September 19, 2007

iPhone & iPod: contain or disengage?

Back when we had commies to worry about, someone came up with the concept of "engage and contain": eg, rather than avoid them as we'd been doing, we should trade and talk and travel there, and by doing so be able to contain their evil.

Similar ideas exist today on China and Iran (And, honestly, people -- do we really worry about being attacked by Iran? Really? Is this even on our RADAR?) Google is infamous recently for installing government-censored Google in China, with what I think were the purest of intentions -- the idea that more knowledge naturally makes the country more democratic.

But even Google executives have recently said they think they've made a mistake, because by getting too close to the Chinese government, they've had to make compromise after compromise, until finally Google finds themselves an accomplice to evil instead of an adversary to it.


So it is with iTunes. Apple has engaged two of the most cock-thirsty and money-grubbing conglomerates in the United States -- the movie and record industries -- in what we all wanted to believe was an attempt to engage and contain them. And, initially, we all agreed Apple was doing good: they had, for the first time, made legal downloads more compelling than stealing music. For a single data point, I've personally bought 915 songs from the iTunes music store, and hundreds of TV episodes and dozens of movies. I own six iPods and have bought 18 iPhones to give away.

And we all took heart when Steve published that letter saying how much he hated DRM, and how he'd drop it if the labels would, and even if the rumors are correct and EMI was already planning to drop DRM and Steve just rushed in and took credit, it was still a bold stance for him to take; a challenge to the rest of the industry. And I immediately upgraded all the tunes I could to iTunes Plus, and bought a bunch more albums. And it was good.


But recently, well... the generous view would be that Apple's screwing up, and the non-generous view would be that they are just plain getting greedy.

No, I'm not talking about the iPhone price reduction. Honestly, I was happy to see the price go down, even though I could have personally saved $3,000 if I'd waited to buy the 15 phone I bought before the reduction. I mean, c'est la vie, it's technology, baby.

But why is the iPhone locked to a single carrier, so I can't travel internationally with it? There's really only one viable reason: Apple wanted a share of the carrier's profits, which meant giving AT&T an exclusive deal. Which meant, we get screwed so Apple can make more money. It's that simple.

And the iPhone is a closed system, like the iPods before it, so third parties can only develop software for it if they are EXTREMELY close to Apple. This is an incredibly frightening trend. As Apple gets more and more of its revenue from non-Mac devices, they are also getting more and more of their revenue from devices that simply exclude third parties.

I know Steve Jobs; he's actually amazingly like my old business partner Mike Matas. They both love closed systems, for a simple reason -- they both know they're smarter than anyone else on the planet, and they don't need anyone else mucking up their systems. Steve would rather have no third parties for Mac OS X if he could get away with it -- Apple, of course, would do a much better job on anything, but since customers insist on Photoshop and Office and other apps, he puts up with them. (Well, except, now Apple has their own office suite.) Steve knows that on a computer, having a broad spectrum of apps is more important that having them all be Apple-perfect.

But on iPods, Airports, Apple TVs, and now iPhones, Apple wants every app perfect. Which is nice, in theory. In practice, it means innovation only happens at Apple's pace. The marketplace of ideas is much smaller, and the devices are much poorer because of it. (Example: Why can't I stream music from my iPhone or iPod touch to my Airport Express?)

There are some third parties making money from the iPod -- hardware accessory makers. But even then, Apple is trying to charge them a "Made for iPod" sticker tax... for adding no value. And since Apple controls the stores in which iPods are sold, they have a pretty effective stick to use against those who don't comply - you won't be where the players are. But with the latest iPods Apple's gone a step further, and disabled some docking stations that don't have a special chip in them provided by Apple; forcing customers to use only Apple-approved accessories. Apple's emulating the most pernicious qualities of Nintendo and the Microsoft XBox -- you pay us a tax or you don't work with our systems.

But Apple's "approval" just comes from Apple getting a cut. It's a measure of greed, not quality. We're not talking about THX-certification here, we're talking about extortion. This kind of lock-in seems very appealing for the company doing the locking early on, but it always, ALWAYS ends up biting the company in the butt. Ask IBM with their ubiquitous 970 servers and their extortionist service contracts. Oh, wait, those don't exist any more.

Consumers suffer from this. We suffer from increased prices and decreased competition and innovation. We suffer so Apple can make a few more bucks, when Apple is clearly not hurting for money. The core of Apple users has supported Apple for years -- we were there when Apple was hurting, we stuck with it, we nursed her back to health. It's our money she has now, and she's turning on us now that she's rich off it.

Then we come to ringtones. Every phone I've owned in the last ten years has allowed to make my own ringtones. I could upload MP3s all I wanted. Many had little tune editors built into the phone.

But since Apple is so close to the record companies, and they are already so grumpy with Apple, Apple did a deal that benefits record companies and Apple. Not artists, certainly not consumers. In order to use a 15-second snippet of some random song, I now must buy it not once, but TWICE. The amazing thing is that I must buy it THREE times if I own the song on CD -- I have to buy a DRM'ed version from the Apple Store, then buy the the ringtone, on TOP of the CD I already bought.

