Complicating Relationships in Media: Apple, NY Times Dealings Raise Questions


Recent days have reminded me of the many traits Apple and the New York Times share. Both are the best at what they do in certain domains. Each is emphatically elitist, and, in varying ways, self-confident to the point of arrogance. Neither is very transparent (though at least the Times has its Public Editor).

The differences, of course, are profound. In particular, there’s the business trajectory: Apple has reinvented itself several times, and lately has gone from triumph to triumph as a profit-making company. The Times Co.’s record in this regard is deeply mixed: Reinvention has come mostly at the edges, and the business has been heading downhill.

The affinities between Apple and the Times came into sharper focus in the past several weeks, but in ways that have raised some difficult and as-yet unanswered questions. Some background:

On many occasions during the run-up to the launch of the Apple iPad, a product that brought widespread huzzahs from a who’s-who of technology journalists, I visited Apple’s home page. Most of the time, here’s what that page looked like:

Apple homepage features NY Times

Apple has been eager to show people that major media institutions are flocking to the device, as the Times has done with one of the early iPad applications (more on this below). It trotted out Times new-media executive Martin Nisenholtz at the formal introduction of the iPad in January (the paper’s next-day story didn’t mention that, though its reporter-bloggers did); Nisenholtz praised the device, which I have no doubt he truly adores.

As a (very small) shareholder in the New York Times Co., I was glad to see the newspaper get such a prominent spot at the event, just as I’ve been pleased to see the paper experiment with digital journalism and new business models — and glad to see Apple push the Times as its poster child for the iPad.

But as someone who wants the Times to always meet, to the extent possible, the highest principles of journalistic practice, I’ve been getting an increasingly uneasy feeling, on several accounts.

By appearing on stage at the Apple event and by launching an iPad app that the Times wants to monetize in every possible way — an app from which Apple will likely make money as well — the Times is becoming more of a business partner with a company it covers incessantly. And when Apple promoted the Times so visibly before the in-store selling date of the iPad, given the millions of people who visit Apple’s home page each month, it was giving the Times a huge boost.

Apple’s website is, by any standard, a media property; all institutional websites — just as all blogs, for that matter — are media properties in this world where boundaries are becoming less easy to discern. So I found myself wondering: Did the Times pay for this fabulous product placement? Or did Steve Jobs (I’m assuming he at least approved this) decide to associate Apple with an undeniably great news brand in this extremely out-front manner — well beyond the routine way that Jobs and other Apple executives have shown the Times on conference screens over the years as they demonstrated new products?

I’ve asked the newspaper’s spokesman this question. So far he has not responded. (UPDATE: I’ve received, after 11 days since first asking, the official word that the paper is “not going to comment.”)

I’ve also asked the Times to address a much more difficult issue: about the appearance of a conflict of interest that could fairly raise questions in some people’s minds about the paper’s journalism in covering the iPad — journalism that has been almost uniformly adulatory.

Make no mistake about what I believe: I’m certain that the overwhelmingly positive coverage the Times has given the iPad reflects the journalists’ best efforts to do their jobs. I know most of these people and I trust them; they’re pros who understand how easily Apple seems to turn otherwise skeptical journalists into fanboys and girls, and I’m sure they do their best to block out Steve Jobs’ famous “reality distortion field” as they work. From experience, I can tell you that staying skeptical is difficult given Jobs’ absolute mastery of marketing and the reality that Apple sells some pretty nifty gear and software; I cringe at some of the credulous things I wrote about Apple during my days as a columnist.

What value has Apple received from the Times‘ massive and continuing coverage? Quite a bit, of course — though it’s only fair to note that most other major journalism organizations have given the iPad the kind of fawning attention that makes every other company executive on the planet insanely jealous.

Apple’s business and PR methods aren’t the issue here. No company plays the media better than Apple, period, and this is obviously good business for Jobs and his employees and shareholders.

What matters is the Times‘ seeming indifference to the way this looks. Even though I don’t believe there was any quid pro quo, I do believe that someone who doesn’t know the players could reasonably ask if an arrangement did exist.


