Remember when Apple was the answer to the 1984-style threat posed by IBM and Microsoft? Well, guess who has just sent the police to raid the home of a journalist?
To be sure, there are good questions to be raised about the conduct of Jason Chen, who works for Gizmodo, a technology blog. He paid $5,000 for an Apple iPhone that one of the company's engineers left in a bar in San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. Legally, the phone is stolen merchandise and belongs to Apple, and the so-called shield laws protecting journalists probably don't apply here.
So it's hard to get too weepy for Mr. Chen. But it's even harder to get worked up on behalf of Apple, whose corporate behavior has become increasingly oppressive. This isn't the first time the company has used the all-too-willing apparatus of government, both here and abroad, to intimidate the press and others. Apple's stance toward ordinary customers, hidden behind cool advertising, isn't much better.
Most Apple customers don't notice it, but if the company doesn't approve of a software application, they can't use it on their iPhone. The company regularly intimidates developers, including a Pulitzer-prizewinning journalist whose work was banned from iPhones because it satirized politicians. Apple has refused access to software that does nothing more than compete with other software. Sometimes, Apple refuses access and never tells anyone why.
Is this a problem? Imagine if Microsoft claimed the right to approve of every piece of software you installed on your PC, and banned any application that had a political slant, or that competed with software that already existed. Holy First Amendment, Batman! Holy Sherman Antitrust Act, Robin!
It goes further than that. If you use Apple's iTunes on your computer, you are vulnerable to regular downloads of irrelevant and potentially harmful software. The "music" you "purchase" through iTunes is licensed, not sold, to you. It is digitally coded in a manner that eliminates more than 90% of the data that constitutes the music, essentially turning songs into the sonic equivalent of a McDonald's Happy Meal. Millions of Americans, most of them younger, literally have no idea what actual music sounds like, thanks to iTunes.
Thus the feisty upstart has become the arrogant corporate giant. Not that this ever happens in America. I think we're going to be hearing more about Apple.
Does Jon Stewart read this blog? Later on the day I posted this item, he lampooned Apple in the same terms, right down to the clip from the Super Bowl ad. Great minds think alike, huh?