dead horse

Mountain Lion, Closed Systems, Privacy, and Device Churn

Some interesting dates from the not-so-distant past:

December, 2009: "Apple has said it rejects 10 percent of submissions for being 'inappropriate,' in some cases because they try to steal personal data".

November, 2011: Apple kicks a security researcher out of its developer program for developing a proof of concept that shows how to exploit a security hole. The best part: the researcher had reported the flaw three weeks earlier.

February, 2012: An approved app, available in the App Store, is caught uploading entire address books (aka, stealing personal data), without user consent or knowledge. This app was never pulled from the App store, and an updated (non-address stealing version) is still available.

Rotten Apple

Apple has done a great job of pairing marketing hype with security through obscurity. Apple has created the appearance of a secure system (trust us! we're the gatekeepers!) but the holes in this system keep reappearing. I'm not saying that other systems are any more or less secure; however, other systems don't attempt to parlay a walled ecosystem into the equivalent of a secure environment. There have been instances of security fixes being delayed as a result of Apple's review process, resulting in users having no alternative to compromised apps, and no knowledge of the compromise.

However, despite these issues, Apple supporters - and especially Apple supporters within education - go to great lengths to describe how satisfied they are with their Apple purchases, and how they are not bothered by the increasingly intertwined way that the Apple ecosystem shuts out alternatives. Concerns about student privacy, and how iTunes accounts are effectively required to use iPads and other Mac products, have died down. People seem to have accepted that school in the 21st century requires paying companies to take over your personal data and usage patterns, and mine them for information.

But really, how many people who have gone deep into Apple could express anything but satisfaction, or even intense excitement? What are the alternatives?

Can you imagine a tech director walking into their boss and saying, "Well, this Apple hardware and software was okay, but with a little hindsight they aren't really necessary for learning, and there are other options that look promising, and might even be cheaper. I'd like to explore some other avenues. Oh, and one last thing: sorry about the several hundred thousand/millions we've spent on that hardware and software, and sorry that a good percentage of our faculty and student creative output is locked into apps that don't work on anything else but Apple stuff."

Of course people that have gone all in with Apple will be delighted with the results. The alternative is admitting that resources were squandered on something that was untested, and proved to be not as awesome as the sales teams/fanboys promised. People who have gone heavily into Apple need for Apple to be the best thing ever, as that reinforces their "vision."

So, when I read about the release of Mountain Lion, and how this is a move to annual release cycles of OS upgrades, and how people will now get the chance to upgrade every year (as opposed to having to upgrade every year), it's a move that makes sense for the direction Apple is heading: toward a fully closed ecosystem where people are pushed into frequent upgrade paths leading to increased device churn.

And learning? No problem. There's got to be an app for that.

But the one thing that doesn't surprise me is the name: Mountain Lion. Mountain lions love sheep.

Image Credit: "Rotten Apple" taken by Vince Wingate, published under an Attribution Share-Alike license.

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