5 Reasons You Should Be Scared of Apple
Let's just say it: Nobody has changed the way we interact with technology like Apple has over the last 10 years. Even if the iPad turns out to be the disaster that many are anticipating, Steve Jobs will still be seen as the hero who turns top-end technology into friendly little gadgets even your grandma can use.
But recently, a faint chorus has been growing--thousands of tech geeks suggesting that if you look under Apple's shiny white veneer, you'll find some practices that are less than user friendly. In fact, some of the things Jobs and Apple are being accused of are so over the top, Lex Luthor would have to take off his hat ... and then use it to cover the dark stain spreading across the front of his pants.
Apple Versus Their Customers
When you buy Apple products, you don't just buy computers or gadgets. Apple sells iPods and iPhones that play music purchased in their iTunes store. It's all part of Jobs's sales pitch to people who pride themselves on individuality. Even before there were ads featuring the kid from Die Hard 4 bickering with John Hodgeman in heaven, the message was been the same: PCs are for those people who follow the herd, but you choose Mac because you think differently.
The prototypical Mac user: Thought differently, didn't know how to use a computer.
And the message seemed to take. In the court of public opinion, Apple is the hip, young underdog challenging his competition. Who have fared... less well.
The "Hitler Test" is a widely accepted yardstick of public opinion.
But there's an unfortunate catch with Apple products. Even after you spend your hard earned money on fancy Jobsian wonder-toys, you still don't really own them. Turns out Jobs might have literally been speaking in the first person when he started slapping I's in front of everything he sold. As in, "I am Steve Jobs and I just sold you suckers a gadget that iDesigned, iControl and iBreak if you break my arbitrary rules."
Think we're exaggerating? Say you want to buy an iPhone. If your town isn't on one of the postcards Luke Wilson reads in the AT&T wireless commercials, you're going to have to "jailbreak" your new gadget. Don't worry; you won't need any digging spoons or defensive sodomy. Jailbreaking is just a term for modifying your iPhone in order to make it do what every other gadget on the market does: Whatever you tell it to. For instance, without jailbreaking you can't install unapproved third party applications, customize your user interface, or unlock your phone for use with another carrier.
More like fascistphone, right?
Again, manufacturers of other cell phones and gadgets generally don't care what customers do once they've paid for their products with good, honest credit card debt. But Apple goes beyond complaining. They will actively break your shit for disobeying their arbitrary rules.
Yes, Apple has sent out updates specifically designed to disable phones that have been modified to work with carriers other than AT&T, or to run Microsoft Office. Seriously now, we'd be inventing new, fluorescent shades of berserk if, say, a PC manufacturer broke your computer for installing Linux.
So how come Apple gets away with it?
Apple Versus The First Amendment
Jason O'Grady writes a column about Apple for the tech news website ZDNet. One day O'Grady came across some inside information about an Apple product. He posted it in his blog and then got back to whatever tech journalists spend their time doing. Masturbating while fondling digital cameras, probably.
Upon finding out about the leak, Apple could have taken the free publicity and ignored the whole thing or simply asked O'Grady to remove his article. Instead, they went absolutely batshit crazy and hulked out on some poor nerd who gives them free advertising for a living.
They subpoenaed his ISP, tried to get them to take down his website and source of employment, and also subpoenaed O'Grady himself in order to get the name of the source who leaked the information. Staring down the barrel of Apple's 14 billion dollar legal shotgun, Jason went to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for help, causing a legal cluster fuck that went all the way to the state appeals court before a judge finally convinced Apple and Jobs to act like a couple of Fonzies and be cool.
By now you're probably pretty curious to know just what sort of leak Apple thought was worth attempting to destroy O'Grady's career over. Was it a new iPod? Leaked code for an upcoming version of OS X? The iPhone?
Nope. It was a FireWire breakout box for GarageBand.
What's that? You have no fucking clue what a FireWire breakout box is? Neither do most people. It's a minor peripheral product. Sort of makes you terrified for the poor bastard who leaks something important like ...
Apple Versus The Poor Bastard Who May or May Not Have Leaked an iPhone
Apple is famous across the world for having some fairly strict policies on information security. On the transparency spectrum, Apple's corporate policy makes the CIA look like one of those sliding glass doors toddlers always run into on YouTube. Beyond the usual security doors and guards, according to the New York Times, "Some Apple workers in the most critical product-testing rooms must cover up devices with black cloaks when they are working on them, and turn on a red warning light when devices are unmasked so that everyone knows to be extra-careful, said." The article didn't outright say that Steve Jobs has been implanting his employees with psycho-receptive "pain chips" designed to inflict unbearable agony upon the disloyal, but it was pretty heavily implied.
So what's wrong with the secrecy? Absolutely nothing. Except when it indirectly leads to torture and suicide. Then it's probably time for management to throttle things back just a smidge. It was reported earlier this year, that Apple reached that point over a possible leak of an iPhone prototype.
