Steve Jobs, and by extension Apple, keep an incredibly tight rein on the functionality of the devices they release, sometimes to the detriment of usability. If Apple were to release their stranglehold on the operation and capabilities of their devices, could it deter casual Apple users from making the leap to jailbreakers in order to use their Apple kit to its fullest potential?
Apple has to walk a very tight line when it comes to balancing consumer satisfaction against corporate fulfillment. By that, I mean that while Apple, as a company, merits some of the highest customer approval ratings in the industry, it also has to cater to its shareholders, generating massive revenue not just from the sales of its hardware, but by using stealthy tactics to ensure that consumers using those devices buy their content from Apple as well.
Using the new Apple TV as an example, Apple has tried to ensure that their iTunes rental model is competitive and sexy, perhaps irking some of the TV networks in the process. They have gone one step further in fully integrating Netflix, a genius move allowing users to to purchase content from another source but through the Apple device. But this isn’t the type of stealth behavior I am talking about.
What is interesting, and a prime example of restrictive behaviour, is that with the revolutionary AirPlay technology, Apple has chosen to tightly restrict the format of streaming of media from a computer to the Apple TV device. Users are only able to stream movie files that can be seen in an iTunes library, such as the .mov or mp4 formats. And even then, the Apple TV has a very limited set of codecs that will support movie files. Until a jailbreak can be used or a software update that allows VLC-type functionality, this type of restriction forces use of the specific formats that iTunes dictates, obviously driving iTunes sales or rentals.
Furthermore, until the stringent app review process was loosened, users were having to resort to apps available on unofficial app stores, such as Cydia, to offer simple functionality on their iPhones that should have been standard in the first place.
However, all being said, Apple is now making steps in the right direction, allowing installation of third party apps such as VLC on their mobile devices to better serve the consumer and enabling wider choice for media consumption. At the moment, one could say that they are walking on the side of the line that better serves shareholders rather than consumers. But they are slowly migrating towards looser controls and restrictions…a migration that better serves the consumer and will, in the long term, reduce the need for jailbreaking.