16 August 2009

Problems that policy can't solve

Phil Schiller responded to Daring Fireball after the controversy in which Apple pressured app makers to remove profanity from a dictionary app. Daring Fireball seemed impressed:

This is music to my ears. That Schiller was willing to respond in such detail and length, on the record, is the first proof I’ve seen that Apple’s leadership is trying to make the course correction that many of us see as necessary for the long-term success of the platform. The improvement I consider most important is a significant focus on fairness, consistency, and common sense in the App Store review process.

(Emphasis mine.) This optimism stems from what I can only assume is a colossal failure of imagination.

This sort of stuff doesn't happen every six months just because there is some misunderstanding about Apple's policies or some level of inconsistency in their enforcement. In the world of technology, policy is basically worthless because tech tends to change faster than policies can anticipate.

The decisive factor here is Apple's technological powers.

Apple will mess with your phone if (1) it has the technological power to do so and (2) if the expected present value of doing so is positive. It's hard to measure criterion (2) but easy to measure criterion (1). If you are the kind of person who doesn't want Apple to mess with your phone, buy a phone that Apple cannot mess with.

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