That’s only one issue I raised with the Times‘ spokesman. Here’s another, which I’ve also raised with Nisenholtz and people at the Wall Street Journal and USA Today: Does Apple, which maintains control over what iPad apps are made available, have the unilateral right to remove these journalism organizations’ news apps if the apps deliver information to audiences that Apple considers unacceptable for any reason?

No one has answered the question. I take the silence on this to mean that the answer is Yes, given the evidence of earlier Apple behavior plus the publication of an iPad application-developer agreement obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a document that revealed control-freakery by Apple on a stunning level.

Now, the news organizations’ silence could also mean only that they’re abiding by a key element of that control: a requirement in the app-developer agreement (the one we’ve seen, anyway) to say nothing publicly about the specifics of these dealings with Apple. Perhaps — and I hope this is true — they have special dispensation from Apple to provide the journalism they deem fit for their audiences with no interference allowed. If so, they should say so.

But why, in either case, are they in bed with Apple in the first place? We already know that Rupert Murdoch has praised the iPad as a way to get back control of the audience — in the sense of forcing people to pay for what they read — that the News Corp. CEO wrongly believes is being stolen by Google and other companies that merely link to the material the news organizations make available online. As noted above, it’s also no secret that executives at the Times and other media companies, while not howling at the moon the way Murdoch does, see the iPad as a crucial part of monetizing what they do.

As noted in an earlier post here, I have deep reservations about news organizations’ willingness to cast their lot with a company that exerts such control over users of its technology — a company that has already ordered German publications to tone down material Apple deemed inappropriate and has removed thousands of apps from the iPhone app store, and a company that has attacked journalism and journalists (to whom I’ve given support in two court cases) more than once in deeply troubling ways.

Jumping into an ecosystem like this violates fundamental journalistic principles, I believe. And the more popular the iPad gets the more potentially dangerous this could become to the information ecosystem.

Again, Apple has every right to push around its customers and media “partners” in pursuit of its business goals. What bothers me is the media companies’ willingness to cede so much of their authority to a company that has demonstrated its willingness to abuse it.


All of this activity stems from the confluence of several trends.

One is especially disappointing: Apple’s decision to move away from, if not abandon, its roots as a company devoted overwhelmingly to computer users as opposed to the media consumers it wants to bring into the iPad ecosystem. I’m a longtime Apple customer, and would guess I’ve spent at least $30,000 of my own money over the years on its products, most recently a Mac computer that, despite some flaws, still feels like the best combination of hardware, software and user community in the market.

The iPhone, locked down from the beginning, started Apple down a road I cannot support. The iPad is a lovely device in so many ways. And with not very many tweaks for more openness, could easily be the kind of computer I’d carry on the road. But Apple’s decision to move its developer and user control up the value chain — forcing developers to sell through only one store, Apple’s, and telling users of that channel they may only use or see what Apple approves — persuades me that the company’s long-range goal is to make this restrictive ecosystem the standard, not the exception.

The iPad, as many others have noted, is designed to work best with apps: Apple’s own and the third-party apps that are coming into the Apple-controlled market from which Apple profits with every sale of a paid app and will profit further from commercial activities that take place inside those apps. It’s much more in Apple’s interest to push the iPad as an app platform than as a Web platform, however well the device runs Flash-forbidden Safari (competing browser providers are not welcome in any case).

Apple wants to be not just the platform but also, effectively, the pipe — a permission-required conduit — for the information that gets to the device. This makes the iPad a fundamentally anti-Web platform no matter what Apple and its supporters claim. It makes the iPad an anti-Internet platform, as GigaOm’s Paul Sweeting told NPR the other day.

Apple’s lockdown methods suit a large number of media consumers just fine. They want a walled garden. They want Apple to protect them. They want an ecosystem where someone else makes all the key decisions so they don’t have to worry.

The more thoughtful among this group figure they can go elsewhere if Apple abuses its power (not caring, apparently, that Apple already has amply demonstrated abusive ways). They are falling into the trap Jonathan Zittrain warned about so presciently in his book, The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop it — a future where our ability to be creative will exist more and more at the whim of companies and governments that prefer centralized control and want us to ask permission. Truly dynamic societies don’t work that way.