Oh, but wait, most artists haven't given permission for their songs to be used as ringtones. The vast majority of my collection simply can't be put on my iPhone as a ringtone. I could, if I wanted, manually press play on those songs whenever I see a friend calling, but that single "if" statement it'd require for the phone to do it -- well, that's simply Not Allowed.

Not that, uh, we have to pay attention to what the record companies think is Not Allowed, because we have already licensed the song for playback on any device if we bought a CD -- we are allowed to play it on our iPhone already. Just not in response to someone calling us. The record companies have MADE UP some new, retroactive copyright and Apple is enforcing it for them. The result is, a million customers don't get to do something cool with their iPhones.

Because of greed.

Honestly, I can see Apple saying, "Well, you see, the record companies would have been upset with us if we hadn't charged anything for ringtones." Yah, well, that's the price you get for engaging. The price for owning the distribution of the content and the hardware and the software is that you end up making compromises in the hardware and software in order to protect the content.

These are EXACTLY the compromises Sony has been making for years -- and because Sony's music and movie arms have been telling the Sony hardware arm to never do anything new or interesting without building in a ton of customer-unfriendly restrictions, Sony is now completely in the toilet. They have gone from an incredibly respected brand to a complete joke. Every time they introduce some new, crippled standard the industry kind of looks away in embarrassment, like Sony is the oafish guy at the party who is parked in front of the meatballs tray eating directly from the dish.

Now we see that iPod owners who upgrade to a newer iPod must re-buy the games they've already bought, because the new iPods are incompatible with the old. No credit given for having already bought an identical game. Imagine upgrading to a new computer, and having to buy a brand new copy of Windows Vista for it... Oh, wait, Microsoft does that, don't they? MICROSOFT does.


What should Steve do? Well, for starters, give up on trying to control everything. It's only going to keep hurting Apple, more and more, to control content and hardware and software. It's going to make them into the kind of mega-monopoly that we always, ALWAYS end up hating. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. 100% of the time.

Apple should license FairPlay, or allow iPods to play PlaysForSure (ha! I love that doublespeak) music. Either one. Basically, Apple should allow other music stores to sell DRM'ed music that works on iPods and iPhones.

Why? It's simple -- then Apple could tell record companies "go fug yourself" if they don't like Apple's terms, but Apple would still have a full range of music to play on its iPods. Remember, Apple makes all its money selling the hardware, not the songs. All Apple needs to do is to make sure there is a broad range of content available for iPods, it doesn't have to sell all that content itself.

And, in fact, it hurts Apple to sell all the content itself, because it makes Apple a focus for battles between the record industry and consumers. If there were a range of stores selling iPod-compatible music, with a range of different DRM rights, then the market could decide what terms it liked best.

The iTunes store could be the white knight -- it would only sign deals with record companies willing to "give" consumers the same rights they've had for years with CDs; eg, we can do whatever we want with our music as long as we don't broadcast it or give it to others. Other music stores could sell restrictive DRM'ed music, and, well, if the record companies are right, people would go to those other stores, and we consumers would all get what we deserve.

But if I'm right, then those other stores would be soundly ignored, and the record companies would come crawling back to Apple with their tails between their collective legs (where their balls should be, but aren't) and agree to reasonable terms.

Sure, we've seen some of this with Apple's negotiations with NBC, but unfortunately this one is all-or-nothing for Apple, because there's no alternate method for NBC's content to get onto iPods. Apple needs to be able to say, "Look, NBC, you want to be dumb-asses and try to sell people crap they don't want, fine -- we're still going to sell iPods that'll play your programs, we just won't sell your programs on the nicest internet store in the world. Your loss, suckers, call us when you change your mind."

Second, Apple should announce that it's going to write frameworks so third parties can write applications for iPods and iPhones. No, it won't be easy. But, seriously, there's no excuse. I mean, with the iPhone they could hide behind AT&T wanting assurances people won't use their phones off-network, or behind consumers wanting their iPhones to never crash. Which are both reasonable points, I admit. And, for the record, I've never written a line of code for the iPhone, although one of my employees has (in his spare time). I don't like to screw with undocumented APIs, life's too short.

But with the iPod Touch, what's Apple's excuse for locking up the platform? Why can't I write programs for this device? Who might it hurt? Why is Steve announcing that he's playing cat-and-mouse with developers who intend to do so? Is Apple so far removed from its customers that even when the latter overwhelming votes for extending a device (by downloading iPhone programs in the hundreds of thousands), Apple's response is, "No, you can't do that. We know what you want, you don't. You want AJAX apps, you just don't know it yet."

That sure reminds me of the old, crappy Apple. The one that almost went bankrupt because of its hubris.

