The thing is, without an open platform, the new, innovative ways of working with this machine will never be invented.
This is about far more than running your own Ruby scripts. It's about the fact that true innovation cannot exist in such an environment. And the problem is, you will not see what you're missing; people won't bother developing new technologies that have no platform they can legally run on.
Would the Web exist if Microsoft had been able to ban Netscape from running on Windows? What new, groundbreaking technologies are we missing out on because it's not worth the time and effort to create something new if the platform vendor can simply forbid you from publishing it?
The App store and the iPhone have fostered a colossal amount of innovation, and made a lot of normal non-techy people very, very happy. And a bunch of techies too.
And in the end I hope it doesn't come down to open source advocates getting their way so they can install vim, but it being about my Mum being able to use it without having to phone me saying that it's all gone wrong again and can I talk through 3 hours of trying to fix the damn thing.
>it being about my Mum being able to use it without having to phone me saying that it's all gone wrong again
You're confusing correlation with causation. The fact that your Mum has been unable to use devices in the past is not _caused_ by the devices being open platforms. Lots of people can't even operate a dvd player and they are certainly locked down devices. Being easy to operate and being locked down are mutually exclusive.
Some of us might argue that installing Vim is the sine qua non for a (truly) usable system. (For what it's worth, I just love me some Vim. Overall, I'm on the "this device is perfect for most people" side of this actual argument.)
The iPhone model is not terribly detrimental to software innovation. Of course there's a lack of transparency, long approval waits just to release bugfixes, occasional bizarre app refusals... But mostly it doesn't matter because the open web provides an increasibly viable secondary outlet for software.
Hardware is an entirely different beast. Apple brashly requires hardware vendors to engineer their products specifically for the iPhone platform, and you can't work around these limitations in software.
For a glaring example, there's no open Bluetooth stack on iPhone OS. Most probably the underlying implementation is essentially identical to IOBluetooth.framework on Mac OS X, but instead of giving software developers the degree of freedom that's taken for granted on computer platforms, Apple has chosen to restrict iPhone OS to a much more limited API which can only connect to devices that contain an Apple-licensed chip.
Apple doesn't seem to mind suffocating independent hardware innovation in order to extract licensing fees. What a long way they've come from Steve Wozniak's days...
I get what you are saying & I agree. There are huge advantages in doing things this Apple way. Your Mum gets to have something that works for her first, the 4% of people that have a preference for Thunderbird over Mail (just an example) because they like the way that it handles their profiles (again, just an example), well they are not the no. 1 concern. That makes sense. A product for the majority.
But, it is not just alarmist. The iphone has catalysed lots of innovation. Great innovation. This will too. It is all sanctioned innovation though. Unsanctioned innovation is important too. As things mature, it will become increasingly important.
One example of this that comes to mind is the Xbox. When the Xbox was first released, while being essentially a computer, it was only meant for playing games and watching dvds. Later when modding became easy, and therefor widespread, people developed new applications that made the Xbox do things it wasn't supposed to do. One of these applications was XBMC, or Xbox Media Center, which from the beginning was a 'clone' of Windows Media Center. But today is the basis for startups like Boxee and Voddler, and is the (IMO) most competent htpc platform, as well as the most 'cutting edge' one. Redefining the way we think about media.
There's a similar story with the Linksys WRT54G routers. And while you might be able to jailbreak the iPad, it's just a lot less likely that a community will be able to form around 'alternative' usages.