Traditional journalism executives (and not a few of their editors, writers et al in newsrooms) have found the walled garden’s fragrances too alluring to resist. They are making an understandable short-term decision, but in seeking what Cory Doctorow so aptly calls a “daddy figure” they’re casting their lot with a company that hasn’t begun to earn such fealty. (I use that last word deliberately; it comes from feudal times and refers to the enforced loyalty tenants and vassals were forced to swear to their lords.)

Journalism principles will survive the iPad. Journalism will survive panicked efforts to restore a former “glory” that was based more on rapacious, unsustainable business models than on actual value to society. It will survive because the entrepreneurial spirit — if permitted by those in authority to flourish — always finds ways around control.

So in the long run, it’ll all work out. But in the short run, I’d be happier if journalists recognized and discussed more publicly the conflicts they face in supporting this controlling device — and doing business with the company that controls it.

58 thoughts on “Complicating Relationships in Media: Apple, NY Times Dealings Raise Questions”

  1. As a longtime Mac user, I’m crushed by the suggestion that Apple updated its developer agreement to include specifically anti-Adobe language, mere days before Adobe was to roll out Flash CS5. The new language seems designed to single out CS5’s Flash-to-iPhone conversion technology.

    If true, that certainly supports your thesis that Apple is seeing itself as a pipe or enabler of walled gardens.

  2. Brian, it is worse than that. Lots of people were working on various HLL to Objective C compilers so they could develop for the iPhone in their favorite languages, because they loved the platform so much they were willing to go through manyears of work to comply with the license. Now Apple has just said “fuck you” in a very prominent way.

    They already repeatedly took people who loved their platform so much that they spent man months or man years building apps for their platform and told them “sorry, you can’t sell” via their arbitrary and capricious app store gatekeeping process, and in other cases withdrew people’s apps after the fact for no good reason.

    I was a rabid apple fanatic until recently, but I’m never developing for the platform now. Apple has sent a clear message which is they own the platform and everyone else is just there for their convenience. Apple will crush anyone’s hopes and dreams and years of work any time they feel like it. No thanks.

  3. Apple obviously believes it owns the developers at this point. Why do they keep cooperating?

  4. Apple is indeed the shrewdest marketer of our day. The NY Times may just survive to be the last paper standing. I hate to think of the Times in the same light as Murdoch and MediaNews Group; this does not help.
    Two words keep coming to mind.

    Splinternet and Sheeple.

  5. They want to fundamentally change computing and how people interact with the Internet. Apple’s primary business revolves around selling people things they really don’t need for a premium price. Apple knows they are just as susceptible to having their business model undermined as Microsoft’s business was by Linux, Firefox and web companies like Google. If Apple can temp enough users into their walled garden they can subvert the open Internet by locking out competitors who complete via Free/Open Source technologies. I belive they are already doing this by proposing new standards that rely on proprietary technology (HTML5) or attempting to litigate them out of existence via patents (Android). If Apple fails to neutralize the free and open web they could find themselves behind the 8 ball when the next wave of web innovations hits the market.

  6. Great piece Dan. Like you, I’m a long-time Mac user and I admit I’m a fanboy. But I too am troubled by the degree of market power that Apple is now exerting. I am also concerned about the degree of vertical integration that Apple enjoys – and yesterday’s iAds announcement only seeks to extend. At what point does this – should this – attract regulatory scrutiny? However much I love the company’s products, I believe, and have recently argued, that it’s time Apple was forced to divest itself of iTunes.

  7. Dan,

    Only a few months ago, the Times published a very interesting article about people who had quit their jobs to develop apps full-time for the iPhone. Their logic was the same as any developers’—the money. You can make a lot of it selling apps in the app store. The promise of all that potential cash in return for a digital product in an age where all digital products are pirated more than they’re sold is extremely alluring, even taking into account Apple’s draconian policies.

    1. The problem with that logic is that so many people think developers spend 15 minutes patching together an app and then somehow become overnight millionaires. It’s simply not true.

