Monday, April 12, 2010

It's His Platform, Not Yours

A lot of people say about Apple's latest geek controversy things like "I want to own the product after I buy it"; but hacking an iPhone takes minutes, sometimes only one minute, and iPad hacks will become available and be just as easy. If you want to fully control the device, you can, and no matter what obvious bullshit Apple might spout about the DMCA criminalizing hacking, they don't have a leg to stand on, legally - your property is your property.

However, "your property" covers the product. It doesn't cover the platform. That belongs to Steve Jobs. "Your property" doesn't cover the operating system - that's something you license, not buy. "Your property" does not cover the App Store, either - that's one of Steve Jobs's businesses, and he's free to run it however he sees fit. Angry geeks of the Web, please: Whatever other absurdities you spew out there in your hysteric, thwarted rage, knock it off with the "my property" argument. You just don't have a leg to stand on. There is no validity to that argument at all.

I've been watching this madness for a while now, and avoiding blogging about it because it's just so obviously not worth caring about that I can't figure out what's wrong with you people. I saw one programmer blog that he was "calling on Apple" to change their policies - like we're supposed to all imagine Apple hears that call, or has any incentive in the universe to respond to it, when they don't even open the door to developers until the developers pay them first.

I even saw DHH enter the fray, which is absurd hypocrisy, given that the first time I ever saw this guy, he was putting a giant "Fuck You" slide on a screen and explaining how he wasn't going to add features to Rails that he didn't agree with, because it was his framework, and he didn't believe that anybody who disagreed with him on that merited any other response but "fuck you". What kind of response does he think he merits from Apple? It's Apple's platform, and they're going to do what they want with it. By his own logic, I think we know what response we could expect, if DHH were at a level that even merited a response from Apple in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Apple fanboy. I think Steve Jobs is a little bit insane. Only a madman could sell iPods for ten years before he got the brilliant idea to put speakers in there that you can actually hear. I think Apple's DMCA argument is bullshit; I think Apple broke the law bricking people's hacked iPhones, and that the Department of Justice should prosecute. I even think that making iPhone OS a closed platform has Apple shooting itself in the foot. But even given that I think Jobs is a little crazy, all this furious programmer outrage is just beyond insane to me. It's not your platform and it never was.

Geeks control the Internet because geeks built the Internet. We earned the freedom we have here. We earned it by creating something incredibly valuable and sharing it with millions and millions of people. What did we earn with the App Store? Did we build the App Store? Did we write iPhone OS? Did we design the groundbreaking hardware? Or are we just customers?

If geeks want the power to make any kind of decision in this situation, they need to get off their lazy asses and stop imagining that the world owes them a favor. There is absolutely nothing preventing you from building an alternative operating system for the iPhone and/or iPad. The overwhelming majority of the work is already complete; more Linux variants exist than I can comfortably imagine. If you build an iPhone/iPad Linux variant, you can demand freedom on that platform, and not only that, you can enforce your demands. But to make ridiculous bellyaching noises about how somebody owes you something for free is just disgusting freeloader bullshit.

And all this hyperbole about a war between Google and Apple is just ridiculous. If it were war, Google would be the one challenging Apple's flimsy DMCA bullshit, not the EFF. Google would be the one building a Linux OS for the iPhone. But they're not. They've even got the OS, but are they porting it? No. Their rule is "don't be evil." They have no rule against being dickless.

When people say "I want to own the product after I buy it", what they mean is, "I want to own the App Store after I buy an iPhone or an iPad, and indeed, I want to control the App Store before I buy an iPhone or an iPad, as a precondition of buying one." It's not going to happen, and I don't understand why anybody is talking about it, because there's absolutely no logical reason to imagine it would. Apple has taken this attitude with developers for almost as long as I have been living and breathing.

It's a very successful attitude and it's worked very well for them. If they had a different attitude, they'd be a bigger company, and some of their problems trace to that attitude, but Jobs has gone on record saying that he never saw himself as losing to Microsoft, because his goal was not to create a ubiquitous company; he wanted a company like Porsche, a luxury brand for people with good taste, and he created one. This attitude is a big part of what got him there. I'm not even saying I like the attitude, but I know one thing for sure: it works.

Geeks got used to the idea that they get anything they want for free, but it's time for a reality check. Steve Jobs got the freedom to say "it's my platform and I can do what I want" because he built it and you didn't. DHH got that same freedom the same way, a few years ago, and looks ridiculous defending that freedom when he has it but attacking that freedom when someone else has it. But DHH and Steve Jobs are not the point. The point is, you get this freedom by making things for other people, not by whining on the bloggowebs about how Apple owes you something.

I totally respect if people decide they don't want to develop for iPhone OS under these circumstances. But it's ridiculous if you expect Apple to care. If Apple's haughty attitude sends away great developers, it won't be the first time; and if Apple's haughty attitude sends away great developers, but still leads to amazing products and amazing profits, it won't be the first time. This is history repeating itself, and if you really think it's news, you need to quit whining with your ignorant ass and go read a book. This is how Apple does business, and it just works.