July 26th 2008 iPhone Redux

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a scathing post about the iPhone. It was written fairly quickly (but you probably already knew that), and I didn’t elaborate much on my position. In lieu of anything else of interest to write, I’ll elaborate now.

My complaints aren’t against the iPhone per se. Even though I have little use for one, I do think the iPhone is a nifty, even novel, little device, and I do think it represents the direction in which computing is going to move. Like it or not, someday, we all will probably carry around a little device that lets us make phone calls, surf the web, listen to music, look at photos, read email, and so forth. The iPhone simply puts us one step closer to that eventuality.

And in a way, I think that’s a good thing. It’s liberating. Our current computing devices tether us to a desk, or chair, or coffee table. But technology is supposed to make us free. Our current computing devices also use a lot of electricity simply to let us browse the web. Low-powered devices like the iPhone could certainly help curb that energy usage. I’m not saying that we’ll ever completely get rid of desktop machines (or even laptops), but I think in the future, the emphasis will be on tiny portable devices, not relatively large machines like we have now.

What I don’t like, however, is the business side of the computing model espoused by Apple. Specifically, Apple does three things with the iPhone with which I highly disagree:

  1. Forces you to use AT&T as the only carrier.
  2. Acts as the sole authority in deciding which apps you are allowed to run on your iPhone.
  3. Forces you to interact with the iPhone using iTunes.

This is not the model I want to see in the future of computing. There’s a lot to like about Apple’s philosophy in regards to computing, particularly that software should have attractive, easy-to-use interfaces, and software and devices should “just work”. But there’s a lot that bothers me about Apple’s business approach, too, especially its use of proprietary hardware and vendor lock-in.

In short, I’d rather keep my freedoms and remain behind the cutting edge. I wouldn’t mind if there was a proliferation of iPhone-like devices someday—but I’d rather they be more open and not tied to a particular cellular provider.