Thursday, March 11, 2010

Buyer's Remorse

Buyer's remorse is an emotional condition whereby a person feels remorse or regret after a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of higher value items which could be considered unnecessary although it may also stem from a sense of not wishing to be "wrong". This may also be described as the "ill-purchase feeling".'s_remorse

I've suffered buyer's remorse in the past on certain items, most notably the Nokia 770. Now I've begun to suffer from it again, this time with the Apple iPod Touch.

The Touch is everything the 770 isn't; lightweight, sleek, fast, easy to operate, and capable of playing music and video. The Touch is a multimedia and technological tour de force when compared to the 770. Unfortunately there's one key characteristic where the two devices are diametrically different; the Touch is locked down, while the 770 is an open platform.

Long before I purchased the Touch I wrote high praise about the iPhone and how I thought it far superior to the Nokia 770 (and the follow-on N800 and N900 devices). I stand by those words, based on the information I had at the time as well as personal experiences. There was, however, one point that needs to be re-quoted:
Freedom. The Linux zealots will tell you that the Linux-based N800 gives you freedom as in speech, as well as in beer. Well, to quote Kris Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby Mcgee", "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." What good is free when it's a distant second best? Especially when you have to pay $400 for the device to enjoy said freedom?
I am not about to recant and beg forgiveness. The Nokia 770 was, and still is, a huge waste of my time and money. But at least it was a fully open platform, so open that the device's embedded version of Linux could be rebuilt and the device reflashed with it. We're talking about not just adding mere applications, but the embedded operating system, the entire software underpinnings itself.

By contrast, I've paid $400 for a device that is so locked down that any attempt to change it outside of Apple's proscriptions puts me in jeopardy of criminal prosecution. This isn't the first device with such draconian powers I've purchased; I've owned multiple game consoles over the years, starting with the Nintendo NES from the 80's, through Sega, Nintendo's N64, Sony's PS1 and PS2 and back again to the Nintendo Wii. They've all been locked, and I've purchased them and the locked content (games) with nary a peep.

So why am I am complaining now? What's changed? It's a combination of issues, starting with the fact that I no longer find Steve Jobs' taste in design all that compelling. I've had enough time to use Apple hardware and software to realize that once you get past the pretty shiny bits, that it's no better than offerings from Microsoft, or heaven forbid, Android (a.k.a Linux).

Just one example of the many flaws in Apple's devices is the display. I said before and continue to state that the 800 x 480 display on the 770 was and continues to be far superior to any display on any hand-held device produced by Apple. Multitouch and zoom might be great on the Touch, but if the display matched the quality of the Nokia, it would be far more optional than the necessity it is today.

Going back to software for the Touch, the only marketplace I can obtain software in is Apple's. There is no other marketplace. You'd think I could go to one run by Best Buy, or Walmart, but I can't. I have to go through Apple, and Apple's capricious changing rules for what will be available, and what won't. That is, unless I jailbreak my device. Why am I forced to jailbreak a $400 device in order to exercise my right to use it any way I see fit? What have I ever done to be treated as the equivalent of a digital peon to Apple? Who gave Apple the right to, in essence, treat me as if I was automatically guilty by locking down that class of device?

Why, I did. I did when I walked into an Apple store (along with millions of others) and plunked down my cash for the pretty shiny device, and thus willingly and unthinkingly traded away a goodly chunk of my rights to that piece of hardware so that I could be personally entertained. That's what galls me more than anything else. I deliberately did it, and I have no one else to blame but myself.

Over the last 18 months, since I purchased the device, I've come to resent the power I willingly gave away. I've watched as my small wad of cash, combined with so many of millions of others, be used as a blunt instrument by Jobs and Apple. The latest example of this is Apple's lawsuit against HTC, the manufacturer of Android and Window's Mobile devices. Here I am, under the delusion the market is truly open, and hoping to purchase an equivalent device from someone else other than Apple, until Apple comes along and disabuses silly me. Just like Microsoft has done in the past, Apple is doing everything in it's power to stifle competition. It's no longer innovating its way to (monopolistic?) dominance, it's turned to litigation in force.

I can't take my Touch back, but I can certainly change my buying habits. I don't know what I'll purchase in the future when the Touch finally breaks (and rest assured, break it will), but it won't be Apple, or any other hamstrung device like Apple's. It has to be, it must be, open. We got here on open standards and open machines built from them. If we sell out our open heritage then we're going to slowly slide into the world Cory Doctorow wrote about in "Unwirer". And I'll be damned if I'm going to let that happen without a fight.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could make many people I know understand the points you make. Far too many seem to actually think that the ability to jailbreak an iPhone/iPod is actually an acceptable option and makes it sufficiently open. Personally, from the perspective of a developer, I find this completely and utterly unacceptable to even consider, let alone suggest.

    I do find it funny how a certain Android device's advertising campaign is totally based on counting the iPhone's artificially-imposed limitations. (even if most other mobile OSes could accurately run very similar campaigns)

    Even my current platform, BlackBerry, known as the "secure corporate device," is *far* more open to software developers (for end-user apps and device-integration apps) than the iPhone. (even if the OS itself is closed) And Android is even more open than it, albeit may suffer from certain platform fragmentation problems.


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