I don't write programs for Apple because I worship Apple. I write programs for them because they have the best development environment. But I've always said that I will move from the platform the day Apple starts acting like a monopoly -- trying to make money by using its marketing position to extort money from users, instead of innovating so quickly that users willing throw money at Apple.

Sure, Apple's still doing a ton of innovating. I love Leopard. I love iPhone (x19). I love my iPods (x6). And I love the engineers at Apple and all my friends throughout the company.

But Apple has to always remember that simply making money CANNOT be its point of existence. The point of any company should be to make customers want to give it money, NOT to get money from customers. It's a subtle distinction that is the difference between good and evil.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your conflicts of interest are showing.

AAPL exists for one reason only - to enrich its shareholders. They will do that by selling stuff people want, but the horse is the shareholder. The cart is the consumer. I'm afraid you have the roles reversed.

If they make garbage but the stock doubles, more power to them.

Buy some stock and sell 18 of your iPhones and you will understand.

September 20, 2007 9:27 AM

Blogger Trausti said...

I agree with you, but then again, if Paul Thurrot agrees also, then we just have to wrong

September 20, 2007 9:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This essay would be far more convincing without the use of the term "cock-thirsty".

What, exactly, is the point in using such an abrasive, offensive term?

September 20, 2007 10:40 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Way to assume a lot.

1) I want Apple to succeed, long-term. I am posting criticism because I believe some recent decisions have put short-term gain over customer satisfaction, which in the long term always hurts the company, sales and stock-wise.

I recently read an article in either the NYT or Wall Street Journal that pointed out that historically, companies at the top of the consumer satisfaction index are the best investment. Shock! Surprise!

2) I own a couple hundred thousand worth of Apple stock. But money is not the most important thing to me. I think that's true of most self-made millionaires.

Companies that pay attention to stock price over pleasing their customers soon find themselves with neither.

3) I think I pointed out that I've already GIVEN away the 18 iPhones (and kept the 19th for me). What the hell sense would it make for me to personally have 19 iPhones?


September 20, 2007 12:12 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Paul Thurrot is a giant dingleberry.

It bugs me that he is pretending I am suddenly "waking up" and agreeing with him. As a matter of policy I disagree with him on everything, because of his track record for being consistently wrong. If he bet the sun would rise tomorrow I'd start investing in nightlights.

I will continue to buy iPods and iPhones, and music and TV programs and movies from iTunes. I love them.

I am merely making an observation that, say, 1% of what Apple's doing isn't ideal for the consumer. That other 99% is still WAY better than any other company I know.


September 20, 2007 12:19 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

I actually was typing something else and the word started to come out as "cock-thirsty" and it struck me as funny because of Gabe and Tycho's experience at MIT.

It's meant as an "in" joke -- Tycho tells Gabe, "Listen, if you want to sound smart, just use this big word when you don't know what to say: 'Cock-thirsty'"

September 20, 2007 12:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shocking... you're a developer who wants more platforms that you can make money off of. Why don't you let Steve run his company, and work on getting something out... Delicious Library has been virtually untouched since I bought it last year, and hiding behind the "we're waiting for Leopard" excuse is wearing thin.

September 20, 2007 1:21 PM

Anonymous Holden said...

The point of using an abrasive, offensive term like "cock-thirsty" is to fully communicate the abrasive, offensive nature of how those companies treat customers.

September 20, 2007 1:28 PM

Anonymous Stephen Miller said...

I caught that PS reference. Fantastic. And a great way to describe the record and movie industry. Actually you might need to use something more vile to describe them... but I can't think of anything bad enough.
Great article by the way. Just great. What is the possibility that Jobs will actually stray from the current path though?

September 20, 2007 1:45 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Delicious Library has been virtually untouched since I bought it last year, hiding behind the "we're waiting for Leopard" excuse is wearing thin

Yes, you're right, it's a pretty transparent ploy on my part to not release my program, which DEPENDS ON LEOPARD, and DOES NOT RUN UNLESS IT IS ON LEOPARD, until APPLE ACTUALLY SHIPS LEOPARD.

Geez, how obvious can I be?

As for "untouched," how did I just win the Apple Design Award for Best Leopard Application Delicious Library 2 (alpha)?

If you're upset because Delicious Library 1 doesn't seem worth $40 to you, then my company will cheerfully refund your money. Short of that, I don't think it's unreasonable to wait a year for an upgrade -- especially since Leopard itself has been in the works for two years.

September 20, 2007 1:53 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

What is the possibility that Jobs will actually stray from the current path though?

Very good. Steve is incredibly smart and it's never paid to bet against him.

He's surprised me a zillion times by making things that are extra-sweet for the consumers.

For instance, he revolutionized the pricing of professional software -- when other companies were charging $20,000 - $100,000, he came out with apps that were $500 to $1000, AND made "light" versions that were still incredibly functional for even less.

Just a few years ago everyone was doing production work on PCs -- Jobs single-handedly fixed this just by making Apple's offerings so sweet and so reasonably priced. He changed the industry.

