While Microsoft has been endlessly criticised over its licensing and anti-competitive practices, nobody seems concerned over the completely locked-down iPad. What’s up with that?
In the way-back days when Microsoft was top dog in the computing world and iOS was but a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye, Microsoft was frequently criticised over its business and competitive practices and the limitations and restrictions it placed on users. The software maker was demonized because components such as Internet Explorer could not be removed, because the bundling of applications such as Windows Media Player was considered anti-competitive, because the proprietary features added to open source standards enabled Microsoft to take de facto ownership of those standards and … well, you name it, and Microsoft has probably been criticised for it at some point in time.
So it’s rather odd that nobody seems to blink an eye when Apple makes a computer that’s much more closed and restrictive than anything ever dreamed up in Redmond. I am, of course, talking about the iPad. Unlike Windows devices which enable users to buy whatever programs they want from wherever they want, iPads limit people to Apple-approved apps from the App Store.
So what, you say? The iPhone imposes identical restrictions, so what’s the big deal? Yes, indeed – both devices run iOS and so both impose identical restrictions. The difference, however, is that the iPad is a computer, not simply a smartphone. For some people, the iPad will be their only computer. It’s what they’ll use to send emails, edit photos, create spreadsheets, buy music and watch movies. And, of course, the only way to do any of these things is with iTunes and Apple-approved apps bought from the App Store. So much for a free market, eh.
Further, services such as iCloud and iTunes Match have the potential to make it difficult for people to ever break their ties with Apple. Not familiar with Match? Apple says this this about it:
iTunes Match is a feature of iTunes in the Cloud that allows you to access your entire personal music library from any computer with iTunes 10.5.1 or later installed or any iOS 5.0.1 or later device with an active Internet connection. iTunes Match requires an annual subscription of $24.99 a year. Your subscription will automatically renew at the end of your subscription. Once you have subscribed to iTunes Match and matched or uploaded your eligible music, you will be able to access your music in iCloud directly from within your iTunes Music library, or the Music Player app on your iOS 5 device.
Basically, your entire music collection – including any tracks that may have been illegally downloaded – is analysed by iTunes and if the music service has the same track, you can then access the iTunes version from any iOS device or any device than runs iTunes for a $24.99 annual subscription. PC Magazine’s Dan Costa calls this “library liberation.” I call it shackling users to Apple. The service has yet to launch in Canada but is already available in the U.S.
Steve Jobs once said, “We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it’s uncomfortable.” Yes, it is indeed uncomfortable – especially if Apple starts to eat away at the concept of a free and open market.
All your base are belong to us.
What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.