Wed 26 Dec 2007

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Edited by Mike Magee

Published by Incisive Media Investments Ltd.

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An open letter to Steve Jobs

Rant You are a hypocrite
DEAR MR JOBS, you are the lowest form of hypocrite. It didn't dawn on me when I was reading your recent piece on DRM, nor when I was writing my response, but it did afterwards.

I was busy answering emails generated by my article, a strangely complimentary set of letters given the topic, when it dawned on me. Your entire business is based on DRM, top to bottom, and without it you would wither and die.

If you consider Apple has three product lines, the Mac, the iPod and the upcoming iPhone, all are DRMed to the gills. The iPod we all know about, that one is obvious. The Mac is a little more subtle, the DRM prevents it from running on anything but your hardware. It will even break on an Intel reference board that is almost totally identical to yours.

DRM has two functions, to prevent copying and to prevent interoperability. You are using the the latter functionality as a shield to fatten your margins and totally lock out competition. Your entire computer business model depends on DRM. Remove the artificial locks and it works fine.

Then there is the iPhone. Those of us privvy to its secrets know it is locked down hard, you have even saidas much. This DRM infection starts with a trusted boot loader and will fail with non-signed firmware. From there, you can lock out any competition with more DRM. This was a management decision, not a technical need.

So, when it comes to DRM being used to pry open your anti-competitive infrastructure, you decry it. When it comes to you using to to exclude and tax others, then it is mandatory. What a joke you are.

While I know this won't happen, here is what you need to do to put your money where your mouth is. First, completely open up or license OSX to anyone who wants it and let it run on whatever hardware they want. Second, do not lock down the iPhone in any way shape or form. Both can be done on a whim, there are no technical impediments, only management decisions.

If you do not do these things, you will expose yourself to be the true hypocrite that everyone thinks you are. DRM is unacceptable when used against you, but the best thing in the world when done by Apple. You can change things though, all it takes is a memo.

Charlie Demerjian µ

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