Captive Hardware

Posted on Mon 14 July 2008 by alex in geek

In the days when phones just made phone calls it was fairly easy to treat them as devices. Indeed my current phone is a pretty locked down Sony-Erricson K800i. However as phones become more capable and the potential services they can offer grows it becomes a more general device, and free (As in freedom) considerations come into play. The FSF has an opinion piece on the iPhone on it's blog. While they are probably more vociferous than I am in their dislike of DRM (I just don't buy DRM'ed stuff*) the key point is the first one:

iPhone completely blocks free software. Developers must pay a tax to Apple, who becomes the sole authority over what can and can't be on everyone's phones.

Even if you could get free as in beer access to the iTunes store to distribute your apps you still fail the freedom test. Apple specifies what can and can't be written by third parties which would bar a fair number of the current top 50 Android apps ever being ported to the iPhone. The freedom "to run the program, for any purpose" is of course Freedom 0 of the Free Software Definition.

So while I envy the iPhone bling and it certainly does make a sexy piece of hardware I won't be purchasing one. I consider it a shame to have such a capable device limited in what it can achieve because of Apple's control of it.

In a twist of irony I was offered the option on a iPod this weekend. It's current owner has now got an iPhone and is wondering if the iPod is now surplus's to requirements. I shall have to find out exactly what version it is so see if it will run Rockbox. I'm not going to swap my current proprietary player if it can't play Ogg Vorbis with which most of my collection is encoded**.

* This is a bit of a lie. I buy DVDs as the DRM is very well broken.
** Another problem I need to solve is getting automatic syncing of Oggs from Fliss' iTunes (where it works, with plug-in) onto her iPod. She's not averse to Rockbox but it would have to be a "native" solution. I'm sure there must be trans-coding plug-in that syncs stuff up.