When Apple took out a patent on software which would stop people using their iPhones to film at gigs, it got Brit singer Tinie Tempah all riled up. He said it was wrong for Apple to stop people doing what they wanted with their phones. The new technology would allow venues with an infra-red signaller to shut down camera apps on all iPhone/Pads/Pods in range.
We looked into Apple’s motivations in a story here, but it got us thinking – how long can Apple keep doing things like this without starting to lose its cool? They make great gadgets – iPods, iPads, iPhones – they sell cool stuff – apps, music and films. But here they are intentionally crippling the functionality of one their devices and controlling not just what’s on the phone to start with, but also what users can put onto the devices that they have shelled out £100s of pounds for.
What venues would Apple allow to use the infra-red signallers? Could anyone with enough money buy one? It’s easy to see how these could get misused by anyone wanting to prevent information or footage getting out – celebrities, the Syrian government, you name it.
Apple have been censoring things for a while. We wrote about how they were censoring the iPad editions of fashion magazines back in 2010. And geeks have always been aware that a sandboxed, controlled experience was the price they paid for the smooth operation of their Macbook.
But this camera disabling feature goes further than Apple’s previous forays into censorship – because it doesn’t just curtail your right to find/consume certain content, it curtails your right to make it.
Apple is no longer niche. They’re huge and mainstream: for example it has finally become worthwhile for hackers and scammers to make a virus for Mac. And more significantly the computer company now controls large areas of other industries – music distribution, apps and increasingly films and magazines.
The problem is that with their interests lying in so many diverse areas, Apple aren’t just trying to make the best computer devices anymore. They’re also trying to protect their music stores, their links with the film business, their shop fronts, their revenue streams.
As we said before: “it’s one of the dangers of one company having control over so many aspects of an industry: it starts distorting one market to protect its interests in another one..”
Apple has gone far on its reputation as the must have computer brand for creatives and their devices are great for consuming and creating media, but their control freakery has to stop somewhere. I hope it’s here and that this ridiculous idea gets blown out of the water.
Otherwise I’m thinking twice about iPhone 5.