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Summary:

Apple’s latest efforts to counteract jailbreaking are more likely to hurt the company, its reputation, and its revenue than to prevent iPhone owners from going out-of-bounds with their device software. I’m talking about recent reports that iBooks stops working on jailbroken devices.

jailbreak

Apple’s latest efforts to counteract jailbreaking are more likely to hurt the company, its reputation, and its revenue than to prevent iPhone owners from going out-of-bounds with their device software. I’m talking about recent reports that iBooks stops working on jailbroken devices.

Granted, jailbreaking is clearly not something Apple approves of, and the company hasn’t been as aggressive as others (like Sony), which is pursuing legal action against PS3/iPhone jailbreaker Geohot) in going after those responsible for cracking open its platform. But jailbreaking isn’t illegal, according to a recent ruling, and Apple is messing with people’s ability to enjoy their legitimate purchases in this case.

The problem doesn’t affect all jailbroken devices, but if you’re using the latest greenpois0n jailbreak code and running iOS 4.2.1, built-in checks put in place by Apple will prevent iBooks from opening DRM-protected books on your device. Opening content legitimately purchased from the iBookstore results in a message being displayed that reads “There is a problem with the configuration of your iPhone. Please restore with iTunes and reinstall iBooks.”

Ars Technica points out that Apple may be required to prevent DRM-protected contents from being opened on jailbroken devices under its agreement with book publishers, but even so, it’s not going to change the fact that users will interpret it as a punishment aimed squarely at them, as if iPhone owners needed another reason to seek the refuge of Amazon’s larger library, multi-platform support and more feature-rich app.

Between this move and Apple courting the ire of content producers with its new in-app subscription and e-book sales rules, I’m worried the company is on the verge of damaging its relationship with consumers in irreparable ways. Of course, this isn’t the first time Apple has run afoul of its content partners. But with Android providing an increasingly tempting alternative delivery platform, might it be the last?

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  1. “Between this move and Apple courting the ire of content producers with its new in-app subscription and e-book sales rules, I’m worried the company is on the verge of damaging its relationship with consumers in irreparable ways”

    Neither of these harm consumers. The former “harms” jailbreakers, which are a tiny percentage of consumers and should not be a group Apple caters too anyway, and the latter *helps* consumers by making it much easier to purchase content. I hate having to shell out to Safari to buy content.

    1. @Tom Reestman, your comment makes little sense. Jailbreakers are, in fact, consumers. And it harms them. What’s more, it is extremely bad PR, as Sony is learning, to do this kind of thing to jailbreakers.

      And requiring the in-app purchases will absolutely harm consumers. How many stores operating on razor-thin margins can afford to give up 30% of every transaction? Not profit, the ENTIRE transaction. For many, their profit is less than 30% to begin with, such as Amazon.

      They will be left with two choices – ditch the i-crowd (bad for consumers) or raise the prices everywhere on their wares (bad for consumers).

      Is that really worth it to you to not have to go out to the browser to make a purchase? (you are not ‘shelling’ out to Safari, btw) Apps can even use an embedded Safari so that they return directly to the app after the purchase is complete.

  2. This is GREAT! I love to see the total lack of consideration for the customer all their scheming for content gets them. I swore when they’re greed started to run away with them there would be a cost and I cant wait to see them pay up.

    It will be like the humiliating loss MAc suffered to the PC all those years ago, Wooo! Go ahead Apple just stay arrogant! Us haters love it.

  3. Good luck, Apple. It will also be circumvented, just like any other “consumer protection” plan before this…

  4. http://www.iphonefreak.com/2009/08/jailbroken-stats-recent-survey-suggests-843-of-iphone-users-jailbreak.html

    In at least one survey, its predicted close to 10% of iPhone users jailbreak their phone. Tom, that’s about 10 million people jailbreaking their phone. 10 million people is not what I would call a “tiny percent” of people..

  5. Is it right, ‘fair’ or proper for someone to jailbreak (or otherwise mod) their stuff and then cry to Apple for warranty service when something goes wrong? It seems to me if you bought an iWhatever, you agreed to uphold a legal document before gaining access to your iToy. Apple agreed to provide you with a certain level of value, and you, in turn, agreed not to do all sorts of nasty things to your iThing and pay value to Apple in return.

    In short, you agreed to play the game by the rules Apple set up. That was your promise, signed, sealed, and delivered to Apple. If you didn’t agree with every letter in that contract, then why didn’t you return the iCrap for a refund, just as outlined in the contract?

    1. LOL! iWhatever, iToy, iThing, iCrap.
      Pretty clever! I can’t wait to tell my coworkers. Really, can you believe how these sheep just buy this iJunk?… el oh el!!!!

      “Is it right, ‘fair’ or proper for someone to jailbreak (or otherwise mod) their stuff and then cry to Apple for warranty service when something goes wrong?”
      >> actually, yes, it is right, fair and proper. Why isn’t it? Oh, wait.. I know… you’re one of those people who think jailbreak=stealing apps. Got it. And crying to Apple when something goes wrong? They’ve made it very clear that you are allowed to jailbreak your device as the cost of voiding your warranty. Not sure anyone is crying about that – we all understand it.

