If this had happened a day earlier I don't think I would have posted that RFS. Apple is inching ever closer to evil, and I worry that there's no one within the company who can stand up to Jobs and tell him so.
It's a real shame, too - it's so easy to hate Microsoft when it gets hostile and starts abusing its position, because their software generally makes you want to scream. Apple, on the other hand, puts out stuff that is a genuine pleasure to use, but controls it in increasingly infuriating ways. What's a geek to do?
On the other hand, I wouldn't be too quick to avoid iPad startups; even if it feels "wrong", your reasons for expecting the iPad to transform the computing landscape are as valid as they ever were, and there are good businesses to be built in that space. I'd let the RFS stand, and not feel too bad about it. Business is business, we do what we can in the markets that we're able...Microsoft has sucked pretty hard for a long time, but I would never dream of blaming someone for basing a startup on the Windows platform, and I think people that ignored it over the past decade were probably making a mistake.
What I would do is be on the lookout (maybe even draft an RFS) for startups that offer a better vision for the future than Apple, assuming there are any people out there with ideas about how to get a foothold and subvert their control freakishness. Bolstering products that compete with the iPhone and iPad could be a start; if must-have software starts showing up on Android, it would really help.
As much as we might want to blame Jobs for this, I fear that once he's not holding the reins, the company will only start acting worse, as they'll have lost a lot of the vision that drives their actual innovations. And that's when the serious consumer-hostile bullshit is likely to start in earnest...
"You mean like Google Voice and Google Maps Navigation? Unfortunately that doesn't seem to have helped much."
Android is a few years behind IPhone but is gaining traction. I seriously do not feel like Android needs much help. All it needs is just time and have Apple continue to try to put tight controls on its ecosystem.
I wouldn't even say Android is that far behind. It's lacking polish, to be sure, but there isn't anything I cared to do on my iPod Touch that I can't do on my Nexus One. And the N1 offers me some things the iPod couldn't do, even ignoring the GPS, camera, and phone functions. I find the N1's interface to be a lot prettier, too (but I suppose that's a matter of personal taste).
PG, I am working on a startup in a controversial field. I'm excited about figuring out how to solve the problem that is inherent in the field. I believe our solution will bring great value to the industry but sadly, it might be exploited - albeit legally - by unscrupulous parties and still bring us revenue. It is this last part that I'm conflicted about. I truly believe in many of the hacker principles (that are also common to many users in this forum) but feel really sad and lousy that my system might violate the principles I believe in. So I ask the following question not with a trollish sentiment but with genuine interest in how you deal with similar conflicts:
You seem upset by Apple's latest antic and I am guessing that it violates some of your core principles. Would you take a stand and withdraw your RFS to show your disapproval of their tactics and risk future profits from YC's involvement in iPad startups?
Aiding and abetting totalitarian regimes by censoring search results and turning over email correspondence is evil. Making shiny toys that don't do exactly what you want is not evil. Let's stop using "evil" as a synonym for "reprehensible."
Historically the word "evil" has had a pretty broad meaning. Among tech companies the word has a new and fairly specific sense that follows from Paul Buchheit's slogan "Don't be evil." That's the sense I was using. It has a pretty low bar. It means, roughly, winning by taking advantage of people instead of by doing good work.
Artificially limiting the capabilities of the hardware (people pay for) with the interest of keeping control, can't possibly be in the same league as "shiny toys that don't do exactly what you want".
People also lose the perspective of scaling the current trends set by Apple and others to everything ... what would happen if all the documents within your computer would be DRMed? What would happen if all personal PCs had software only approved by a central authority?
SciFi? They are already releasing a bigger iPhone who's functionality overlaps that of tablets / small laptops.
Also, before search engines that are censoring the results in China ... we had nothing comparable. You're also free to implement your own search-engine and index all the web-pages Google does ... but try creating a phone that connects to the iTunes store and that can run iPhone apps ;)
No one is forcing you to be in the iTunes store and write iPhone apps.
As for all personal PCs having only software approved by a central authority -- all electrical appliances are approved by UL. I don't see that as having resulted in much evil. To get to drive in the US, everyone is approved by their State. I don't see that as being very evil. The former is opt-in and arranged by insurance interests. The latter is entirely government. Neither form seems to necessarily produce evil when given central authority.
It's a question of how much power is involved, and how corrupting it is. Is DRM on all data really all that much power? It would be if it were ironclad. But I doubt such a thing will ever exist in an economy run by human beings.
That's like saying 10 years ago, no one is forcing you to use Windows.
Right now there is no credible alternative to iPod/iPhone/iTunes. Guys like Google and Microsoft are trying to make a better product. If Apple continues to win by making the better product, that's good for consumers, that's how the free market is supposed to work. If Apple decides to focus their time instead on PREVENTING other people from making the better product, instead of improving their own product, that's evil.
The injunctive relief sought goes rather farther than "stop using our particular implementation of multi-touch". I think you need to go back and read the complaint (there's a great writeup right now at http://lwn.net). Yours seems to be a knee-jerk defense of your favorite company, but this is not a trivial or common license action.
You sort of prove my point ... there isn't a market in improving/modifying electrical appliances by third parties ... especially since they also come with an EULA nowadays.
> To get to drive in the US, everyone is approved by their State.
That's not the same ... the government is (theoretically) working for the people. Getting a license is required for driving on public roads only ... and they do that to insure that the public roads are safe within reason.
