Government // Mobile & Wireless
Commentary
7/29/2009
08:15 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
Commentary
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Apple's Complaints About Jailbroken iPhones Don't Hold Water

Apple says that unsanctioned iPhone alterations could crash mobile phone networks. I say, "hogwash."

Apple says that unsanctioned iPhone alterations could crash mobile phone networks. I say, "hogwash."As Thomas Claburn reports in InformationWeek, Apple is fighting a legal attempt to sanction the use of unauthorized iPhone software by claiming phone networks are at risk when the company isn't in control of what users do with their phones.

Using a jailbroken iPhone, "a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data," Apple asserts in its Copyright Office filing.
I'm so not buying it. From InformationWeek: Apple Fears Jailbroken iPhones Could Kill Phone Networks I don't even believe that Apple thinks jailbroken iPhones can crash cell-tower software. I think it's just an excuse to exercize Apple's unfortunate need to control every aspect of how people use its products. Lots of other mobile phones use software unsanctioned software without causing greivious bodily harm. Apple's other issues with jailbroken iPhones cuts much closer to the company's real problem with the practice:
Apple also asserts that a variety of other harms follow from the use of jailbroken iPhones. These include: crashes and instability, compromised public safety, invasion of privacy, exposure of children to harmful content, exposure of users to malware, the inability to update software, cellular network degradation, piracy of mobile phone apps, an increase in support costs, the discouragement of innovation, and damage to Apple's brand and to its relationship with developers.
Apple claims to be protecting consumer and the network. Hogwash. It's protecting itself, pure and simple. In fact, this whole kerfuffle reminds me of a similar issue way back before cell phones. Back in the day, consumers wanted to connect their own phones to AT&T's wired telephone network, but the company complained that unauthorized equipment could harm the network. Under pressure from lawsuits, AT&T eventually relented to the point where they'd allow people to connect their own equipment, but only if they rented a special "interconnect box" or network interface device to protect the network -- for about the same price that AT&T rented phones. Although AT&T said the boxes were secret, someone eventually opened one up. What did they find? A jack on one end, another jack on the other end, and a wire connecting them. Gotcha! In many ways, that was the beginning of the end for AT&T's hegemony over the nation's telephone network. I see the same arrogance coming from Apple today.

Want more? Here's a link to some background on when AT&T thought it owned everything:

Under its own corporate policy of "foreign attachment restrictions," AT&T engaged in exclusive dealing practices by prohibiting the attachment of equipment or consumer-owned devices not made by itself or its manufacturing subsidiary, Western Electric. These foreign attachment restrictions were justified by AT&T's interest in creating compatibility standards and maintaining reliability of its network. However, several lawsuits followed which challenged AT&T's exclusive dealing practices. In the Hush-A-Phone v. U.S. (1956) case, AT&T lost in its attempt to ban a mouthpiece hushing device on its phones. Similarly, in the Carterphone (1968) decision, the FCC successfully set precedent in ending AT&T's foreign attachment restrictions. In Carterphone, it ruled against AT&T's ban on another company's attachment of a small cordless phone device. AT&T's ban on various network equipment and devices not made by its own manufacturing subsidiary hindered the use of new and efficient technologies in its provision of phone service. The FCC's decisions began a pattern of incremental deregulation of AT&T's network. AT&T's situation only worsened when inflation in the 1960s led to declining profitability. In response, AT&T delivered poor phone service and maintenance, while trying to reduce its labor costs. Moreover, a growing demand for information services and equipment that AT&T was not able to respond to as a voice-only monopoly provider.
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