All Of This Big Brother Talk About Apple is Because of the Third Party Apps Debacle
I have been seeing more and more articles recently in some pretty major newspapers about Apple spying on users, Apple having a bad security record, and Apple doing fairly funky things with accounting to prop up its stock price. I am wondering if this is just all part of Apple becoming a main-stream company, or if it is a little bit more than that.
I think that the “Third Party Apps” infamy surrounding the iPhone, as well as Apple basically attacking Ambrosia software over its iToner program has created this media backlash against Apple. Many of these issues have always been present with Apple software, especially the security issue. Apple's security record in OS X has for a long time been somewhat murky, and, in addition, we've known that the iPhone runs all of its software as root for at least two months, and we have known that Apple collects fairly detailed information when the phone crashes. I'm going to make a wild assumption that this data is shared with Apple when the user syncs with iTunes, but there is no way for me to be certain of that.
Basically, I think that a combination of things is leading to this, the biggest is the third party applications thing. When Apple bricked people's phones to protect its residual stream from AT&T, and defeated the ability of users to install 3rd party applications on their phones, it didn't just miff a few edge-case users, it really irritated a lot of long time Mac faithful customers.
Just the concept that Apple was being so money grubbing that it would stop people from using their products in a way that was different than the way that Apple wanted them to use them was so Microsoft-esque that they basically flipped out. In that these were some of the biggest stories percolating around the internet for months, and in a few places still are, media companies are hiring security experts to hack at the iPhone and Apple's other software, they are interviewing those edge-case users who have had an awful time with Leopard, and with the iPhone. In some respects it seems as though the media is trying to make Apple pay for letting them down and revealing itself to be your typical capitalist, monopolist, greedy company.
Now, I don't think that's fair. It is fairly normal for Apple to collect information about its users, most hardware and software manufacturers do. The particular applications on the iPhone that are tracking users, the Yahoo! stocks widget, and the calculator widget, are a little odd, but at least Apple isn't rebooting your computer without your permission, and updating it even when you tell them not to, like some other corporation we know.
Apple has never been the movement that people have conceptually turned it into. They are a company, and they are there to make money. That people use their products to make whatever personal statement they are choosing to make, has nothing to do with Apple. That they take advantage of this in their marketing is just another way to make money has nothing to do with Apple, they are behaving in a manner that is desirable to their shareholders. I do think, however, that Apple's recent behavior will have undesirable long-term effects, but they are in no way behaving in an unscrupulous manner, for a major public corporation. They are, however, behaving in an unscrupulous manner if you believe in open and free access to software source code, if you happen to believe in user privacy rights, etc…
In other words, Apple is misbehaving if you hold it to the standard of another individual, or a friend. If a friend were doing the things that Apple is doing to its users to you, you would probably stop being their friend, I mean spying on you, and your family, trashing your phone, telling you how to use your stuff. That friend would be gone in a minute.
We have to stop thinking of Apple as a friend, they are not our friends, they want our money. If we have a problem with something they are doing, we should just stop giving them our money for a while.
Other than the 3rd party apps thing, I don't have a real problem with the types of spying they are doing, it is no different than other companies. I can stop it if I choose with any myriad of open-source products. The third party apps thing even seems to be working out, although the jury will remain out until I actually see the SDK, and how “native” it really is, or at least what capabilities it gives a programmer. I'm still far from convinced Apple will release a native Objective-C SDK for general consumption, I think that would be a bit dangerous from Apple's point of view.
I like my Apple applications, and hardware, and knowing that they may be tracking my use of some of their software doesn't really surprise me all that much, and it also doesn't make me change my mind about using their products. Besides, what choice do we really have, have you seen Vista? I wouldn't dream about allowing that steaming pile of [expletive deleted] anywhere near my computers, or my networks. So, write Apple, inform them that you are upset about the way they are gathering information about your computer usage if you are. We hold the power, we have the money that they want, at the end of the day, that is what it comes down to for any company.