By Greg Mills
While Apple supports open source software and even provides powerful program elements, such as WebKit, their tendency is to have a closed system. While some hate that concept, the truth is, Apple has thrived on it lately.
The late 80's saw the much more "open" PCs as cheap PCs and Microsoft swamped Apple in the market place. Apple even dabbled with licensing software to Mac clone companies. That experiment was aborted as Apple returned to a solo, closed business model.
The openness the PC world craves is also open to malware of every stripe and color. The relative safety of the Mac platform is commonly passed off as a function of the smaller size of the installed computer base. Why waste time hacking Macs when there are so many easy PC to infect? I think the truth is that the more closed system of the Mac helps ward off attacks due to the infrastructure being more secure from the foundation up and in no small part, the work of Apple programers who are diligent and working hard to protect us.
We have an iPad, two Macs and three iPhones in the house. I have been using Macs since the Apple 2C, over 20 years, now without having a worm, virus or trojan destroy data. I have never had to wipe a hard drive and start over, seldom had to restart a computer other than for software upgrades. (Normally, when there was a system crash is was a Microsoft program that took it down.) For my money, I love the closed system Apple has provided. I trust Apple to run a powerful and clean system; closed is fine.
I think jail breaking an iPhone or iPad is sort of like buying a new car and keeping pigs in the back seat. Someone may want to do that, but I would never consider it. The only thing that it allows that is of any use is using an alternative cell system. Once Apple begins to sell iPhone to other cell systems the jail break thing is sure to die off.
Why even try to run Windows Mobile on an iPhone? There are a lot of things "under the hood" in a mobile OS related to battery life that are certainly important and not understood by most of us. Trying to twist the iPhone OS to do what it was designed to not do for good reasons is part of the user experience that has made things Apple has put out world class. The Flash controversy is really about that, Apple/Adobe conflicts aside. HTML5 has a lot going for it, and Apple tends to drop things they see as obsolete long before it is clear why.
Remember the flap when they dumped floppy disks? Have you missed them recently?
Will the closed structure of the iOS work in the long haul? Open source operating systems like Android beg to compete, and they are. Apple has been struggling with the App Store policies for rejecting Apps that create a conflict with the basic platform conventions and marketing plans of Apple.
I submit that they have every right to do so and I say more power to them. There are two sides to every story and iPhone developers crying foul get 90% of the press and Apple gets a black eye. Sometimes they are wrong and back down, sometimes they don't. It has been said the perfect government is a truly benevolent dictator. If Apple ever really loses the mantle of benevolence, the house will come crashing down.
Frankly, I think Apple stock is a great long term investment. The open source people who have gotten into iPhone app creation fill a lot of the niche that needs to complement the closed Apple campus. The iPhone and iPad platform create a place for creative people to make a lot of money, but they have to follow the rules. So what is wrong with that?
Some people predict the Apple iOS and the Google Android operating system competition is Apple/Microsoft in the 80's all over again. I think that is true to the extent that a competition is forming, but the outcome is certainly not as clear. The basic notion of controlling both the hardware and software creates the easy, seamless Apple products that are flying off the shelf around the world.
Fragmenting the smart phone manufacturing and open source software are sure to open up that system to innovation, but also to the hackers of the world. My hat is off to Steve Jobs for doing a great job and as long as the dictator is benevolent and everything continues to "just work" my "closed" sand box is just fine, thank you.
(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)