I’m not going to say I told you so

The whole flap about Apple “bricking” unlocked and hacked iPhones with the latest software update reminds me of this article I wrote about Kaleidoscope in 2003.

I won’t say I told you so because I didn’t, exactly. (In fact, re-reading my article on Freshmeat makes me cringe; it’s a half-thought-out piece of naiive open-source evangelism.) But looking back, this is a story that gets repeated over and over again. It goes like this:

  1. A company releases a popular, closed product.
  2. A third party “hacks” the product and adds killer functionality via an undocumented, reverse-engineered API or infrastructure.
  3. A future update to the software eliminates the hack or alters the reverse-engineered API enough to eliminate the killer functionality.
  4. Go back to step 2.

I’m not suprised that this story is being repeated with the iPhone, because if there’s any company that’s extremely likely to take step 3, it’s Apple. Their entire business is based on total control of the whole widget, and they are doing a killer job. It wouldn’t be fair to expect them to even care about whether a new OS will break unofficial uses of hardware interfaces in the iPhone that weren’t documented or intended for third-party use.

It’s an old story, and I’m sure we’ll hear it again someday.