Saturday, September 29, 2007 is evil

This morning I posted a joke. Although it's not an original joke, I came across it earlier today in a long forgotten folder in my email system, and I simply couldn't resist posting it. Ninety minutes later, and Enda posts a comment telling me that "Bea Arthur (she of Golden Girls) does a great telling of this on iTunes". In fact, long ago I think I've probably heard Bea Arthur telling this joke, but I click on the iTunes link anyway only to get
and suddenly I realise that I hate Apple. Why are they forcing me to buy something from the UK iTunes web site if it's not available there, but presumably is available from the US iTunes web site? If something isn't available at but is available at then I can purchase from without any problems.

The current story about unlocked iPhones becoming useless is the worst type of corporate behaviour. I find it hard to understand why a major corporation in "the land of the free" insists on trying to force people to behave in the way that it wants them to. Fundamentally, Apple has got the same attitude as the Burmese dictators who're currently repressing their citizens so brutally. In the evolution of human civilisation, time and time again it's been proved that co-operation and openness are better than segregation and secrecy, democracy is better than dictatorship.

So I think one that one can characterise Apple's behaviour as Evil. There may be reasons to be wary of Google these days, but as far as I can see, Google's corporate philosophy puts them way ahead of Apple.


Tommo said...

It's not Apple, it's the record companies who believe in this archaic system of dividing up the world. If Apple didn't make it hard for you to buy from another country's itunes store then none of the record companies would have agreed to have their catalogues on itunes.

GB said...

Is Bea Arthur telling a joke really controlled by record companies Tommo? Maybe, but Apple certainly didn't need to trash the iPhones of people who unlocked their phones to get features that apple don't provide. And why shouldn't someone have the freedom to connect their iPhone to a different network, especially when they go travelling abroad?

GB xxx

David said...

Oh so now its Apple's fault for making a product that doesn't function properly after people have been tampering with it. They made it very clear that when you buy the iPhone then your stuck with one network. I would expect a banker to know that at&t would not have accepted to make a deal with Apple if they were to make the iPhone hack-friendly. Had they done so, Apple would be ridiculed by the whole industry for not making a safe device and thus people will questions Apple's take on security as a company. Anyways, Apple does listen to their customers and probably issue a fix for the damaged iPhones, EVEN THOUGH it was not their fault. As for travelling abroad there is always the Roaming Service that most networks provide.

Don't take this the wrong way. I love your blog, it's great :D
No I don't work for apple or at&t - I'm an IB student.

Sir Wobin said...

I must confess up front that I'm an Apple whore. I have 2 ipods, a G4 powerbook (gathering dust because I mostly use) an shiny new iMac (no apple tattoo yet). I dearly love the Apple computing experience. I work professionally with technology and can honestly say that it I am noticably more productive, less stressed and enjoy what I'm doing more than when I have to use Microsoft's dirt poor excuse of an expensive operating system.

About iTunes, Tommo is right. Apple argues publicly with the music industry about that modern fairy tale called digital rights management. Tied up in DRM is where and how stores may sell and customers may listen. Apple objects to this (perhaps cynically just to look good for their iTunes customers) but must agree to music industry demands.

The iPhone issue is just stupid. The root cause of choice sparcity is that the GSM frequencies are a scarce resource. Governments auction frequency rights to a small cartel of phone companies that gain the right to dictate how business is done on their GSM spectrum. The same technique that gives GSM operators the ability to blacklist stolen phones, could theoretically be used to switch off all of a manufacturers handsets if that manufacturer did not play ball with the network on the network's terms. I've not heard of this happening before but the mobile networks game is very much a bully tactics game.

If you're a new handset manufacturer, as Apple is, the initial batches of handsets are probably going to be the most expensive you make. The networks heavily subsidise handsets that are offered on contracts, thus to get the iPhone cost to consumers down, Apple has probably given exclusivity to one network per country for a much higher than normal handset subsidy.

Apple are probably acting to protect that subsidy by turning off iPhones that do not register with the subsidising network. The network is happy to pay the higher subsidy because it will convert or keep a high end voice and data customer. We may see future iPhone deals that are SIM-free but that will devalue the exclusivity agreement and thus lower the subsidy.

I don't think Apple are inherently evil but I do think they are doing business with partners who don't play well with others. Does that still make them evil?

Lest we forget, Steve Jobs isn't rich because he runs a charity.

Enda P said...

Eeeps, who knew Bea Arthur could have set this off!

I'm a total Apple whore (I like that!), but even I'm not happy with their behaviour of late: charging people to make ringtones from tracks they've already bought, making people purchase games that they've already bought if they purchase the new iPods, older video out "made For iPod' cables not compatible with the new range, the denial of the touch screen problem etc. They are messing with the idea of backwards compatibility at their peril.

Let's all buy Zunes! ;)

Sasha said...

Hi GB,

Evil is what you've just called capitalism! They have on social obligation to consumers but to their profits margin. Whatever will give them and their corporate partners higher margins.

Even google does that in the pretext of free stuff! If you have a gmail account and see the number of ads based on the content of the mail you get, you'll know what gives!

And by the way, unlocking the iphone will not make useless! I'm in IT, I know :-) As for the music, itunes is obligated by the record companies so as to minimise piracy. Apple actually wants to open the ipod to play music from any source.

Enough lecture from the pink tech :-)


Enda P said...

Hey Sasha,

What do you make of this?

E :)

GB said...

OK guys, I admit that not letting me buy an mp3 in the UK that's available in the USA isn't evil. None the less, the example I gave in this post is certainly an example of appalling customer service. How about telling me where I can buy it? How about telling me where I need to go for more information on the issues, or who to complain to? Or in my case, how about just telling me something about the item, which in fact is probably all I wanted to know. When and where it was recorded, something about the artist. That doesn't cost apple or the record companies anything, it's just the pre-purchase information that's available in the USA.

But I still find the arguments about the iPhone situation unconvincing. Firstly Apple didn't have to do an exclusivity deal with AT&T, that was their choice. Other handset manufacturers prosper without such deals, and certainly given the initial euphoria relating to the iPhone, I believe that the exclusivity deal was unnecessary. In the long term, companies do best the more they can align their interests with the interests of their customers.

These days phones are miniature computers. And it's natural that people should want their phones to do more, not just what Apple wants to let them to do, and it is evil to try and exercise inappropriate control over people's lives. I don't think google's adverts fit into this category, it's not even close.

The surprising thing is that you'd have thought that Steve Jobs would have learned from his early 1980's failure to make Apple the dominant home computer. The fact that the IBM PC was open for people to develop whatever they wanted was an important component in it's success, and my recollection is that Apple's early computers were very closed by comparison.

In the end all evil dictatorships fail. Although the iPod had turned Apple into a success story, let's hope that this iPhone fiasco will put the company's fortunes into decline again!

GB xxx

Sir Wobin said...

Apple and its German partner T-Mobile are being forced by a court order to unlock iPhones to other networks. As a result they are also selling non-network locked phones and the price tag is revealing. €1000 for the unlocked iPhones versus €400 for a T-Mobile iPhone. This means that the network was stumping up 60% of the handset costs.

Thought this would be an interesting follow up after my earlier comments.