  8. Just a thought here, but as a Developer who has programed for the iPhone and Android, Java, Win, Mac OS X, etc. I can kind of see Apples point here. Isn’t this just Apple’s way of saying if you are going to be programming for our devices you need to and should be able to program in the language and within the development enviornment that we require and that we use. (Think about it, is easier to support one Language and One Dev Enviornment)

    I just dont see the problem, how many of us programmers have switched jobs just to find out even tho we knew one language we would have learn or switch to a different programming language we werent comfortable with because the new company didnt work that way or use the language or enviornment we are used to. Hell when I was in college I had different professors at the same college that required us to use different programming enviornment and different languages all the time. As far as I am concerned you have to play the game if you want to be part of it. Lifes a bitch, get over and act like an adult, if you dont want to play by Apples rules then get out, and someone else will replace you and do the work you wont.

    In regards to Flash. Boo Hoo, I worked and created this shitty application in Flash because it was simple and now I want to convert it over to work on the iPhone but I dont want to actually learn how it works or what you need to do in order to get the Application to work. If you ask me you are being a lazy SOB, and frankly if you worked for me I wouldnt want you on my payroll either. Which lets face it, if you are developing for any of the new Mobile Devices out there, you pretty much are working for Google or Apple or whatever Market/Store you are trying to sell your App on. You make a ton of money for the company and they give you 70% of what you made of them, sounds like a typical job to me, no matter where you work.

    So how about we all stop bitching, and just do what needs to be done, learn the language or STFU. I dont understand why its such a big deal to have to learn a new language/dev environment its a new job skill, and frankly you should be happy to learn something new. Its like we have all become mindless uneducated drones unwilling to learn anything new because it requires time and talent.

    Wow ok sorry this was so long, but come on…

    1. You’re about a dumb as a rock. I’d never work for you for that reason. Let’s look at this from a realistic POV. So instead of allowing multiple means to solve a problem with programming, you would say NO, do it with the one tool that we give you and STFU. Even if that tool is inferior. I’m not saying it is, but it certainly could be. It could have an inferior workflow. Or just not a workflow that everyone can use.

      Flash is a way to create a vast array of experienes, it can be a video player, but it can be a linear animation, with triggered timeline sounds, it can be one of the hundreds of thousands of fantastic children’s learning games out there created by schools, governments, and companies. And plain Janes.

      Not having Flash player on the iPad means that you can’t give your kid the iPad, go to games and have them learn things from them. You’ll have to download a PBS app, (if it’s even created) and EVERY GAME would have to be remade from separate code.

      Here’s why you’re dumb as a rock. These groups, individuals and companies don’t have the resources to churn the butter the old fashioned way. They also might not want to develop on a Mac. They also don’t really want to be locked into some agreement just to provide free content to their viewers. That’s the point, they might want to provide free fun and learning content to their fans or visitors, and because of the restrictions, they can’t.

      You and everyone else on these specialty blogs can bitch about Flash because it crashed your Safari or made your PC fan turn up last Tuesday, but the fact is that for MOST people, yes most, yes like 95% or more have Flash, don’t complain, don’t even think about it because it let’s them do and see things on whatever computer they are visiting from that day. Whether that means playing a game, video, watching a walkthru demo or whatever. And the best part, which you don’t give a shit about, but a ton of us do. Not every flash app that does something significant NEEDs to have been created by a programmer. Flash has tools that designers can use to create and contribute.

      Hello, that’s why it’s popular. It does things that HTML and Javascript can’t do, at least not practically. It IS the best tool for some jobs. And it’s cross freaking platform. The FACT is, Apple loses money on apps when Flash exists on the system. Why buy this or that game app, from which Apple takes a cut when you can just play great games on a learning webpage.

      lastly, this new developer restriction blocks out a lot of other great tools for producing code. Things we don’t know about.

      No matter, Android is where it’s at. iPhone might get the most publicity, it will become less important. Especially the less Apple wants to play ball with innovators.

      “if you ask me you are being a lazy SOB, and frankly if you worked for me I wouldnt want you on my payroll either.”

      You sound like somebody who never managed a project before, one where money was involved. Write once should always be the goal. Why would you want to do it twice if you didn’t have to.

  9. Adobe Flash doesnt belong in a open web. It is a private closed technology controlled by Adobe. Why should Adobe Inc. in the USA control the world-wide-web of video? At least they claim they do (75+ percent). Why should Adobe Inc. act as gatekeeper – selecting who should be able to build a webrenderer and who should not?

