Hotel Apple (Such a Lovely Place)
John Gruber links to an EFF blog post which calls iOS a crystal prison. He does a nice job cracking open their argument so I don’t have to, go read him. I just want to offer up that for people using iOS or OS X or Android or Windows or whatever, the surest way to avoid being caged is to be dillgent. Take some care to be sure that the data you care about most, the data you create, be it writings or images or code isn’t locked in a proprietary format.
And probably like many if not nearly all others, my iOS devices are in fact filled with text files, PDFs, jpgs, mp3s, vCards, iCalendars, and the like. In particular, text files based on Gruber’s own Markdown format seem to be flourishing on iOS, OS X, and the Web. Markdown even powers this blog. iOS users sync their various data at least as well with Google and Microsoft services and Dropbox as they do with Apple’s iCloud. RSS and Twitter clients must certainly deliver more news to more users than Apple-supported Newsstand apps.
If there’s anything trapping Apple users, it isn’t the “iOS X” ecosystem per se, it’s the fact that you can’t go and buy yourself a suitable replacement ecosystem because no one is selling one. Real choices mean alternative coherent computing ecosystems and not the EFF’s “bill or rights.” I don’t need arbitrary applications, root access, a different OS on my iPhone, or independent hardware/software warranties. None of those things will make my life better today. What I need is access and control over my own data. Leaving the “crystal prison” simply means exporting my data and moving on. If I can’t move on today it’s not because my data is trapped, it’s because we’re stuck – no one else is even offering a compelling four screen solution. Opening up iOS to hacking isn’t a very likely way to help ordinary users. What with this being the year of Linux on the desktop and all, or is that 2013?
I’d much rather see the EFF go after the true abusers of monopoly power in the mobile computing market: the cellular service providers who uniformly sell SMS well-above marginal cost and only offer monthly plans which reflect high costs implied by subsidy pricing and never discount them for unsubsidized or post-subsideized devices.