The Register reported last week that Apple is looking to fire back at iPhone jailbreakers with an application to patent a system designed to identify the “hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking or removal of a SIM card” from a phone so the device can be located and its data erased. The company has released a new firmware update for the sole purpose of patching a hole that was being used to jailbreak handsets running iOS 4 as well, according to the group of developers that created the first iPhone 4 jailbreak.
As I write in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, it makes no sense for Apple to pour efforts to these kinds of things; allowing jailbreaking — even implicitly — could actually help move iPhones off the shelves.
Sure, jailbreaking gives iPhone users access to a growing number of apps not supported by the App Store (tethering apps and porn among them), but even then, there’s no downside for Apple. Any tethering usage would be mitigated by AT&T’s metered data plans, so it’s not like users could truly abuse them. Also, when it comes to porn and anything else users could access, Apple can simply say, “We don’t support that garbage,” maintain its policy that jailbreaking automatically voids warranties and remain unsoiled in the public eye.
Revenues from the App Store are a drop in the bucket compared to Apple’s overall bottom line. The company uses the retail channel as a tool to boost sales from its lucrative hardware business. Apple sells DRM-free tunes and allows users to put their existing music libraries on the company’s devices because those strategies are good for gadget sales, where the money lies. So, like iTunes, why invest in efforts that restrict users to running only Apple-approved apps on their handsets and tablets?
At the end of the day, the iPhone Dev Team may have given up (for now), but other hackers will surely find ways around Apple’s efforts to prevent jailbreaking.
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