First Apple product where the evil *truly* shows its face --- and is all too compelling, a kind, compassionate, wise face.  A benevolent face, one you can trust --- Jobs as Big Brother, how ironic.  It presents the familiar dilemma of the perfect dystopia.  Soma will cure all social ills;  you can only have a nice juicy steak in the Matrix.

Similar concerns;  underscoring Zittrain and Felten, pointing out the irony re: the Mac 1984 commercial.  The revolutionary has become the establishment.

> I've seen the future, and it's the same scary future that e.g. Jonathan Zittrain, Ed Felten, etc. have warned us about --- only more so.

Same comment, made more explicit.

So, have I sufficiently disclaimed and explained?  This thing scares the shit out of me.  That doesn't mean it's not important, or even *the right answer* to a question that we, the techies, have been unwilling to answer for three decades.

You say:

> I would not give this to my Mom to use for the simple reason it does her a disservice as a customer.

This is where opinions diverge.  While I do agree in many ways that this sets a dangerous precedent --- and you, me, Zittrain, Felten, and countless others totally agree on that point --- we may all be wrong about the *value* of the closed-world model for "the rest of them."  It may be us, the techies and all our devices and software for 3 decades, that have done your Mom and countless others a disservice.  The locked model may actually make certain technology accessible to a wide range of folks that, frankly, no other device (except maybe WebTV, particularly pre-M$ acquisition) has even acknowledged exist.  

> Tech issues aside, Apple has shown itself to be consumer hostile. Locking down markets is not tech innovation or a roll out of the good will of the one true Steve....

Stop veering off into dogma with your Jobs-Evil blah blah anti-Apple screed.  Here's where the confusion hits:  the bet that Apple is making is that *locking down markets is not consumer hostility, but rather a more effective way of delivering a useful experience to a latent base of underserved customers.*  You're confusing issues:  pro-tech innovation and consumer-appropriateness aren't necessarily the same thing, witness the success of the iPhone even before it offered developers the ability to deliver native apps.  I don't like that argument, really I don't, but I have to acknowledge that the market hasn't yet decided.  We'll see who buys the things, who they are and what they do with it.  THAT and that alone, not all your pronouncements or even my acknowledgments of confusion and trepidation, which you're blissfully "glossing over" in your rush to deliver yet another Whoreo anti-Apple sermon, will decide the issue.

It *may well prove to be the case* that what you, I, or any other techie thinks of as enabling "tech innovation" etc. may have been hindering broader adoption of certain technologies since the dawn of our era.  In a nutshell, I think that's the bet Apple's making, the same bet that Jobs tried to make with the Mac. 

> This list should know better.

This list should be smart enough to know that we don't have all the answers.  There's been a stubborn barrier to computer market adoption and penetration that nothing we've thrown at the problem has been able to overcome for decades.  If this is, for example, the device that will actually get my mom to check and return her own e-mail more than once a month rather than using my dad as the sole conduit, then I'll have to acknowledge --- however much I dislike it --- that Apple made an uncomfortable bet...  and won.

And then there's always the possibility that the market will force Apple to open up gradually and incrementally.  Happened with the Mac, even to the point of unbundling MacDraw etc. to make room for ISVs.  Happened w/ mp3s in the iTunes store.  Happened with the backlash to the "no third party apps on iPhone" bit.  Happened when they first tried to sell developers on the idea that weblets were the one true way to develop for the iPhone.  It's not as it they aren't responsive to the market when the direction they're getting from it is overwhelming and obvious.

Making knee-jerk pronouncements w/o actually studying the issue --- w/o actually even using one of the devices, which I'm guessing you and others have not --- is just closed-minded and foolish.  Just like the anti-WIMP crowd was in 1984.

Will I give my Mom one?  You effin' McBetcha I will, and wait to see what happens.  The best way to learn about the real world is to experiment and see what it tells you, not make dogmatic and ideological pronouncements about what's what.  The universe doesn't revolve around the sun;  surely all of us smart folks on this list have learned that lesson by now.

Rather than being ineffective nattering nabobs of negativism in denial of a possible outcome that we didn't anticipate and don't want... the question we *should* be pondering is this:  if Apple is right and we're (and have been, all along) wrong on part or all of this, and this thing goes broad, how do we leverage the benefit while protecting against the worst implications?


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