    Now Apple told Adobe they dont want Flash-player on their devices. And Adobe has since tried anything from creating internet-mobs to plain lies. This time Adobe thinly disguised the Flashplayer in an Obecjtive-C library and the ActionScript-code as a series of Objective-C calls to the Flash-player library. A real ugly solution that eat lots of memory and consumes a lot of power.

    Of course Apple stops them. This type of product kills not only Apples branding but also the technical achievements Appe have made. Flash player kills battery time.

    Also Apple is about to introduce multitasking. And filling the appstore with Flash shovelware that requires 20-30 times the memory size compared to xcode developed projects is surely unwanted.

    Now Adobe is playing cry-baby again. Using whatever journalist that owes them one.

    And yes, Apple has sent a clear message. They dont want the bloody Flash-player on their products. This was no news. The ugliness of Adobe’s solution has been well known for a while. The unsuitability of Flash for this class of devices has also been well known. That Apple said no to the Flash-player was well-known. That Adobe was outside of the licensing terms in their handling of certificates was well known.

    But Adobe has selected to pick a fight and continued anyway. Event to the point of victimizing their own developers (many has ordered a CS5-upgrade for just this feature).

    Given the many well-known factors that made this an unsuitable project/product for these devices it would have been so easy to just discuss this with Apple and then kill ths Flash-iphone project. But Adobe wants a fight – they have always been a very arrogant company. And very greedy – just ask any non-US developer about the outrageous prices Adobe International charges.

    1. I’m not a fan of Adobe or Flash. But why should the user — the owner — of the device be prohibited from making the mistake of using it?

    2. #1, don’t confuse the developer license agreement with html5 and the open web. Any app created by a developer is a closed source executable. closed, not open. So an app store app is part of the walled garden, closed source, proprietary. And restricted beyond that by apple gag orders.

      #2 In regards to the open web, HTML5, sounds good use it, why not. It DOES eat up as much processing power doing video in a lot of tests I’ve been reading about lately.

      #3 when you prevent users from downloading their own stuff, and then prevent developers from making whatever they want for people, you are closed, not open. So cut the crap.

      #4 SWF file is a documented open spec just like PDF and there are free tools to generate a swf, flash file. There are also proprietary tools to compile it. There are free tools that generate flash FLV files too. So how is the openness a problem? Because FLASH CS5 is a closed source developer tool? So what, use the open ones.

      I’m sorry, but this open web complaint is a bunch of BS once you cross into video. h264 is a closed file format on the web. It’s not open code in the video. So it’s not really a huge stretch to call a swf video player to play an FLV versus using a html tag to grab an encoded (compiled) video file.

      And one thing about Apple support. Sorry, but when you visit a webpage with a ton of Javascript or Flash and your browser crashes, Apple isn’t “supporting” that problem anyway. You can’t get to the site, you move on. Sure some might try to open an apple support ticket, which will get ignored. For them to justify disallowing web plugins to keep their customers safe or provide a better experience is stupid bullshit.

    1. I spent much of the 1990s and earlier this decade beating up Microsoft for its business abuses. They’re no paragon of openness, but at this point they’re doing better than Apple.

      1. Microsoft is still a giant monopoly, using it’s power to control the market (with government approval, BTW). I wonder how Apple would operate if MS were really open.

        Maybe Ballmer might think about starting an app store for desktop applications??

  10. Dan, its so encouraging to me see that a long time enthusiastic Apple customer such as yourself sees this so very clearly and exactly, as I, a long term Apple hater view this media arrangement development. But I also rage at Apple from an even broader view, one thats pulled back to trend model level.

    Whats even more disturbing than the fact that while they are pushing the walled garden to the masses, they are insulting the consumer, increasingly constricting its control and doing so with impunity! I dare say to such a degree that not only are they forcing other competitors to adopt the flawed and obsolete model that all walled gardens enjoy, but they are propping up the desperate belief the media companies have that they can still monetize their product from a position of greed as they always have and that they can “still” dictate to the consumer how they peruse their content whether they offer more or less value to the product.

    When looked back at in hindsight I hope Apple is vilified for its role in restricting the evolution of the media stream to the future forms it needs to evolve towards.