He was the one who negotiated our ability to play songs on five computers when other companies were locking us in to renting or to just one device. Most importantly, we can reset the devices ourselves -- we don't have to call Microsoft fucking "support" and beg some jerk from across the world to believe that we threw away our old computer and are really only using the song on our new computer.

With almost every device or product Steve has unveiled, he's hit it on the head: "Here's a phone that, like, actually doesn't suck." "Here's a computer that's small, beautiful, powerful, AND cheaper than a similar Dell, and, oh, it runs a better OS." "Now you can run all your Windows games but still own a Mac."

The recent anomalies are just that: these missteps that stand out because they do NOT fit in with what has made Apple so incredibly popular over the last several years.


September 20, 2007 2:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

18 iPhones...$10,800...what kind of pretentious douchebag gives away 18 iPhones as gifts. What the fuck is wrong with people. Wouldn't that money be better spent on charity?

If I were your friend, which I am very happy that I am not, I wouldn't accept it. It's disgusting to just buy something that expensive to give away to friends.

September 20, 2007 3:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might not feel threatened by a nuclear-ambitious Iran, but Israel certainly does.

Iraq, Saudi Arabia and a goodly number of European countries aren't thrilled at the prospect either.

How lucky for you that you are out of range, eh?

September 20, 2007 4:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Will, you're really annoying.

September 20, 2007 4:28 PM

Blogger Gilbert said...

Good article except for the part where you show you lack of knowledge of international affairs and the threats that the United States faces. For instance, no, we personally are not worried about Iran's ability to conventionally attack us but their ability to create instability across the Middle East is of concern. So yes, we are 'Really' worried about Iran. Tech guys should stay with tech.

September 20, 2007 4:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love when people can't stand the use of "cock-thirsty" but have no problem repeating it, as if their use is somehow justified even with the argument they are trying to make.

And, also, there is nothing wrong with being thirsty for cock, or writing about such thirsts.

September 20, 2007 5:00 PM

Blogger Durf said...

It's our money she has now, and she's turning on us now that she's rich off it.

No, it's Apple's money that Apple has now. Our purchases in the past give us zero sway over the company's decisions in the future. When you spend a thousand dollars on iTunes content and several thousand on phones, you don't buy a stakeholder's say in the corporate strategy from here on out . . . you buy songs and gadgets. (Given that you're a shareholder, you should understand which kind of investments do give you a voice and which do not.)

Our potential purchases in the future, though . . . those are the ones that let us steer things a bit. Consider holding off on your next several dozen iPhones to see whether the product actually goes somewhere you like. :)

September 20, 2007 8:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A cell phone with a battery that you have to send away to get changed and will set you back 89bucks plus shipping - You didnt think that was gouging enough?

Fanbois really have a lot of tolerance when it comes to cool toys.

And you have SIX ipods?
WHo the hell needs 6 ipods?
WHEN do you listen to them?

I have one mp3 player which I use carry around quite often since it has a built in recorder.
I have a kick ass sound system in the living room as well as a pair of wireless speakers we take out in the yard.
On my computer, I use the Z-5500 Digital Speaker System from Logitech.
And my car sound system plays mp3s with the Sony Xplod M9905X.

I cant figure out where the hell I would use so many ipods. In one lifetime.

And giving away over 9000$ worth of iphones? Youre pretty generous... and rich.

September 20, 2007 9:03 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

If I were your friend, which I am very happy that I am not, I wouldn't accept it.

Wow, such vitriol. I guess it's fair to assume you give much, much more to charity than I do, even though you have no idea how much I give to charity. Or how much to the government -- supporting the roads you use, medicare, social security, etc.

You do bring up an interesting myth, which is why I posted your comment (and skipped most of the other 200 I got today) -- the idea that somehow by being rich I'm obligated to spend all my excess money on charity, rather than giving it to other people.

Did you think I burned the money I spent? No. It's still in circulation. If the people I bought iPhones for want to donate $600 to charity, they are welcome to. In fact, it's now that much easier for them to do so, since they don't have to buy themselves iPhones any more.

Meanwhile, people who work at Apple also benefit from my $600 for each iPhone. Each Apple employee could donate 10 cents from his paycheck and accomplish what I could have. So why does the burden fall on me? Why don't you write each of them and say, "I'm disgusted everyone at Apple didn't give 10 more cents to charity? If I were your friends, which I wouldn't be because I'm a douchebag who has none, I would insist you do so."

Have you that maybe my friends are mostly really poor? That perhaps I'm doing them something really nice by getting them something they could never afford on their own? No.

Unless you'd like to open your life and spending habits up to an audit, I suggest you don't judge me. I live a pretty fucking virtuous life, and help a ton of people. This isn't about you being more charitable than me, it's about you being a whiny bitch because someone has more money than you and doesn't have the grace to pretend he doesn't.

I might have been more convinced if you'd said, "Were I one of your friends, I would have auctioned off the phone you gave me and given the money to charity." Refused it indeed!


