iPhone or iHype?

This post is a bit off topic from what I normally talk about, but being a fan of various “social networking” platforms including blogs, podcasts and the like I feel a need to speak out about a certain insanity that occurred. Last week Apple released its new model of the iPhone, and the internet went nuts. Podcasts devoted extended coverage, blogs were gushing, internet news sites went wall to wall with coverage. Let me interject a thought here – folks, it’s just a cell phone!

Now, before the Apple fan-boys come out of the wood work to attack me, my beef is not with the iPhone itself. It’s a nice enough phone, has a lot of decent features, and even I will admit it looks very nice. But feature wise it’s not revolutionary; there are other cell phones on the market that have similar sets of features. No, my beef is more with the coverage. Leo Laporte over on http://twitlive.tv did 24 hour coverage. CNet Live did a two hour version of their show; CNet’s news show likewise had multiple episodes centered on the iPhone. What?

I have to really question this. If any of the other cell phone companies released a phone, it might get a segment which would be fine, but not wall to wall coverage. But stick a logo of a half eaten piece of fruit on it and BAM the web goes nuts. I’m not alone in my weariness of the coverage either, on Mondays’ Buzz Out Loud from CNet even Tom Meritt said “I’m so sick of talking about it I throw up a little bit in my mouth every time I say it”. (Then he showed a cool video of someone dropping an iPhone in a blender.) Perhaps it’s just the cranky geek in me, but I just don’t get it. iPhone? Sounds more like iHype to me.

See, I TOLD you Apple is the Evil Empire

Some time back, I wrote a blog post describing Apple as “The Evil Empire”. Now a nationally known figure is adding her voice to the chorus. In this CNet Buzz Report, Molly Wood describes Apple as her “bad boyfriend”. They The guy who forces her to look good, tell her what cell phone carrier to use, etc without caring about her.

I thought that was a pretty apt description, and it really helps delineate the differences between the Apple philosophy and everyone else. Apple keeps tight control over their domain. Who cares if the new Air only has 1 USB, no firewire, no internet, no optical drive, no media card reader, and no expansion slots? Hey it LOOKS good. And those pretty new i-Phones? Oh, you can only use the carrier THEY pick out for you. Third party apps? Only if they give their blessing, which they still haven’t done. But hey, it LOOKS good.

Contrast that with both Windows and Linux. You can run the OS on any machine you wish. Windows Mobile? sure, any company who wants to license it for their device or carrier great with them. Heck Microsoft was even so open they let the i-Phone work with Exchange. But people complain that Microsoft isn’t open enough? And after Apple’s latest stunt of trying to force Safari down everyone’s throats via the iTunes update, I’d better not hear any Mac-Head deride the Windows Update process as “sneaky”.

It’s no wonder people are resorting to installing Windows on their MacBooks, it’s the only way they can get the freedom to get any work done!

Apple – The New "Evil Empire"

First, in the interest of disclosure let me state right up front that I’m a “Microsoft fanboy”. Sue me. As a professional developer for the last 20 plus years, I think they make some really great stuff, and do a lot to get the word out to the developer community.

I say this because I really get tired of the gushing lately over how wonderful Apple is and how evil Microsoft is. Hmm, let’s contrast a moment, and I think the recent product announcements of the new Zunes makes a good place to do so.

For those who haven’t heard, Microsoft has just announced the release of some new Zunes, the Zune 80 (80 gig HD) and the Zune Flash series, which will have flash drives and come in 4 and 8 gig sizes. The original Zune will now be known as the Zune 30. There are a lot of cool new features in the interface, such as Podcasting, and the removal of the 3 day limit on listening to wi-fi shared songs, not to mention it just looks easier to use.

What’s really nice is all the early adopters of the original Zune 30’s won’t be left in the cold. There will be free upgrades so the older Zune 30’s will have all the same new software features as the newer Zunes.

Let’s contrast that with Apple and its iPhone and iTouch units. The iTouch, supposedly just a stripped down iPhone, yet there are many features such as e-mail that could be there, but are lacking for no apparent technical reason that anyone can explain.

Then there’s the iPhone itself, locked down worse than Fort Knox. For those who believe that when they plunk down 600 plus dollars for something it should be theirs to do with as they want, the very first upgrade rendered the iPhone into a brick. And once it’s bricked, expect no help from Apple.

Now, I wouldn’t expect them to try and restore everything, but the least they could do is a factory reset to brand new condition. I’d say that was very reasonable. But nope, you’re just stuck with a brick.

From everything I have been able to gather, there’s no real technical reason for the upgrade to force the phone to brick status. I could understand perhaps forcing a reset to “new” status, or that some apps would not work, but the complete paper weight scenario seems like nothing more than punishment on Apple’s part.

Before someone points out there are online sites with “debricking” software, my point is not about the phone, but about the attitude from the company that puts it out. Further, I also realize that ‘hacking’ the iPhone falls outside the terms of service. Cancel my account, make me reset to factory new condition, maybe charge me a twenty five or fifty dollar service fee to do the reset, OK those all sound reasonable. But bricking my expensive phone? Seems a little harsh don’t you think?

So let’s see here, on one hand we have a company that is rewarding it’s early adopter customers by making sure their devices will have all the latest greatest features at no extra charge.

On the other hand we have a company that requires you to use your phone with only they software they approve of. Fall outside that use, and your punishment: to have the sexiest, sleekest brick around.

Hmm, now who is sounding evil?

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