Sun Danyong was a young engineer who worked at the Shenzhen factory of Chinese electronics manufacturer, Foxconn. His job had something to do with handling new iPhone prototypes, one of which was lost or stolen while in his care. Apple has a zero tolerance policy for corporate leaks from the companies it works with, so Foxconn knew Danyong's slip-up could potentially cost them tens of millions of dollars in future business once Apple dropped the hammer.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, Foxconn did the only thing a self-respecting sociopathic megacorporation could: torture the crap out of their employee. Facing another session over the missing iPhone prototype, Danyong leapt to his death from a 12th floor apartment building.
Apple didn't torture Danyong themselves, but their maddeningly intense security policies set the mood. Prototypes and specs of other company's next generation devices leak out all the time, and no one gets hauled into interrogation chambers by corporate police over it.
Employees being forced to work weekends and holidays without being allowed to tell their families; spy cameras inside of offices; engineers being forced to work under sheets... isn't this going a bit too far for consumer electronics? We expect this kind of security around, say, secret government bases and hidden volcano lairs, not from the makers of the Pippin.
Apple Versus App Developers
To date, over three billion apps have been downloaded from the iPhone App Store. Of course, Calendars and RSS Readers and flashlights and other "useful" apps only account for part of the over 150,000 the store offers. With hundreds of apps being submitted every week, you'd think Apple would have its hands full rejecting all of the useless ones built to simulate farting, drinking beer, brandishing a light-saber, shaking a baby and everything in between.
Bringing the old world charm and elegance of a tape deck to numb-nuts hipsters too young to have ever used one.
Well, no. All that stuff gets through. Apple's main concern in policing the App Store seems to be stomping down on competition. Applications that duplicate Apple or AT&T apps (and do a better job of it) are likely to see the banhammer's vengeance visited upon them. MailWrangler, PodCaster and, most famously, Google Voice have all been banned for "duplicating functionality."
Take for instance, Apple's rejecting the Eucalyptus app for obscenity.
Ooooh! Eucalyptus. That's got to be slang for something kinky as all hell! Was this a social networking app for a very special subset of furries? A hook-up site for swinging Botanists? No, actually it was an Ebook app for public domain works. Since it provided access to a Victorian-era translation of the Kama Sutra, the app was deemed inappropriate. We asked Apple if they saw any irony in the fact that the iPhone's web browser provided access to a billion websites far filthier than an ancient translation of a religious text. Sadly, Apple's board of directors was too busy banning dancing in small Midwest towns to be reached.
Jilted developers and Google aren't the only people pissed off at Apple's App Store policies. The boys at the FCC are investigating the App Store for anti-competitive practices. Apple responded to the accusation, which kicked off yet another gigantic legal clusterfuck the results of which have yet to be decided, but are likely to be retarded.
Apple Versus Absolutely Everyone: The Masterplan
You might be asking why any of this should matter to you. After all, most of Apple's dickery is aimed at a small, tech savvy minority. People who know how to hack their iPhones or program applications or work for a giant Apple subsidiary in China. Jobs has always known that the vast majority of people think technology is something to watch porn on. Lucky for him, he's fantastic at designing technology that those people intuitively understand how to use. Unlucky for the non-savvy majority, there are increasing signs that we're the eventual target of Apple's master plan.
If you're one of the tens of millions of people who have iTunes installed on their Windows machines, you might want to open up a search and see if Apple's "Safari" web browser has made its way onto your computer. No, you didn't download that on purpose and then forget about it. In March of 2008, Apple stuck a copy of Safari into a routine update for iTunes. They set the 22.65 MB file as part of the default download. Users who just skimmed over the update notice without reading it (IE: nearly everyone) soon found themselves with unwanted software.
Whether you want it or not.
Response from the media and major figures in the tech industry was immediate and powerfully negative. The CEO of Mozilla even wrote a big blog entry blasting Apple. As he saw it, this move of Apple's wasn't just annoying, it posed a risk to the security of the whole Internet.
In July of 2008, another iTunes update went out with a hidden program clinging to it like poop to a hairy ass. This time, the backlash was even more severe. Internet watchdog group Stopbadware.org accused Apple of spreading Malware. Bloggers again raised their flabby arms in protest. Apple quickly rescinded the update..
This is what real heroes look like.
So they've obviously learned their lesson, right? Well, in October of 2009, a new application from Apple landed in the U.S. Patent Office. Apple's idea was to program devices to periodically interrupt users with unskippable ads. The ads would temporarily halt performance of the device in order to "compel attention." That on its own is pretty nightmarish but, innovators that they are, Apple found a way to crank it up to that hard-to-reach "Lovecraftian" level.
"Apple can further determine whether a user pays attention to the advertisement. The determination can include performing, while the advertisement is presented, an operation that urges the user to respond; and detecting whether the user responds to the performed operation. If the response is inappropriate or nonexistent, the system will go into lock down mode in some form or other until the user complies. In the case of an iPod, the sound could be disconnected rendering it useless until compliance is met. For the iPhone, no calls will be able to be made or received."Ho-lee
And this isn't just some crazy, pie-in-the-sky idea some engineer at Apple had and decided to get patented. Steve fucking Jobs had his name attached to the application. Is this where the man who holds the reins to the entire Apple Corporation sees his product line going? A future where cheap, malware and prime-time TV-ad-riddled devices flood the market?
Unfortunately, most of us won't know until our porn is being interrupted by an ad for FreeCreditReport.com.
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