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    I don’t think that manufacturers should be forced to make it possible to install software on their devices, or even that they should be forced to sell devices to people who won’t agree to a contract saying the won’t install third party software.

    I do think that not doing so should void all the patents on the hardware though. The government shouldn’t be letting people use their monopolies on hardware innovations to shove software down users throats. Generally this is known as patent misuse, and it’s a doctrine that should be applied much, much, more broadly (and expanded with legislation).

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      I have an old Apple iPod that hardware and battery wise, stills works perfectly well, but I can’t install or update any software on it because the Apple Store no longer works at all. This effectively turns perfectly good hardware into a paperweight. The apps that I have are still basically functional, until some time as the backend changes, and then it’s an even heavier paperweight.

      Similar with an old Microsoft Windows phones. They made some absolutely brilliant hardware, but now the OS for that is dead.

      And yet people can not only use extremely ancient hardware, but produce new software and even operating systems due to the more open nature of those platforms. Think 386, Commodore 64, something more exotic like a BeBox, etc.

      Any general purpose computing device should be user-unlockable to install whatever the hell we want on it. Put a big nasty warning up, if they must, but our option to choose should be paramount.

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        I think it’s a ridiculous sentiment. Too many electronics are sold as loss leaders with the money made up on software and accessory sales - why would Sony ever make a PS3 if the user could take 30s to install pirated software and the game sales weren’t guaranteed if the console sold?

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          If Sony wants to build a subsidized PS3 with locked down software, they should be free to.

          They shouldn’t however be free to also prevent you from building an unsubsidized one and trying to compete with them on the software. That prevents competition on the software, which leads to significant consumer harm.

          Incidentally, the original PS3 didn’t have particularly locked down software…

          Installing pirated software is illegal regardless of whether or not the PS3s software is locked down.

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            I should have mentioned I’m agreeing with you. It’s ridiculous to force people to allow others to modify their software, it’s also ridiculous to forcibly prevent people from making their own. We should be allowing more people to do things they want to do.

            And sure, installing pirated software is illegal - but try telling the 60 million people (mostly teenagers) with new £500 consoles not to download the new Call of Duty.

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              Oh, I think I interpreted your comment to mean the exact opposite of what you meant then. I took “too many” as a justification for why this wouldn’t work, not a moral claim.

              I’m not sure pirated software is really that big a substitute for non-pirated software. Amongst people who would otherwise buy it, how many are really going to install sketchy potentially malware infested software from sketchy hard to find internet sites instead? And it shouldn’t even be theoretically possible for multiplayer games with centralized servers (which describes most multiplayer games these days).

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            I guess these hysterical Europeans favor consumer freedoms and sustainability over the release of new loss leading consoles.

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              I’m a European. I think overregulation in the name of “consumer freedoms” is a bad thing. Sorry to disagree with your worldview.

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                it’s okay

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            I don’t think that manufacturers should be forced to make it possible to install software on their devices,

            Is that basically the same as prohibiting manufacturers from adding mechanisms which prevent users from installing software?

            or even that they should be forced to sell devices to people who won’t agree to a contract saying the won’t install third party software.

            Is that basically the same as withdrawing the legal mechanisms which makes it possible to enforce a contract prohibiting the installation of third party software?

            Language of coercion is often used selectively to blame regulators and let companies off the hook.

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              Is that basically the same as prohibiting manufacturers from adding mechanisms which prevent users from installing software?

              Well no, it’s a broader definition that includes simply not including affordances. However if you substitute in your version I’m happy to stand behind my comment.

              Incidentally, I think your version is also practically impossible to define and legislate.

              Is that basically the same as withdrawing the legal mechanisms which makes it possible to enforce a contract prohibiting the installation of third party software?

              It’s effectively the same this time, except to the extent that people don’t like lying. Again, I have no problem with substituting in your language and standing behind the claim.

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                what do you mean by not including affordances?

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                  I mean that it’s not just prohibiting manufacturers from adding mechanisms to prevent users from installing software, but requiring manufacturers to include mechanisms (which I’m referring to as affordances) that allow installing software.

                  Take a pre-touch iPod for example. It would have been simple for Apple to ship an ipod where there was simply no menu (or command over the USB interface) that said “install this OS”. I sort of assume that ipods did have update mechanisms in reality, but under a different regulatory regime apple could (and probably would) have simply not included that option. Not including any way to tell the device to install an operating system doesn’t involve adding a mechanism preventing installing software, rather, it’s removing things. At the extreme end you could imagine someone literally just not including a wire necessary to write to the storage where the OS lives in the consumer devices.

                  Legislation requiring that it be possible to install software would say that doing the above is illegal. Legislation that said you can’t make it impossible to install software would say it’s legal, because it was never possible in the first place so no “making” happened.

                  It would be a bit stranger to do this with a modern smart phone because it means making the part you want to protect un-updateable, but nothing really prohibits it. You could make a smartphone where the OS “just happens” to live on storage that can’t be written to, or have it live on the same storage but “just happen” not to have a general file system API (or any other API) that would let you write to the system folder where it lives.

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                    thanks, that makes sense. if you read the letter they don’t spell out where they would stand on these details, but it’s clear you disagree with it regardless.

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                      I would say that between “change nothing” and “do what the letter asks for” I’d fall on the side of the letter, I just think that expanding patent misuse is a better way to fix the pain points. It’s maybe worth pointing out that in practice no company making high tech hardware would be willing to void all the patents on the hardware, so the non edge case end results are very similar.

                      I agree that the letter (rightly!) doesn’t get into the details we were discussing, I only did because I couldn’t really agree that the two statements you asked about were the same. I wasn’t intentionally diverging from the language of the letter in my post.

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              There are a couple things here:

              1. Users should at least have the right to buy devices that aren’t locked and allow them to install what they want, at prices similar or identical to the locked down devices.
              2. Actually, users should probably have the right to unlock every single device they own, as a matter of basic individual freedom.
              3. Our hardware is a big source of pollution, not reusing it until the hardware actually breaks is kind of criminal. And when it does break, we should be able to either replace the broken component, or salvage the working components.

              Enabling (1) only requires the existence of enough unlocked alternatives. Which is arguably the case right now with desktops, laptops, and maybe palmtops (for the last one freedom may come at a premium, I don’t know for sure). (2) and (3) however require a global ban. Not even game consoles should be locked down.

              (2) in particular highlight the conflict between individual freedom and corporate freedom. I tend to value individual freedom much more (corporations aren’t humans, and there are much fewer corporations than humans).

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                I tend to value individual freedom much more

                Unfortunately for humans, corporations have successfully taken power in most countries around the world.

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              Apple don’t work for you. If you don’t like the way they run their product don’t buy it.

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                It sounds like your model of business is that it exists to enrich its investors than that it exists to supply useful goods and services to society at large.

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                  I don’t own any Apple shares. I do own a bunch of their devices though. Until we have mass re-implementation of burroughs-alike capabilities and/or CHERI in hardware, and some sort of quantum leap in user-agent-authorisation UX, the best and most secure experiences are going to be on hardware that has some restrictions.

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                    the larger point is that Apple depends on society at large, not vice versa. we have no obligation to allow them to operate in the market as they please.

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                This is not a request for device creators to enable running arbitrary applications within the device’s native framework. Rather, this is a request for device creators to not erect obstacles for device owners who wish to customize their device, including owners who wish to write custom applications, frameworks, drivers, and other arbitrary portions of the device’s operating system.