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The Evil Empire

By:Christine Fettinger

On January 22, 1984, an advertisement aired during the third quarter of Superbowl XVIII that set the country abuzz. A brightly-colored female athelete was seen to smash a huge screen broadcasting the message of uniformity and conformity to sexless masses in a dysutopian world based on George Orwell’s “1984.” It was an advertisement for the then-new Apple Macintosh personal computer and sought to position Apple as a liberator from the oppresive, entrenched companies such as IBM and Microsoft.

Where are we today, more than 26 years later?

It is apparent that for most people the trend for casual use technology is going to be a handheld device, be it a smart phone or a tablet like the iPad. They’re not good for writing long pieces of text, but for short messages, FaceBook posting, or general surfing they can work well and are a lot more convenient to drag around than a laptop. Apple has set itself up well in this device space, whith their various iPods, iPhones, and now the iPad. But there is a fundamental lie that is going on that should be questioned.

If Apple is into innovation and creative freedoms, why are they so totalitarian with the uses of their devices? iPhones that users have hacked to work with other cellular networks are intentionally broken by Apple if they attempt a software update on the phone. Programmers who write apps for the iPhone or iPad have to give 30% of their profits for that program to Apple. And, most recently, they have adopted the position that Adobe’s Flash will not be allowed to run on the iPad.

This is not automatically a bad thing; Flash allows some severe security vulnerabilities and had a less than useful upgrade system (No centralized “Adobe Update” site such as what Microsoft does for their products). However, this is counter to the image Apple has portrayed in the past, it’s also hypocritical, and more importantly, it is bad for the health of the internet and consumers.

To the point of the stance being hypocritcal, There are a couple of points to bring up. One reason Steve Jobs gave for barring Flash from the iPad is that it is not Open, meaning the standards and hows of Flash are controlled by a single entity who has say over how it is designed and how it works…. which is exactly how the Apple devices and App Store function.

To the last point about it being bad for the internet, this goes back to the open architecture and standards that originally allowed the internet to flourish. Hardware and software manufacturers had the ability to innovate and came up with many wild ideas, some of which were good, and some of which were bad, but all of them were a showcase of individual innovation. The world’s most popular web server, Apache, came out because of the freedom to innovate without shakles, for example.

The message from Apple is different; we will control what you are allowed to do and how you will do it. They control what can or cannot run on a system regardless of what the owner desires. They are the moral police. They seek to create a world where, directly from the “Big Brother” featured in the 1984 commercial, ” each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths..

So we ask, who is the evil Empire now?