The most stationary of all stationery items, scissors hate to be hurried. I learned this as a child. You did too, probably. Don't run with scissors. A clear and simple instruction. Pencils, glue, staples... no problem. For them, like us, it's a finite existence. Time is short so don't dilly dally. But don't run with scissors.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

the iphoney war and apple’s transformation into the AOL of mobile

Two kinds of queue form in the run up to a new launch from Apple.

The first is, of course, fanboyz who cannot wait to be among the very first to own the new iPhone, iPad or iWhatever.

The second is the nay-sayers, typically Android-owners who cannot wait to be among the first to mock said new and shiny Apple hardware. Although it’s generally the software they take issue with.

Thus it was this last week when the iPhone 5 came out and iOS 6 was released.

It’s as dull as it is predictable.

I used an iPhone for about three years and have been an Android user for the past year. Each has their good and bad points – like most things, really.

The ideology underpinning these two platforms is very different though.

There’s an excellent piece about in this GigaOM, which reports on a talk given by RIM’s Sebastian Marineau-Mes last week on the need for curated openness

Hat-tip to @craigdeakin for tweeting about it and bringing it to my attention.

Apple increasingly reminds me of AOL, something I think I first said in 2010. Surely I ought to have an original thought, but anyway...

Back in the mid 1990s AOL made getting online really uncomplicated and non-confrontational for its users. But the internet they were accessing wasn’t like the internet the rest of us were playing and working in. Eventually the walled-garden, where you were allowed only what your provider wanted you to have (or just the bits they thought you needed) suffered a breach.

In droves, AOL users defected to less tightly-bound online environments. You can track similar patterns in many early online communities and groupings – great at first because they were easy, they failed to keep pace with the changing needs and tastes of their users, who soon outgrew them.

I’m not saying the same thing could happen to Apple.

But that’s only because the main alternative in the mobile world – Android – looks like a cross between 'Lord of the Flies' and a food fight in a soft-play centre by comparison with the order and control Apple instills – despite it’s cool counter-culture image, Apple has become the man in recent years. Massive financial success tends to make one want to protect ones interests, after all.

With each new iOS version Apple has seemed, in recent years at any rate, to be clawing back control and I have to admit part of me really admires the slow steady way in which that's being done. Like so many frogs in pans of gently warming water, iPhone (and iPad) users probably won’t realise they’re being cooked until it’s too late.

Try migrating from iPhone to Android and continuing to carry your music around with you like you used to have it in your iTunes library. Oh hai digital rights management. Now, where did I put my iPod?

At the moment, Google is too busy grafting additional fingers on to its hands so it can make friendly with all the pies. This cannot continue indefinitely.

Once it has reached sufficient critical mass in its key operations, markets and offerings, there will be a move to consolidate what it’s doing. At that point, I wonder if someone at Google will decide its time to stop pissfarting around and offer Apple customers a safe and enticing alternative, with no walls but plenty of garden for everyone.

I got a tweet from Charles Arthur, the technology editor at the Guardian. I was flattered that he'd read my piece. Here it is:

Well, I worried that I may now look a bit of a prat. While it wouldn't be the first time, it's not a state-of-being I like having thrust upon me.

To that end, here (below) is a screengrab of the sync history from when I synced my phone and laptop at around 2:30pm.

You'll learn two things from this. 

The first is that the term DRM is used and given as a reason for the failure of certain things to sync, thereby mitigating the risk of my looking like the sort of prat who mightn't know that "apple (sic) hasn't had DRM on music for years."

I should stress, I am not arguing with Charles. I am merely drawing your attention to the fact that the piece, which is written purely as opinion not fact, is drawn upon my experiences not my assumptions.  It may well be the case there's no DRM on music via Apple. Yet it appears here in an error message.

The second thing you'll learn is there's right old motley collection of stuff to be found a-lurking in my iTunes library. From "My Sharona" to "Finn Family Moomintroll", from "Psycho Killer" to "Brideshead Revisited".

To Charles's other point, yes there are ways around this stuff, but I think the ease-of-use aspect of my piece was apparent. This piece is a comment on how Apple make it easy for you to stay and (relatively) hard for you to leave - hence the analogy of frogs being slowly cooked. It is not a "How to..." guide, which is just as well really, as I'm sure you'd agree.


Unknown said...

You wrote: "Try migrating from iPhone to Android and continuing to carry your music around with you like you used to have it in your iTunes library. Oh hai digital rights management. Now, where did I put my iPod?"

To be accurate (not fair, just accurate) the list you've posted shows what looks like a mixture of music, books and films. Books and films still have DRM up the wazoo - no disagreement. Music, not so, and hasn't had for years, and anyway from the start it has been feasible to burn a CD of the DRM-protected music and then re-import it as unprotected AAC or MP3.

With books and films and TV shows - yes, you are stuffed. Yet this is not unique to Apple. I think you'd find if you tried to move from Android to iPhone, or Symbian or Windows Phone to Android and/or iPhone, with that content you'd hit just the same roadblocks. The roadblocks are built at the instruction of the content owners. Certainly, Apple complies - and so do everyone else, at least if they get to sell/rent that content.

In that regard, *everyone* is operating walled gardens. Even Android. Content gets trapped in an ecosystem, and to a significant extent the ecosystem owners *like* that because it keeps you buying stuff with them, and curtails your moving to others.

If one starts from the position that DRM is Evul (though as the spouse of someone who makes money from selling books, and sees her books pirated every single day, I don't necessarily agree) then sure, all walled gardens, ie all ecosystems, are evil. The irony is that you can only tempt content owners to put content into ecosystems where they're sure there's a wall to stop it being stolen. Try torrenting your Spotify streams or the Spotify cache on your computer. It's not for amateurs. Why? Because the content owners don't want it to happen.

Sean said...

FYI - the comment above is from Charles Arthur, but for some reason it came through as being from "unknown".