Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wired's Leander Kahney: Why I Want a Locked iPhone

Today, Wired's Leander Kahney posted an article about why he wants a locked iPhone, an argument in obvious contrast to Cory's earlier post. Kahney's post certainly brings up valid and engaging points, the central notion that the iPhone is a consumer phone, just as the iPod was a consumer mp3 player, and by keeping it all in house, Apple can ensure a successful user-expierience.

Kahney agrees with what most see as gross exaggeration by Steve Jobs that one phone could take down the whole Cingular network if infected by malicious third-party software, but does note that it could take down one phone, and in Apple's mind, that is damage enough. Kahney claims that Apple long ago ceeded the 'bussines market' to Microsoft, and instead is attempting to capture the entertainment-consumer market. In such sense, 'user experience', as Kahney puts it, is absolutley key.

While I agree with Kahney to an extent, I find his rhetoric worrisome. Yes indeed, power-users may still gravitate towards products such as the Blackberry and the Treo while users looking for a simple yet powerful interface will gravitate towards the iPhone. Perhaps they won't intend to use it to download third-party software, but isn't the fact that they can't a little disturbing? In his book From CounterCulture to CyberCulture, Fred Turner outlines how computers went from the Orwellian manifestation of all social-ills to the utopian savior of generations. Assuming that the user doesn't know how to use his product, and thus restricting their use, seems like a very large step backwards, especially from a digital trend-setter such as Apple.