September 21, 2007 12:10 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

How lucky for you that you are out of range, eh?

Yes, indeed it is. Nor do I think I need to be the world's cop and pre-emptively protect other countries, especially when I don't hear them asking for it.

I also consider my lucky to have a number of Iranian friends, so that I can view Iran as a country of people and not wide-eyed crazy men with bombs strapped to their chests.


September 21, 2007 12:15 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Wow, Will, you're really annoying.

Welcome, DIGG user. I invite you to not read my blog if you don't like it. It's a simple concept.


September 21, 2007 12:17 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

For instance, no, we personally are not worried about Iran's ability to conventionally attack us but their ability to create instability across the Middle East is of concern. So yes, we are 'Really' worried about Iran. Tech guys should stay with tech.

Yes, it worked really well when we worried about Iraq being too powerful, and toppled that government, destroying an entire country's infrastructure and destabilizing the entire region.

But I'm sure, SURE, that the same group of idiots who did that could gracefully invade Iran and make everything right. There's no reason to think Bush & co. would screw that up, just because they have screwed up every single task they've tried.

Plus, I have no doubt Iran is the Last Bad Guy Ever, and if we just extend our military to that country as well, despite the fact that we're already out of soldiers and equipment... well, then, there will never be another rogue nation. Ever!


September 21, 2007 12:21 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

And, also, there is nothing wrong with being thirsty for cock, or writing about such thirsts.

I know, right? It's like when I'd tell my girlfriend how much I love her big ass, and she'd be all, "MY WHAT?!"

Your. Big. Ass. How hard is it to understand?


September 21, 2007 12:22 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Given that you're a shareholder, you should understand which kind of investments do give you a voice and which do not.

Well, I also am a CEO, and I certainly feel that my customers have a say in how I sell my products. If a bunch of them objected to something, I would listen very closely -- as a matter of morality, and as a matter of good business.

My point, and I'm sorry I didn't make it clearer, is that treating your customers with respect is just plain good business, long-term. People remember being screwed for a long, long time. Hell, I still remember my first girlfriend. Oh, man, her hips. She could do this thing...

Wait, what the hell were we talking about?


September 21, 2007 12:31 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

A cell phone with a battery that you have to send away to get changed and will set you back 89bucks plus shipping - You didnt think that was gouging enough?

Meh, I don't suppose I'll have this same phone then. I've certainly never had any other cell phone that long.

WHo the hell needs 6 ipods?

Guys who write software that can export to iPods -- I need one from each generation. Also, I don't have a car stereo -- just an amp and an iPod -- so thieves won't cut through the roof of my convertible and rip out the deck. And I don't have a home stereo -- just powered speakers and iPod docks -- so when my friends come over they can just dock their iPods and listen to what they want.


September 21, 2007 12:35 AM

Blogger Matt said...

The worst thing about many of the posted comments is that almost all of them have missed the point.

I don't know Will. I don't know his background. I don't know how rich he is or how much he gives to charity. What I do know is that he writes software for my platform of choice, a platform I imagine most of this blog's readers will agree is superior to other platforms out there. I also know that his voice is well-respected in the Mac community, and for good reason.

The point, for those readers who still don't get it, was to identify areas in which Will thinks Apple has erred of late, as well as suggest how they can correct these recent "failings". That's it. His opinions, since that is what they are, are not a be-all, end-all declaration of what is right or wrong. They are simply his musings on a particular subject. If you disagree, take a moment to understand why, and write a clear, well thought-out counter. I get the impression that Will would welcome a discussion.

If Will did anything "wrong", I would say it was the inclusion of a political reference. Politics, like religion, are a no-win battle-ground, and tend to distract from the topic at hand, as evidenced by some of the responses his post received.

September 21, 2007 1:07 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

PHEW! I only posted some of the two hundred or so comments I got today. I'm sorry if I didn't post yours -- I want to keep this readable, so I tried to just post representative opinions.

Also, it felt masturbatory to post people saying, "I agree, Wil," so I skipped posting those, too. But I do appreciate them!

I read every response, and I thank you for reading my thoughts and for the many, many reasoned responses I got. One thing a lot of people pointed out was that I mischaracterized Steve's "cat and mouse" quote -- he was talking about using iPhones on other carriers, not running third-party software on iPhones. I apologize for the error, and my sloppiness for not going to the original quote. Classic bad-journalism mistake.

I am constantly surprised when people react negatively to me talking honestly about having some money. Yes, I have some, and no, I don't pretend I'm the richest guy ever, or think it makes me a better person, or happier, or whatever. I grew up on food stamps, I went to college on scholarships, and I drove my girlfriend's used burgundy 1988 Dodge Omni when I was 25. I earned the money I have, working nights and weekends for the last 17 years, and I'm not apologetic about having it.


Meanwhile, you can all rest assured that Apple's top brass has, in fact, read this post. Yup, I sure made some friends today. Whooo-boy.