  11. As a user of the iPhone I appreciate what Apple is doing. No offence to developers that try to circumvent the development tools of Apple but… I don’t want to use unoptimized applications bloated by flash code conversion to Xcode binary. What kind of an application will that be anyway. Most likely not using any of the standard UI found on the iPhone, possibly hiding malware that would be more difficult to detect, etc, etc.

    I like my iPhone app the way they are today. It is time people move on from Flash to something else. If it is objective C then be it. If they rather develop using what… .net for Win7 then be it. But please, no hackery like flash cross-compiler on those platform.

    1. “I don’t want to use unoptimized applications bloated by flash code conversion to Xcode binary.”

      No. Actually the truth is more simple. YOU don’t want your iPhone to misbehave. And if it doesn’t misbehave because of the original source material compiled then you’d never know would you?

      PLUS you could just delete the app or not download it in the first place. There are many of us who do want to create and be able to use different programs from people who’s only choice might be to use that particular tool.

      Certainly the app store could easily identify apps originated from Flash so someone could make an informed choice. Also the rating systems can help too. A bad flash app would get downvoted pretty darn quick. And with any app, if it didn’t operate as expected you deserve your money back (if you bought it ) when you remove it.

      There’s no good (non greedy) reason why it couldn’t work this way.

  12. Does anyone else besides me see the striking 1984 ad parallels with Steve Jobs being the ominous face on the screen and the old-line media following in cult-like fashion as the clones in the audience following Apple’s “Information Purification Directives”. One can’t read the NYTimes review of the iPad and not think their writer as one of those drones. Is Marissa Myer the young woman running with the sledge hammer? Ad script & link below.

    Btw, I’m an owner of an iPod, iPhone and Macbook and have a brother-in-law working there so have many good things to say about Apple but their behavior is disturbing in the extreme and scares me far more than Microsoft ever did in their heyday.

    1984 ad script:
    [In walk the drones]

    “Today we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives.

    [Apple’s hammer-thrower enters, pursued by storm troopers.]

    We have created for the first time in all history a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests of any contradictory true thoughts.

    Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth.

    We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause.

    Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion.

    [Hammer is thrown at the screen]

    We shall prevail!


    On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’”

    1. Jack Gallagher says it better and in more detail than I could recall, about how Apple has now become the hammer target instead of the hammer thrower. Oh, how easily we become what we once criticized — it wasn’t contempt, it was jealousy!

      Apple has become a very Chinese company.

  13. I agree that there’s more than a little appearance of impropriety here, but that hardly matters. The New York Times has been thrashing about in bed with the Democratic party for years. It matters little that their executives occasionally lunch with Steve Jobs.

    Take a larger perspective. Puffing Apple can do us and the world little harm. Apple merely makes gadgets that are soon obsolete. But by 2012, the puffing that got Obama elected will have made our world a much nastier place in which to live. We can disagree with foreign policy objectives, but insulting allies and pandering to thug-regimes about to go nuclear is never good foreign policy.

  14. Lets look at this from a different angle. Your Set-top boxes at home run linux. Do you have any control or at least a login to this box? Most of the new gen boxes run a browser and have html/svg interface. Again do you have the freedom to change things like css for example and say write your own widget? Nope.

    Call me crazy, media studios seem to have zero interest in open product. If there is no DRM or any mechanism you can’t get fantastic apps. Now why do you think all popular websites do streaming using flash or whatever, instead of simply hosting http download links? Why do you think bbc implemented drm in its videos?

    If ipad for instance had no single app store and there are several ways of getting same apps (without paying), then I can bet there will be no apps like Netflix getting developed.

    1. Prabhu, I don’t understand your point. Set-top boxes come from the TV-Hollywood world, a totally top-down system. The iPad comes from a company that once believed in (more or less) open platforms for development.

      The studios have allowed their movies to be shown on devices that aren’t nearly as locked-down as the iPad (though they do use DRM in heavy ways).

      And the fact that Neflix is looking for Android developers suggests that your final point needs some rethinking.

  15. I’m very proud of you for this, Dan. Great piece of work and great thinking. I don’t think Jobs idea here will scale, and I’m eager to see what competitors come up with. Apple=The Borg. Viva Le Revolucion!

