iPhone App Store: Where is your god now, open source fanbois?

Sure you only use Linux and GPL. Sure you’re down with LAMP and know Perl. Why, then, did you buy an iPhone? As Nik at TCIT points out, the App Store is so enmeshed in DRM and closed source policies that you basically cannot give away your software without Apple’s permission.

Apple has wrapped the iPhone SDK in enough licensing, security controls and right management that it would make the Microsoft Active Desktop team blush. The phone and platform that is certain to soon take second spot behind Symbian in the smart phone market is also the most restricted and closed. Applications can only be installed from a single source, iTunes, and open source applications and distribution is near impossible. How do you install an iPhone application without iTunes? Where are the community advocates arguing for a standard interface, openess and free code?

Now Apple is planning to offer special methods for creating and uploading apps to iPhones for educational and non-profit institutions but you still have to use iTunes to pop those files onto your phone. Nik posits that Apple may, some day, release all applications via the App Store, allowing Apple to become a “gatekeeper.” It will also kill our first-born sons and make them into beef jerky.

I for one welcome our glossy masters. Given the difficulty of downloading mobile applications in the past – multiple sites, odd billing systems, inability to browse large collections efficiently – the App Store is a godsend. Sure it runs through iTunes, but I’m willing to accept a little control for a streamlined and efficient method for app transmission.

Nik also discusses the openness of the kernel:

It should be very possible to attach a simple BSD license to code, and if a large company utilizes the effort from others in a way that is unacceptable – the market should be able to sort that out, we simply wont buy it. The community needs to do more than just wear their support for openess and standards on their sleeves (and on their laptops). The problem with Apple is that the blind demand is driven by a distorted reality, so those same developers who poured thousands of hours into the BSD kernel now turn around and purchase an iPhone running that code, but it is now tied up in DRM, licenses and restrictions placed there by others.

Now that’s a good point and one I will not refute.