  6. No consideration here of Apple’s legal obligation to content producers to secure what is their livelihood; no surprise here among freeloading consumers with no qualms about matters that do not affect their own interests directly.

    The fact that not all jail-breaking methods are affected should also point to the fact that this may have more to do with some sort of code violation rather than any deliberate shut-out attempts.

    As stated by others here, there’s only a fairly undesirable minority of affected users, the great majority of whom do it for the purpose of loading free “cracked” apps, and the pestilential houseflies known as “haters”, who are total irrelevances anyway.

    1. “The former “harms” jailbreakers, which are a tiny percentage of consumers and should not be a group Apple caters too”

      I agree. Apple shouldn’t cater to this small group by putting so many resources into screwing them over. If they are such a tiny percentage, why bother?

      “loading free “cracked” apps”

      BS. It’s done to load apps that Apple feels don’t meet their family-friendly policies. I have no problem with Apple policing content within its borders (the app store). But my device doesn’t qualify. I’m not “leasing” my iPad; I bought it. And I bought a book from their store. Now they are telling me I can’t read it.

      A percentage of the already admitted tiny percentage do load “cracked” apps. But at that point, you’re talking about rounding errors in terms of actual revenue affected. In the mean time, you are pissing off the larger percentage of the tiny percentage who are PAYING customers … not freeloaders.

  7. Here’s why I think you might be wrong on this one. Do we have stats on what proportion of iOS users jailbreak their devices? Well. That is small enough. These are also the geeks who change devices often and therefore less invested in a single platform. The iBookstore wants people invested. Granter, power-users might buy more stuff as well though power users who jailbreak probably want stuff for free. (I don’t think this latter is true but I could see Apple having this perception.)

    Apple’s business model is OK with pissing off 5%. Unfortunately we are the 5% :)

    1. Lets all remember that jailbreaking is legal.

  8. Now irrelevant. PwnageTool 4.2 released and includes iOS 4.2.1 untethered jailbreak and iBooks DRM fix.

    http://osxdaily.com/2011/02/15/pwnagetool-4-2-download/

    1. “iBooks DRM fix”, with FIX being the key words. The jailbreak broke iBooks; this was not some sinister plan from Apple. The original post is pure speculation irresponsibly passed off as fact.

  9. I’ve used my iPhone jailbroken. It isn’t hard; it’s legal and it can be useful for a variety of reasons (for me, to use a foreign SIM while traveling).

    So I see this as a simple question of what Apple says it’s selling and how I want to use the device.

    This article ignores the fact that publishers come to Apple because they protect their copyright in the process of selling the book. Weak copyright protection, or more potential for theft or torrented books means fewer publishers willing to put their stuff up on iOS. Less choice for consumers, unless you go to the swamp of the glory days of Napster, when you could spend hours looking for a decent rip of Abbey Lane instead of 99¢.

    “…with Android providing an increasingly tempting alternative delivery platform…” Increasingly tempting, as in, “well, Google doesn’t even bother to offer the store in most countries and terms encourage the worst instincts of customers towards ‘try before you never buy’ and so maybe we could go ad-supported?”

    So, Mr. Om: you think it works better if publishers only sell thru Amazon because Apple turns as impossible as Android for legitimate commerce? This article is NOT thought out at all.

    PS: Remember Harry Truman’s complaint that he had never heard from a one-handed economist? Enough of these “but even so”’s and “granted…” in every paragraph!

  10. Daryl, you might want to revise your article as there are some errors:

    1/ “greenpois0n” is not the issue. This check existed and was tripped since iBooks 1.2 at least. The problem DOES affect all jailbroken devices that can run iBooks 1.2+, and the ‘Please restore..’ message has been floating around for at least 6-9 months ‘with no solution’ from Apple (on their forums). In fact they’ve been deleting threads that raise the issue.

    2/ The reason this came to light was because more folks started using the iBooks Store and running into this issue. One of the iPhone Dev Team looked into it and there’s your story.

    3/ All other issues aside, Apple is crossing the line by intentionally building bugs/traps into iBooks. Putting latent bugs in your software? That’s a Microsoft trick.

    4/ Those who are already jailbroken can look for ‘Hunnypot’ in Cydia (Opens Winnie the Pooh, get it?). Doing a fresh jailbreak is not necessary in that case.

    While this is (now) a moot point, I don’t think that many end users are going to forget this.. or trust buying content from the iBooks Store after this incident.

    1. “I don’t think that many end users are going to forget this.. or trust buying content from the iBooks Store after this incident.”

      While you’re adjusting your memory caps, put a little check mark next to this, too: none of the (well-known) e-book distributors actually SELLS you a book. They LICENSE you to read it through an approved software environment. You’re not buying the DaVinci Code to take out of Kindle and put it into the Nook, or to bind up a thousand backup copies, cuz nobody sells that.

      Of course, the whole notion of an OS is that it is a crucial part of the software environment.

      I’m sure Apple might be happy to discourage people being able to run unsigned code, just to reduce iOS’s susceptibility to hijacking. But in this case, ars technica’s point mentioned in the Original Post about Apple likely being REQUIRED to protect books’ copyrights is likely more important.

      In these senses, the jailbreaks are imperfect, they prevent software that works as designed from operating as the user wants.

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