  16. Dank this is a great article. I think we need to differentiate between the technical and marketing marvels a company like Apple creates (and they are quite lovely) and the philosophical notions they embody.

    I love the iPhone but I don’t have one — because I won’t do business with AT&T, the only viable vendor where I live and work. And since the iPhone is only available through “authorized” vendors that leaves me out.

    I’d love to try an iPad, but I’m troubled again by all the controls I don’t want. I hate the idea that Apple censors what kinds of SW may run on the iPhone and the iPad. Imagine the outcry if Microsoft did that for Windows! (I know, it’s a different model — they only own the OS not the HW). And I am very troubled by the idea that the Times may tune itself to an Apple approved beat.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Meh, go the apple store, put it in your hands. Try it for a couple minutes and walk away like I did.

      For me it was the opposite of ‘magical.’ It was cool, but I was kind of disenchanted with it. Too much hype. Probably because my Nexus One phone is just as fast of a browser and image viewer. I thought the books looked kind of dumb too actually. That and I don’t want to spend a ton of cash each time i want to watch a movie or read something. Library hello!?

      And I never want to touch the bloated iTunes ever again. I hate that program AND QuickTime.

  17. I have a sinking suspicion that once the Android and Windows 7 tablets come out and have their own New York Times apps, this issue will become a non-issue.

  18. I think this is all a bunch of BS. If you don’t like the control that Apple has over its products THEN DON’T BUY THEM. Simple as that. You can have you Linux, Opera, Firefox and Androids. Plenty of other stuff out there that is net neutral as far as control goes.

    1. I think the point of the article is opinion, commentary and spreading information. Are you saying that when somebody doesn’t like something they shouldn’t comment on it? how about if you don’t like what he’s saying, don’t read it, and don’t comment yourself…

      People should share the good and the bad so we understand what we might be getting ourselves into with fine print. Does somebody buying an iPhone realize they may NEVER be able to watch their niece’s 11th grade Flash-based school project on it? They won’t get that information from Apple. Others have to inform them, techies who pay attention to certain details.

      I’m really glad people have been pointing out the developer restrictions. Because they strike a chord for me, make me want to avoid the product for the ethical disagreement I have with the situation. I hope developers bail and level the playing field with Android and all the other good systems out there. If flash 10.1 ran on every other platform except iPhone, I’m developing in Flash if it’s the right choice and reaching a lot more people.

    2. The real problem is that NO ONE else is producing innovative hardware with innovative software to match it.

      Apple seems to be the only company that can do it.


  19. Just yesterday I found out that the Apple iPhone includes JavaScript among its development languages. Since I have developed an
    artificial intelligence in JavaScript, I may like to submit the Mentifex AiMind to the Apple app store for use on the iPhone and the iPad. But my Mentifex AI project is extremely controversial, and I fear the likelihood of investing an enormous amount of time and effort into becoming an iPhone/iPad developer, only to be psychologically (if not financially) crushed by whimsical or spiteful rejection from Apple. So what’s an independent AI scholar to do? Only develop for jailbroken iPhones and iPads?

  20. a bit more than just tangentially related….

    The Crime of Reason – Stanford EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium
    Jan 7, 2009

    The Crime of Reason – Xerox PARC Forum
    October 23, 2008
    video: mms://

    About the talk:

    There is increasing concern about the disappearance of technical knowledge
    from the public domain, both on grounds that is presents a security danger and
    because it is economically valuable “Intellectual Property”. I argue that this
    development is not anomalous at all but a great historic trend tied to our
    transition to the information age. We are in the process of losing a human
    right that all of us thought we had but actually didn’t–the right to learn
    things we can and better ourselves economically from what we learn.
    Increasingly, figuring things our for yourself will become theft and
    terrorism. Increasingly, reason itself will become a crime.


