Good. Evil. Bratwurst.

Doing Everything

Posted on by arlen

Thomas Roessler goes off on a rant because Apple isn’t providing a way to download from an iPod. Never mind that iPodDownload is widely available; no, that doesn’t count because Apple didn’t write it.

Personally, I think it’s foolish to insist that the hardware builders are the only proper source for software. I phrased it that generally, because that, in a nutshell, is what’s going on here. Apple builds the iPod, and distributes it. As any purveyor of portable music, it is closely watched by the RIAA and other silly organizations. So why would anyone expect them to just dare the control freaks of the world to sue them?

Instead, they build the platform and release software to make it work. They also release information to enable other developers to design and build extensions to the base configuration they distribute. Compare worst-case scenarios:

Worst-Case Scenario A: Apple’s iPod/iTunes system is a totally closed environment. RIAA sues Apple, and, due to an uninformed judge (hardly a rarity these days) wins. Now there’s no ability to download from iPods.

Worst-Case Scenario B: Apple’s iPod/Itunes system is extensible, and a third-party group issues a downloading plug-in for it. RIAA sues, and gets the same uninformed judge as above. The third-party plug-in is withdrawn from the market, only to spring up again from another source. Eventually the RIAA runs out of targets (for example, the plug-in gets built and distributed from another country) and we continue to download from our iPods.

Which is preferable?

I truly don’t understand this desire for monolithic products. As a consumer, I don’t want to buy *any* product that restricts me to one company for extensions/supplies/whatever. I’ve been victimized too many times by companies who promote a product as expandable/extensible only to have them discontinue support for the expansion and leave me stranded. I’d much rather see a community of developers building extra features for an existing product; it helps to guarantee I won’t be stuck at the mercy of a CEO that doesn’t care about my problems, and only wants me to have to re-buy everything I currently have in order to continue as I have been.

I don’t expect any one company to understand every possible way I want to use a product. I don’t care where Microsoft (Apple, Dell, fill in your own favorite company here) wants to take me. I have my own agenda, I have my own set of goals. While no one will share every one of them, there are bound to be companies out there who share one or two, so I grab their products to extend the use of the product I have (such as buying a snow-thrower attachment from one company for the grass trimmer I bought from another) until I can do what I want.

It’s not Apple’s (Microsoft’s, Sony’s, etc.) job to enable you to do everything you want to do. And it shouldn’t be.

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December 2004
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