The difference here is one of great importance ... the government is (theoretically) trying it's best to give licenses as non-discriminatory as possible. And if they aren't doing a good job at that, you can fight back.
Maybe DRM is an idea that comes from anyone who creates content and wants to get paid for it.
Yeah, most of the DRM implementations out there are a PITA, but what choice do content creators have anyway? I recently read that 90% of the installed base of World of Goo was pirated. How would you feel if someone stole 90% of your web startup's source code? Oh, you say you lock your source repository that down with tight security at the network and server level? How is that conceptually different from DRM, exactly? I realize that the implementation is very different, of course, but that's not my point.
Besides, I don't expect DRM implementations to be so painful in the future. DRM on PCs sucks because it attempts to close the barn door after the livestock has escaped. If you want to see a device where content control was built in from the ground up, consider the xBox, which is basically a special purpose PC that with tightly controlled installation rights and distribution of content. So the DRM can be relatively unobtrusive.
Or look at Steam, which has gotten quite a bit better than it was a few years ago. And they've been experimenting heavily with bringing down the price point for games, now that every paying user doesn't have to subsidize 10 thieves.
Sheesh, honestly this is far afield but why do people keep lumping not having a feature in with evil?
Aren't most of you people software developers? Do you sell software to people? Regular humans who can blow out your profit with a single helpline call?
Choosing to not support a scenario is about as far from evil as you could possibly get.
Do you seriously look at all of the things that itunes doesn't do, all of the things that it does poorly or all of its bugs and think "apple is evil"?
Isn't it clear that they, despite having some great talent, are resource-constrained like everyone else?
Have you ever used a bug database? Tracked a bug count? Tested? Shipped a product?
OK, I'm trying not to be insulting or personal here but let's be clear: not supporting file system access aka supporting only the sync model INDISPUITABLY saved engineering resources. That feature you want is not free. If you can't see that then we're done because the only response would be insulting.
My definition of Evil includes coercion. Apple doesn't coerce you into using iTunes. They market an iPod to you, which you buy voluntarily. It's only after that you have to use iTunes. And even then, you don't really have to, since there are alternatives for software.
If you can opt-out and just not pay for it, then it isn't evil. It still might be "shitty practice" but you can still vote with your feet.
Apple does own these patents. Why is it evil for them to enforce them?
If Android was a Microsoft project, would people still think this legal action was evil?
If the iPhone OS was "open source" and there were other means of selling apps other than the app store, would people still think this legal action was evil?
If Google (the "underdog" (?)) owned these patents through the purchase of Android and was suing Apple, would people think Google was evil? Or would it be a David vs. Goliath story? (goliath vs. goliath?)
If I make BLOOPT.com which does the same thing as loopt.com, is it evil for Sam Altman to sue me, when he gets his patent?
All patent suits are evil. If all software patents were enforced, no new software could be written without licensing thousands or tens of thousands of patents from hundreds of holders. And no free software could be written at all. So the answers to all your your questions is "yes".
Except the last, which is kinda dumb. "BLOOPT" would no doubt be a trademark violation, you can't patent a name. But yeah, if Loopt filed a patent suit against someone simply for competing with them, then it would be evil too.
From what you are saying, it only follows that most patent suits are legal. I am sure one would eventually find the odd legit patent suit after a rigorous enough search. (Analogous to real avail among spam.)
Firm control over one's product and patent lawsuits against one's competitors are very different things. Firm control is annoying, frustrating, and maybe borderline evil (in the tech sense of the word as pg defined it), but suing competitors' manufacturers for treble and punitive damages is definitely evil. It would take a revelation of truly bad behavior on HTC's part for me to think otherwise.
I must confess that I was very surprised to hear that Apple initiated a lawsuit against HTC and I am wondering if there is some backstory that we don't know.
I am not going to try and argue that Apple is some kind of altruistic, saintly company. But Apple's recent history lead me to believe that they viewed patents as defensive, not offensive weapons. Yes, they sued Nokia, but only after Nokia sued them first.
So questions that come to my mind include: Why HTC? Why now? Why hasn't Apple sued Palm? (Surely the Pre infringes on something!)
And is there any significance to the fact that the suit was filed with the ITC?
If Apple really is going to go on the patent offensive, I will be very disappointed.
The short answer is that Android-based phones like the Nexus One and Desire are a far bigger threat to Apple's stranglehold on the NA smartphone market than anything else to date. This isn't about "protecting their inventions", it's about throwing up roadblocks to their biggest potential competitor.
It is safer to be feared than loved, if one must choose, but above all else, one must avoid being hated. (Paraphrasing Machiavelli)
It's interesting to me that a few year ago I'd have been scared to compete (in any way) with apple for fear of being beaten by a better product. Today the picture is much muddier, but the feeling of revulsion is new...
I've realized this for a while; ever since I looked at the terms of service for the iPhone SDK, which forbid pretty much any innovation on things like RFS #5 (you are not allowed to write compilers or interpreters which run on the iPhone, which pretty much precludes any development tools that aren't web apps).
I think it's about time for me to get an Android phone. The platform isn't as polished, but you can actually get root on your damn phone and some of it is free software (about like Mac OS X, actually; a free kernel, some libraries, and utilities, with some applications on top that are closed).
Serious question: What would that person say? How could Jobs be nudged out of his reality-distortion field enough to realize the ways in which he's damaging their long-term credibility with their developer community?
Alternately, is their something we're not seeing? Is there possibly some beautiful universe that gets created when Apple controls the entire ecosystem?