Apple should cherish the iPhone Jailbreakers
Apple users, it has been said, aren’t real geeks. They love their computers too much to open the lid as might a PC modder or enthusiast engineer kicking around Linux code.Not any more. Apple geeks do exist and while still a shadowy lot,...
Not any more. Apple geeks do exist and while still a shadowy lot, suddenly they seem like a more defined group. They are the small but modestly growing number of jailbreakers who do things to Apple's iPhone that only two years ago would have qualified practitioners for a month in brand therapy.
For the non-geek Apple majority, the coming of the jailbreakers could be significant cultural shift. For Apple the company, used to seamless image control, it could be simply pretty annoying.
As of this week, it looks as if the practice of jailbreaking might not only be intellectually interesting but legal because the powerful US Library of Congress has just added the iPhone to an exception list that allows non-approved apps to run on the device without Apple being able to stop them.
I like the term ‘jailbreak’ because it captures the full significance of what is going on with these users. They are buying the most closed smartphones on the market and choosing to untie them from the technological controls imposed by maker Apple.
In doing that they are negating what is supposed to be the platform’s great strength, its controlled environment. They also blow the warranty.
“This is a really important victory for iPhone owners. People who want to tinker with their iPhones and move outside the Applesphere now have the ability to legally do that,” Corynne McSherry, a senior staff lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was quoted as telling the New York Times on hearing of the ruling.
‘Tinker’? ‘Move beyond the ‘Applesphere’? But to what end?
There are a number of possible answers to this, including the fact that as Apple’s fan base has expanded it has started to take in recruits who don’t necessarily view the company or its products with the reverence of the baby boomers who forged the famous badge.
Incredibly, unaccountably, they think that it might be possible to do things Apple hasn’t thought of, to improve the iPhone, to add new applications. My own suspicion is that they are mostly just refugees from the nether regions of amateur and enthusiast engineering who see the iPhone as an intriguing and new challenge worth taking up for its own sake.
Apple has yet to hit enthusiast jailbreaking sites with the law and that suggests that they see the folly in chasing down a group of users who actually suggest the platform’s vitality, not its insecurity.
It didn’t want them necessarily but Apple has found its geeks, and not before time.