It speaks to my idiocy that I honestly go on rants like this because I'm upset and I have to write down my thoughts, and it never strikes me that twenty thousand or so people will read the post and that it'll be passed around Apple... I woke up this morning shocked to find my inbox stuffed with responses. Durr.

Conflict is inherently interesting. I know this. But this blog isn't really about conflict, it's about my thoughts as I try to figure out my life. Programming is a big part of my life, and gaming, and now, reluctantly, even politics. Running a company has been part of my life for 16 years, and although I don't want to be a billionaire I certainly admire the drive and passion of the guys I know who are. I'd hate the hours, and I honestly have a compulsive need to be liked that would interfere with me running a company with more than, like, three people. Honestly, I kind of sucked at running Omni, and that was like, 20.

I don't really relish getting Dugg (Digged?) because I don't really want to have an event blog. I'm not Dvorak, making up crazy shit because I know rabid fans will flame me into the spotlight. I just want to write my thoughts, as honestly as I can, and try not to be affected by how many or few people read them, or whether they are shocked or horrified or supportive afterwards.

When I was in 12th grade I wrote a long essay about the sexiest girl I'd ever seen (Erin Martens), because it was inside me and I simply had to write it down. We didn't have fancy intertrons then, so I just typed it into Word and printed it out and that was that. It wasn't any good, but I was thinking of it today because my 20th year reunion is in a couple weeks, and I realized that I write this blog for the same reason I wrote that essay -- because I need to get some thoughts out of my head, and they won't go away until I write 'em down. Nowadays, however, I don't have to just type them up and stick 'em in a drawer. I can publish them to the entire world, indexed and archived forever!

Sometimes, maybe, I think the former would be better.


September 21, 2007 1:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wil if you own a couple hundred thousand in apple (which i doubt) you prolly should know that writing an article like this whithout discosing that means big trouble with the SEC

September 21, 2007 1:14 AM

Blogger pjbeardsley said...

Great post. Worth a mention here is the fact that they've started hashing the iPod song database. I mean, WHO CARES if people write iPod management software for Linux? It doesn't detract in any way from the iTunes experience.

It's a slippery slope, Apple...

September 21, 2007 1:15 AM

Blogger Compagnucci said...

As much as I understand the concept of an "in-joke," does it really have its place in an article to be read by the general public? One that's aiming to sound credible? I mean, let alone that the in-joke is the term "cock-thirsty." This is why the internets/new-media in general is more difficult to embrace than traditional media. I mean, c'mon, I doubt even someone like Ann Coulter would use the term "cock-thirsty," and she is by no means credible.

"omg I have to hack my iPhone in order to make my own ringtones!" Well please, somebody call waaambulance. Are we really so hot and bothered about ringtones that we're going to take to the web and blog about it all pissy-like? To me it sounds a little like that girl from Willy Wonka, "I want a golden goose NOW!"

Finally, if the line "I think that's true of most self-made millionaires," isn't a self-congratulatory pat-on-the-back, I don't know what is, although it does explain the entitled tone of this article. I hope that as my generation ages we learn to adopt some of the social-grace that has been lost over the past few generations. The likelihood of that happening is very slim, but a girl can dream, can she not?

September 21, 2007 1:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the engineers I know at Apple "get it". They've all hacked their iPhones all to heck. And they are all rooting for the hackers, because they're not updating their firmware, either, until they're sure they'll still have access after the update.


September 21, 2007 3:14 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

if you own a couple hundred thousand in apple (which i doubt)

Oh snap! You totally called my bluff. Ok, you got me, I don't own stock at all. I'm actually a seventh-grader. I haven't even kissed a girl yet!

Man, who knew my scheme was going to be so easily unravelled. What was the give-away? I mean, how could you tell?

Also, do you often read the blogs of people you think are liars? Seems like a giant waste of time to me.

September 21, 2007 3:51 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

I doubt even someone like Ann Coulter would use the term "cock-thirsty"

I'm pretty sure if she were, she'd just suck her own.

Well please, somebody call waaambulance.

Oh, man, I hate being made fun of, but I love the "waaambulance." Perfect number of a's, too! I'm totally stealing that from you.

"Oh, Apple's not supporting Carbon's 1984 APIs any more? Geez, don't have a heart attack, or we'll have to call the waaambulance."

Finally, if the line... isn't a self-congratulatory pat-on-the-back...

Hi, welcome to my blog. I'm Wil Shipley. We've obviously never met.

September 21, 2007 3:56 AM

Blogger Stephen Foskett said...

Just to clarify, there is no "DRM chip" in the docks. Apple simply doesn't (yet) support most older docking devices with the iPhone and new iPods. If it encounters one that's not in its database of supported devices, it "tries" to work with it (maybe popping up that airplane mode box on the iPhone) but can't work with all of them. Apple moved around the video out and eliminated the old headphone jack video with the new-gen iPods, so old video docks just can't work.

