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iPhone Threats

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 06-22-2008 Print
Harvard Law School professor and tech guru Jonathan Zittrain warns of trouble in Apple's strategy.

There seem to be threats to the iPhone out there, just as the open PC bested the superior Mac. What about Google's Android project?

There are natural predators for generativity out there. Android will be a great canary in the coal mine, to see just how the pressures turn out. I'd be delighted to see Android succeed, but in the absence of a security model, it's going to face all the problems that are driving people away from a PC.

You describe software services and cloud platforms as being similar to appliances. Can you expand on that a bit?

The minute you are in a service relationship with a vendor, rather than a product relationship, there are additional natural paths of lock-in. I call for portability policies to match the privacy policies at Web sites, so that people have a sense going in that they can extract their data in some reasonable format that lets them go somewhere else. That's not a given on the sites of today. If they go down, or the government changes the way they operate, it could be a huge barrier to exit if you can't take your data with you.

It's interesting how much these cloud computing application platforms are basically the same thing as these tethered appliances, these physical devices that are updated constantly by their vendors. I'm not joining a religious war between server and client. It may be sensible to have cloud computing in a world of fully saturated bandwidth, but some of the natural protections we had when the physical locus of the data and the activity was a box we could wrap our arms around and unplug if we wanted to--that's evaporating, and we need to be sensitive to that, and to explore technical and legal architectures that carry over some of the protections we naturally got on those more endpoint-based platforms.

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