Why Apple Needs Jailbreaking, but Must Attack It Anyway
The cat and mouse game continues. The iOS hacking community has discovered another vulnerability in Apple’s beloved operating system, and Apple promises an update to plug the hole. Though this modern-day Tom & Jerry episode can make for great entertainment, is it necessary? While jailbreaking may actually be good for Apple, we won’t likely see a truce anytime soon.
Yesterday developer Comex released Jailbreakme 3.0, a browser-based jailbreak for all devices – including the never-before unlocked iPad 2. Today, according to Christopher Lawton at the Wall Street Journal, Apple has responded that they are “aware of this reported issue and developing a fix that will be available to customers in an upcoming software update.”
Jailbreaking Helps Apple
What Apple may or may not realize, though, is that the jailbreak community is the perfect fit for them. It’s the yin to their yang:
Look at how many “new” iOS features were first introduced by jailbreak devs. Notifications, multitasking, folders, copy/paste, tethering, multiple homescreens, etc. – they were all in Cydia before they were in the AppStore. Oh, and speaking of the AppStore, jailbreakers had one of those first too. Think of Cydia as a testing ground for the future of iOS.
How many potential Android defectors has Apple kept in tow because of jailbreaking? If you decide that you’re tired of Apple’s walled garden and want more freedom and customization, you can either use Android – who (mostly) embraces this line of thinking – or you can jailbreak your iDevice. Many obviously have left for Android, but many have also found Cydia to provide all of the openness that they need (while keeping Apple’s core OS and sexy hardware).
Taking that even further, perhaps there is something psychological that makes “forbidden” freedom more appealing than “allowed” freedom? We don’t watch movies where the protagonist is given everything he wants at the beginning and spends the rest of the film celebrating.
No, we like stories where the main character faces a series of problems and obstacles. We watch him face adversity, until finally (depending on the film) he gains his freedom and power, and we share his feelings of joy. This catharsis is much greater than if he had spent the whole movie relaxing. Is this different from the catharsis of a new jailbreak being released? iOS provides drama, Android doesn’t (unless you’re waiting for Samsung to release an update – that’s a tragedy in the making).
Without jailbreaking, Apple would have to think of new features and test implementations of them all on their own. They would likely be facing even stiffer competition from Android.
Apple’s Biggest Problem With Jailbreaking
They’re smart cookies in Cupertino. Why then do they bother trying to close the jailbreakers’ holes? Is it just a charade that they’re forced to play, like Commissioner Gordon chasing Batman at the end of The Dark Knight? No, Apple’s pursuit to squash jailbreaking is quite sincere, and the main reason is very simple: piracy.
Piracy is impossible on a non-jailbroken iDevice. On a jailbroken iDevice, it is possible.
The jailbreak community is very divided in this respect. The developers who supply the jailbreak (and many other members of the community) are strictly anti-piracy. They will even go to great lengths to publicly shame anyone who condones it. After all, many of them are app developers themselves – they understand why devs want to get paid for their work. Many other people, though, look forward to the new jailbreak mostly so they can download Installous and start downloading cracked apps.
Any platform that relies on digital distribution for much of its income is going to have a bone to pick with piracy. Just look at the lengths Sony went to try to crack down on PS3 jailbreaker (former iOS jailbreaker, current Facebook employee) George Hotz. He didn’t even promote piracy, but his jailbreak opened the door to the possibility.
Members of the iOS dev (jailbreak) community have talked recently of an “anti-piracy” jailbreak. This would somehow allow all of the standard Cydia mods, but block any cracked apps from being downloaded. Could this be the solution that creates harmony between Apple and jailbreakers? It sounds promising, but how long do you think it would be before someone found a way around it?
So, unfortunately, until piracy is completely out of the question, Apple will always be arch enemies with a community that is always helping them out (free of charge, mind you). Maybe they are warming up to them a bit, though. After all, they did hire the developer of one of the Cydia notifications apps that they stole.