Steve Jobs finally gave some of his most avid customers what they were clamoring for when he announced in mid-October that Apple would make its iPhone and iPod Touch products accessible to third-party software developers. But some people want to run lots of applications on the mobile devices without waiting for the February release of the official developers' kit.
Less than two weeks after Jobs' announcement, a group of those folks figured out a way to hack the hermetically sealed devices and install software to their hearts' content.
The unveiling of the AppSnap program, available at jailbreakme.com, followed reports on hacks to free the iPhone from the AT&T wireless network to which Apple has bound it. Both those stories seemed like news of desperados breaking into a bank to deposit money.
It's almost enough to make you think Jobs is playing his customers, making his beautiful, market-shifting product just inaccessible enough to drive users wild with desire, the way a nightclub owner puts up velvet ropes and posts a clipboard-wielding bouncer at the door. But at least some of the control-freakery is real.
Apple is serious enough about dictating user behavior that it recently updated iPhone software to make it difficult if not impossible to ditch AT&T, and those who attempt the feat may end up disabling their phones.
It's hard to imagine the passion that motivates Apple aficionados striking users of other, more prosaic tech products. Most users, especially business users, see technology as a tool, not an object of desire or a status symbol, and the thought of vendors teasing the availability of widely requested features seems absurd. That is until Apple at least becomes a major player in the enterprise.