This is not an example of DRM, it's an example of a hardware refresh and rethink. They used the extra headphone pin for the iPhone's headset rather than video and so it makes sense to eliminate it from the iPods too since they can send video out through the dock connector. Oh, and they added Component video too, which is nice (but wasted on 480x320 video).

Would you complain if the accessories for your old Nokia phone didn't work with your new one? Or if you couldn't use your old 14" wheels on your new Accord? Think about all the devices that stopped working in Windows 95, XP, Vista, etc...

September 21, 2007 7:11 AM

Blogger rob said...

Will, I agree with most everything you write here, in the article and the comments. I especially hate it when people say things like "that money could better be spent on charity", and your response was completely correct.

But I have to say, your constant telling us exactly how rich you are, how you are a self made millionaire, how you are so virtuous....I dunno, that's just unbecoming.

September 21, 2007 8:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's got a point, I'm just surprised that any of you with "hundreds of thousands in apple stock" or the means to laugh off losing $3000 to iphone discounts care how Apple's decisions affect us proletariats.

September 21, 2007 9:00 AM

Anonymous houman said...

Wil, my respect for you grows everytime I read your blog. Not because I know you personally, i don't. The reason i respect you is because YOU'RE NOT A BITCH! You speak your mind and back it up with clear and concise logic.

As an apple shareholder with about half as many shares as you have-( still not a shabby number) I've felt the same regarding my favorite company. I also work on a show for 1 of the major networks. With that said, I understand why Apple is trying to keep the content companies happy - They're like the Mafia. Even if they don't like eachother - they will protect their collective interests. Apple gets that, as soon as Apple has a little bit more leverage hopefully they will correct their path.

And lastly as someone of Iranian heritage, I appreciate your big picture view of the situation. While the current regime has silenced and murdered many of its own people. If my history classes are right, I don't remember Iran invading a country for atleast the last couple of centuries. All and all Wil - keep doing what you're doing.

Oh yeah, my biggest gripe with delicious library is that I don't have enough time to use it. But I guess that's not your fault.

September 21, 2007 10:49 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

But I have to say, your constant telling us exactly how rich you are, how you are a self made millionaire, how you are so virtuous....I dunno, that's just unbecoming.

I'm not deaf to this, I just honestly don't know how to change things. I don't want to be gauche, but you understand this isn't a newspaper column -- it's my blog, and I'm trying to write about my experiences.

The truth of my life right now is, yes, I have some money (not an obscene amount) and I spend it. I didn't mention how much AAPL stock I had until someone said "if you owned any stock" and I thought it'd be relevant that I, in fact, do actually own a bit of Apple (and not just $20 worth).

I wouldn't mention self-made millionaire except that I want to show people how to do the same things I've done -- which is, don't worry about money, just do what you care about and do it really well.

Pretty much every billionaire on the planet has written a book on how smart he is and how rich and how you can emulate him. I don't know if they're considered gauche as well, or if there's some cutoff below which talking about your success is bad.


September 21, 2007 1:28 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said... how Apple's decisions affect us proletariats

Strangely, I remain human, even after selling my old company.


September 21, 2007 1:40 PM

Blogger skopcho said...

According to this article, stephen foskett appears to be wrong on several counts.

1. There does appear to be an authentication chip involved.

2. That the hardware refresh removed video out from the headphone is different from Apple blocking previous dock connector docks from piping video like they did on last gen iPods.

3. The 480p output is nice. Too bad it's not available on the flagship iPod Touch.

4. And yes, we should expect accesories for the same line of products to continue working if the hardware allows. I'm still using all the same hardware I used from Win2K to XP to Vista, not to mention all the variants of OSX and classic.

September 21, 2007 1:42 PM

Blogger Brian said...

Wow, this thread is entirely too angry. I love my iPod, I love my iPhone, I love my Macs in general. Call me a Mac flunky, but I was a Mac hater for years and years because I never had the experience of owning one. Call me brainwashed... I don't care. I have Windows running on my MacBook Pro, and very rarely have to use it. Apple products just work. Can't fault them for that. So Apple has a very completely enclosed business model... Who cares? I'm sure you would have a different stance if you were an Apple stockholder.

September 22, 2007 9:55 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

I'm sure you would have a different stance if you were an Apple stockholder.

Yes, yes, and I'm sure you'd have a different stance if you actually read the other comments before posting yours.


September 23, 2007 12:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article’s main premise is that the consumer is suffering. The consumer has freedom of choice, therefore if you disagree with Apple’s market strategy, you as a consumer have a choice and you can choose NOT to buy products from Apple. By doing so you avoid suffering… hence I disagree with the point this whole article is trying to make. The fact that so many consumers are buying Apple product (and online services) suggests that consumers aren’t really suffering and are perfectly happy to spend precious dollars on such ancillary technological improvements that Apple seems to capitalize on to draw the obtuse consumers who form a loyal customer base. If you wanted to listen to music, make an international phone call or have a ringtone made from your favorite CD… Apple isn’t the only technology choice out there!