    The Crime of Reason: And the Closing of the Scientific Mind
    By Robert B. Laughlin
    Published by Basic Books, 2008
    ISBN 0465005071, 9780465005079
    224 pages

    We all agree that the free flow of ideas is essential to creativity. And we
    like to believe that in our modern, technological world, information is more
    freely available and flows faster than ever before. But according to Nobel
    Laureate Robert Laughlin, acquiring information is becoming a danger or even a
    crime. Increasingly, the really valuable information is private property or a
    state secret, with the result that it is now easy for a flash of insight,
    entirely innocently, to infringe a patent or threaten national security. The
    public pays little attention because this vital information is
    \u201ctechnical\u201d\u2014but, Laughlin argues, information is often labeled
    technical so it can be sequestered, not sequestered because it\u2019s
    technical. The increasing restrictions on information in such fields as
    cryptography, biotechnology, and computer software design are creating a new
    Dark Age: a time characterized not by light and truth but by disinformation
    and ignorance. Thus we find ourselves dealing more and more with the Crime of
    Reason, the antisocial and sometimes outright illegal nature of certain
    intellectual activities.

  21. To (illegaly?) quote (the proprietary artform) Ratatouille:

    Anton Ego: After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?

    Substitue “cook” for “tech toy” and I think you’ve delivered Dan. I get so tired of reading reviews which are merely “haters” or “lovers.” You do a great job of outlining the positives of Apple while shining a lot on its increasingly draconian practices that are of real concern to many. I appreciate your careful examination of the issue and reporting on a topic that should be discussed more. It is fascinating to me that Microsoft is villified as the evil empire (with good reason at times) while Apple is given a pass on practices just as closed or “greedy,” merely because it’s “hip.”

    To those who think Flash isn’t a big deal: it is. For the very reason others have given. People use lots of Flash on a daily basis. Let’s not debate whether they should or not: they do. HTML5 still isn’t finalized, there will be a lag between its release and the browsers implmenenting it, and Flash will still be around. Denying a basic functionality of the Internet should be of concern to Apple users (do they really not want to watch their friends on YouTube?)

    My laptop runs Microsoft XP, but is tricked out with mostly open source products that I have chosen to use based on my personal preferences: Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office, Winamp, 7zip, etc. I don’t have an issue with Apple having their own products they market, or Microsoft, or anyone else for that matter. What I have a problem with is someone dictating that I can’t use what I want to use, so long as it is a legal piece of software and not a threat to another’s computing experience (malware). The antitrust suit against Microsoft was brought on in part because of the company’s push to keep other browsers out of the PC market in favor of IE. The howls would be huge if Microsoft didn’t allow Firefox, Opera, or Chrome to run. Why are there no protests of Apple’s Safari-only policy on what is essentially a mobile computer, akin to the netbook in power/purpose if not design?

    Finally, Dan’s points about the blurrnig lines of media and the potential for abuse is worth taking no matter how much you love or hate Apple, for it applies to a much broader issue than this one company. The Internet is the new printing press, and is changing the rules that have ruled since that invention turned knowledge on its head. In our rush to adopt we must also take care to adapt, keeping both our eyes and ears open to what consequences both positive and negative our choices have.

  22. Does a car company allow anyone to create parts for that car without any form of control?
    Get real. Apple is not a totalitarian government.

    For the most part it’s quality control.

    What if they allow flash and your iphone becomes slow and unstable.
    Who is that customer going to call? Will this customer complain about Adobe?
    No it’s an Apple device, so it’s Apple’s fault their iPhone sucks with flash.

    Quality control. This is why OSX is a rock solid system.
    This is why they can guarantee your MacOS, iPhone and iPad will run stable.

    I do find the paranoia of Apple by banning apps that ‘critisize’ public figures a very concerning situation.

    I truely hope Apple won’t go that road.
    But still, i would still run OSX for my Professional work.
    Any software company can write software for OSX.

    1. Jay, your incorrect and contradictory statements actually refute your argument.

      First, car companies are not allowed to prevent third-party parts from being used in their vehicles. There are certainly quality control issues, but it’s up to customers to make good choices. But if you couldn’t use third-party parts, can you imagine what the original manufacturers would charge?

      Second, the fact that the Mac is fairly stable — not “rock solid” — doesn’t help your case, given that it’s open (as you later note) to software developers. You should be arguing for Apple to lock down the Mac as well to stay consistent. But that would cause you problems if someone couldn’t write what you need for your Mac without Apple’s approval, wouldn’t it?

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