EFF: ‘Apple’s Crystal Prison and the Future of Open Platforms’

“While Apple’s products have many virtues, they are marred by an ugly set of restrictions on what users and programmers can do with them. This is most especially true of iOS, though other Apple products sometimes suffer in the same way,” Micah Lee and Peter Eckersley write for The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“In this article we will delve into the kinds of restrictions that Apple, phone companies, and Microsoft have been imposing on mobile computers; the excuses these companies make when they impose these restrictions; the dangers this is creating for open innovation; why Apple in particular should lead the way in fixing this mess,” Lee and Eckersley write. “We also propose a bill of rights that need to be secured for people who are purchasing smartphones and other pocket computers.”

Lee and Eckersley write, “Apple’s recent products, especially their mobile iOS devices, are like beautiful crystal prisons, with a wide range of restrictions imposed by the OS, the hardware, and Apple’s contracts with carriers as well as contracts with developers. Only users who can hack or ‘jailbreak’ their devices can escape these limitations… Unfortunately, Apple is building more of the restrictions that it pioneered with iOS into Mac OS X for laptops and desktops. Apple started running the Mac App Store in early 2011 to sell Mac software. Like the iOS App Store, Apple takes a 30% cut of all software sold.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Certain people need to realize that Apple doesn’t just “take a 30% cut” for nothing. They provide very valuable services to software developers (distribution, visibility, increased unit sales which means increased profits, etc.) Most savvy developers understand this. For users, Apple’s curated App Stores provide, among others things, convenience, peace of mind and lower prices as developers who move multiple times more copies than they could on their own are able to lower prices due to markedly increased volume.

Sometimes “freedom fighters” looking from the outside in don’t quite grasp that Apple gives much more than it takes.


    1. What prison is there if I may leave at anytime I wish? Some look at fortification and see a prison. I see sanctuary. I see a refuge from the vast majority of harmful and malicious attempts to steal my meager secrets and exploit them for nefarious purposes. I know without a doubt when I download software, literally instructions that my computer will follow, from Apple, that they will not be instructions to subvert my computer. I can rest comfortably in my “crystal prison.”

      I also know that were Apple to leave the doors open as it were, you would be among the first to scream bloody murder from the rafters about Apple’s poor security measures and how they’ve harmed users.

      And, concerning your desire to “tinker” as it were, tinker with your own computer as much as you like. Code away! Learn learn learn. Nothing is stopping you as Wozniak indicated. (I think he’s been hitting the sauce a great deal since Steve died). There isn’t a thing about the Mac or the iPhone that you are prevented from learning. There are only policies on what Apple will and will not allow into the crystal palace and I am more than fine with that. No innovation has been thwarted. Show us something truly innovative and I’m sure Apple will take notice.

      Until then, please leave those of us in our crystal palace alone. You can enjoy yourselves in the straw huts of Ubuntu if you wish, and the illusion of power that it gives you.

  1. A prison? Please. Do people sign up, nay PAY to get into prison? Pffft. I am utterly pleased by what I get in iOS. Every June I’m taken to new heights. My iPhone is my key out of the prison of the fragmented, ugly, gouging, ridiculous, visionless masses of corporate greed that infect nearly every other aspect of my life…

  2. The Apple experience in iOS is great even if you don’t download any apps. there are many free apps. The paid apps are cheaper than equivalent android paid apps. you can download free book reading apps and borrow tons of material for free from your local library. When you choose to take part in apple’s “crystal prison” and buy apps, the experience is tip-top, too – def more features and bang for the buck than the same android apps.

  3. Nothing says you can’t buy and install boxed software or download from a web site. This is free enterprise and convenience at its best. The world is going all digital and Aplke is the best and got there first you dont think removing and shipping physical software not to mention the reduced environmental impact is worth 30%? Another idiot article written by another idiot unable to think. Buy microcrap or a chrome book or Linux if u don’t like it. Free enterprise is still alive and well, doofus. : S

    1. Exactly! Developers can still sell boxed software or downloads from their own stores. Users can also set options for software installs such as App Store only or more liberal. I would say Apple users have more choice.

  4. I just love them especially all the bright colors and sparkles
    that they generate on walls and ceilings. Oh, wait, I thought you said crystal prisms!!
    Never mind.

  5. I just don’t get these people. I remember a talk by the great Bertrant Serlet, when he talked about APIs in OS X and the process of how they move from internal APIs, through testing, then after years of thorough bug squashing they release a public API. He stressed the importance of making sure the API is as perfect as it can be before they release it publicly;

    I’d take the wisdom and knowledge of Mr. Serlet over these assholes any day of the week.

    Sent from my very comfortable and clean crystal prison.

  6. Too many so-called freedom fighters have no concept of freedom. A “bill of rights” for mobile computer purchasers? Please. Just another set of rules.

  7. MDN- Don’t forget that the AppStore also handles all customer issues and returns. On the android store, developers are expected to micro manage their own returns and issues.

    1. Good point. I have on occasion queried the effectiveness of the software I downloaded from the app store, not being consistent with the description the developer put on it, and have been refunded in full by Apple.

      They do great work managing the app store.

  8. There are many articles like this, from self-appointed saviours of imprisoned Apple users.

    Won’t these Forces-of-Imposed-Freedom feel embarrassed, when they storm the ‘prison’ walls, and the residents not only refuse to leave, but become angry that outsiders are trying to change our relationship with the only computer company that has ever operated with the consumers’ interests at the forefront?

    1. My sentiments exactly!

      Additionally, such FUD directed at the most news-worthy company of our day is the perfect way for these “self-appointed saviours of imprisoned Apple users” to get attention they crave.

      Hands off my relationship with Apple!

  9. I wrote this to one of the EFF authors:

    Look, if you want to hack your phone and expose yourself to all kinds of maladies, great – go buy an Android device. As my Italian father used to say, “quando si arriva, scrivere.”

    Get a clue – some of us want devices that “just work.” I am happy in my “crystal prison” and I am NOT some newbie user. I bought my first computer in 1978 and have been productive in at least a dozen different OSes – and in iOS I don’t need root privileges – or any of the other stupid things you want – to do so. 

    As a mature, intelligent adult I realize that freedom in a democracy and in computing means that I can’t scream “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, or have certain user privileges that would put either my device, or others, at risk. Apparently you and the rest of the “freedom fighters” at EFF must have skipped that social studies class.

    Sent from my iPad

    1. I agree. What happened to individual choice and the marketplace deciding? If people think Apple is evil and putting them in “prison” they can simply buy someone else’s phone! What is it with people who want to eliminate choices in the name of openness and fairness, resulting in only one government approved choice? Is anyone old enough to remember landline phones sold only by government approved monopolies?

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