September 23, 2007 9:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No ones forcing you to by their products. If you know what you are getting into. Dont like their phone or their music player.

*Dont buy it!* - Simple.

September 23, 2007 9:56 AM

Blogger Ashwin said...

You can talk when you get out a phone as good looking and sexy as iPhone. Nobody prevents you from doing that. You are crying out foul because you aren't happy - but Apple really doesn't NEED to give you a better deal right now. If you don't like it, you are free to use something else. The mobile phone market is not anywhere near a monopoly. (in terms of devices.)

September 23, 2007 10:40 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said... can choose NOT to buy products from Apple

An unbelievable number of people have made this comment (but I haven't published them). What, did you guys all just take the same Econ 101 course?

At least you win bonus points for not using the phrase "they didn't hold a gun to your head," which I've seen a dozen times now.

Is this really constructive? Just stop giving Apple money, without telling them why first? So that Apple's executives are all, "Hey, sales are down... hmm... uh... well, nobody's complained about anything... maybe people don't like our logo? Maybe people want our CEO to look more like Uncle Fester?"

If your dog is bad, do you just have it put to sleep? If you disagree with your spouse, do you just walk out one day? If your child misbehaves, do you just leave him on the street corner?

I think it's helpful in any relationship to provide feedback very early on, instead of waiting until things get so bad that you want to entirely disengage. Call me crazy.


September 23, 2007 12:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wil Shipley said... “Call me crazy.”

Well, wil, you are crazy. What you are saying even begin to make any sense. A misbehaving child, an argument with your spouse, or having your dog die are totally different concerns and domains of social responsibility than buying mundane products from this or that vendor. What is the comparison here?

I have no social responsibility to educate Apple’s CEO. Its really his problem if people don’t like what he sells and he should be smart enough to figure it out!

September 23, 2007 1:12 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

What you are saying even begin to make any sense.

There is all kinds of delicious irony in this sentence, which I assume is missing a word, but, as is, doesn't make any sense.

You are entirely wrong about your responsibility to the world, sir. We all have a responsibility to make every aspect of the world a better place. It is why we are here.

The idea that it's somehow easier or more effective for me to just not buy Apple's products, instead of complaining, is dangerous and irresponsible. We all need to be activists, in every facet of our lives. It is the only way the world will get better.

I am stunned how many people are like, "Dude, stop complaining, you don't have the right." Every system fails if there is no internal source of feedback.


September 23, 2007 1:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, please get rid of the term "cock-thirsty". There are some people in the industry I would love to send to your otherwise well-written essay, but the presence of that one term prevents me from doing so.

September 23, 2007 3:50 PM

Blogger skopcho said...

Not to bring politics into this conversation again, but all these angry, "if you don't like it, don't buy it!" comments sound very similar to comments like, "if you don't like it here, go live somewhere else!"

Do people not understand the concept of constructive criticism? When you appreciate and respect something, someone, or some place, and you see them/it going astray, offering advice like Wil's here isn't complaining or attacking. If you really can't handle hearing thoughtful criticism of people or things you idolize, maybe it's time to get a thicker skin and grow up a bit.

September 23, 2007 4:09 PM

Anonymous sam said...

This year at my forced Apple Tribunal, after the beatings I was forced to buy three Apple products, just like everyone else. It sucks that they force us at gunpoint to buy their stuff.

Oh wait, I forgot, you don't have to buy their shit if you don't like it. Saying Apple hurts innovation is the most asinine thing I've ever heard - and proves your ignorance.

I didn't buy an iPhone, but watch what the top phones are on the market next year and TELL ME that none of their new wizbang features are ripped off from, inspired by, or otherwise included in direct response to the iPhone.

I don't give a shit about the iPhone. I care only about the great stuff companies are going to do to compete with it.

Consumers hurt? Increased prices and decreased prices and innovation? What planet, exactly, do you live on. By all counts every company who wants to survive has been falling all over themselves trying to come up with something that will compete with the iPhone. They were even before it was launched.

Get a clue.

I mean, good linkbait. ;)

September 24, 2007 12:46 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Congratulations, Sam! You're the winner!!! You've managed to ignore that I've already made fun of people who use the "gun" analogy, meaning that we're now just cycling around and resuming old arguments, meaning it's time to close off comments.

My only regret is you didn't mention Hitler. Maybe next time?


For those angry that I only print some comments: newspapers do the same thing. If the practice upsets you, write them about it, and see if you get printed.

My space, I print what I want. If I'd printed all zillion comments nobody would have read this except slashdotters, and if you like that sort of thing... well, there's a discussion over at slashdot, post there all you want.


Honestly, my favorite comments were the people admonishing me for admonishing Apple: "If you don't like it, don't complain, just don't buy Apple products!"

Ok... well, then, praytell, why are YOU commenting, hypocrite? I mean, if you don't like what I say, can't you just not read it?

"I'm going to keep beating you until you agree violence is pointless!"


September 24, 2007 2:25 AM


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