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Have Walled Gardens Killed the Personal Computer? 848

theodp writes "Harvard Law School Prof Jonathan Zittrain explains in The Personal Computer is Dead why you should be afraid — very afraid — of the snowballing replicability of the App Store Model. 'If we allow ourselves to be lulled into satisfaction with walled gardens,' warns Zittrain, 'we'll miss out on innovations to which the gardeners object, and we'll set ourselves up for censorship of code and content that was previously impossible. We need some angry nerds.' Searchblog's John Battelle, who's also solidly in the tear-down-this-walled-garden camp, adds: 'I'm not a nerd, quite, but I'm sure angry.'"
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Have Walled Gardens Killed the Personal Computer?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:45AM (#38257094)

    I'm developing an innovative synthesis program for the iPad. I wouldn't be doing this without the walled garden. I'm happy with the distributions system, the quality control rules, and the closed development environment. If the system cuts down on piracy a bit, that's also a plus.

    Walls can easily be broken. The jailbreaking community is alive and well. So as far as I'm concerned, it's the best of both worlds and the op ed is a lot of FUD.

  • Removing root access (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mattbee ( 17533 ) <matthew@bytemark.co.uk> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:52AM (#38257132) Homepage

    I think Apple is going to remove root access [matthewblo.ch] from the Mac in one or two more OS X updates, and you'll only be able to retain your root access by paying the small annual developer fee. It makes sense to cement their revenue stream from a platform that's still gaining users; the only question is when they can afford to throw the gauntlet down to Microsoft & Adobe.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:53AM (#38257138) Homepage Journal
    this term in their tos :

    They can't license their work as Free Software, because those license terms conflict with Apple's.

    such ecosystems can legally and single handedly kill free software.

  • a few arguments (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @11:57AM (#38257168)

    - "open gardens" have caused far more trouble then the enemies of walled gardens care to admit. And i'm not talking about trojans, virii, rootkits or whatever. Just the HUGE mess they allowed to be made in terms of API and backwards compatibility. Fuck that shit. If walled gardens can keep things "just working", well there is a BIG pro argument you're ignoring.
    - web apps are still around. I don't think apple will kill mobile safari any time soon. So there. Here's your open garden you can play in and make a big fucking mess off. Now leave the people who want to GetThingsDone alone please with your whining. Go play and shut up.
    - hack your fucking phone if you really want to break things and bother tons of people with software that relies on dependencies that are no longer supported. But then don't start complaining how apple broke your app.
    - DONT BUY IT. If you're having such a monumental issue with walled gardens, stop buying stuff from them. But oohhhh shiny steam app... must buy... and all those achievements... ohhh... must have... and those hats... groovy... and the whole fucking world needs to see my status update. But facebook sucks ! That's right. It sucks and still you want to have it. For free.

    goddamd kids...

  • by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:05PM (#38257244) Homepage Journal

    ... Apple controls what apps are allowed. The apps are high quality .... I see the [sic] new apps each day for Android and most of it [sic] is pure trash. Honestly, how many bikini apps need to get released each day?

    It's not that much better in Apple's app store. If you read the reviews for some apps, people complain about crashes, slowness, etc.

    Also, while I don't know about bikini apps specifically, for any given type of app, there are sometimes hundreds in the app store. There are hundreds of tip calculators, RSS readers, and transportation apps just to name a few. While many may work, they're often poorly designed and/or have terrible UIs.

    I really think Apple should be stricter. For example, I'd love to see Apple reduce the 5-star rating system to just 4 stars and de-list apps whose rating falls to and remains at 1 star for 30 days. That would force developers to make better apps and responsive to users culling the ton of crap apps from the store.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:09PM (#38257270)

    They want to make it's like the phone company where you have to rent or pay fees to use stuff that you own.

  • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:14PM (#38257300)
    SGI? You're blaming the people who took their closed 3D programming language, and made it public and available to all as OpenGL, for being a walled garden??
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:18PM (#38257336)

    The PC isn't dead... but it's dying the death of a thousand cuts.

    The internet, trusted computing (DRM) and locked down devices has allowed Apple a degree of control that most corporations would dampen their knickers over. With Intel being a kingpin in this Orwellian wet dream - back in the late 90s... I heard an Intel engineer giving a speech about how the next frontier in security was about keeping owners from controlling their own devices - aka TPMs) - with the support of governments and content companies. All the pieces are dropping into place.

    It's a perfect storm of control, surveillance and profit. And you can thank Apple for blazing the trail.

    In another couple of years we'll be looking back the Microsoft Windows PC era with fondness. Remember when you could....

  • Still Alive! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by captjc ( 453680 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:22PM (#38257376)

    As long as there is a need for performance computing, tinkering, people who build their own systems, and old-school hacking, there will be the PC. The PC has survived everything thrown at it so far and will survive well into the future. The article seems to mostly be whining about Apple turning OS X into another iDevice. If Apple is the problem, don't use Apple's products. Use a Windows machine or a Linux box. I hear tell that BSD is still alive and kicking. Solaris still has a community as well. There are other less used platforms that be switched to as well.

    The problem is not that the PC is dying, the problem is that it is becoming a niche. Most people just want to check Facebook, email, and play some crappy games. They are not writing papers, presentation, or programs. They do not use SPICE, MATLAB, MAPLE, GCC, or any other in the other long list of programs and tools that many of us take for granted. A smart phone or a tablet is good enough.

    For those of us who do have to do any type of creative work, the PC will still be needed. Even if Microsoft decided to take the route of Apple's locked down operating systems, there are and will be alternatives. There are dozens of hackers who do nothing but try to port Linux and BSD to other platforms just because they can. There are also people who love jail-braking these devices for the same reason. It might evolve to smaller form factors in the future but the PC will be around for a long time. As long as there is a need for power computing, PC's will live.

  • by gallondr00nk ( 868673 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:29PM (#38257434)

    The PC is not dead its just that common end users are driving up the shut-up-and-take-my-money model. the PC will end up being left to the geeks again which is probably the same small percentage of people (compared to the entire pc market space right now) it was back in the late 80s. the only reason common end users bought pcs was to get on the internet..

    Exactly this.

    Anyone else remember that PC boom in about 1999-2000 where tons of people went and bought ugly, bloated Cyrix MII rigs running Windows 98? It was a hideous time. Back then that was the entry level into computing, and the machines were junk from top to bottom. The only anti virus was from a PC-Pro cover disc circa 1996, there were no firewalls and no security updates. The end user didn't care, as long as it creaked into life long enough to connect to a dial up service. The user base that bought a Cyrix MII are now buying other things that better suit their needs.

  • Re:Frameworks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:36PM (#38257496) Journal
    It's not about what I am free to do as an individual. It's about the herd mentality reducing innovation. But if you want to talk about individuality,ironically that is one of the double edged swords that cuts Linux all too often. Too much of either is a bad thing. I just think that the tendency towards frameworks has reached the apex of the pendulum.
  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:42PM (#38257550) Homepage Journal
    They find that a combination of an iPad, iPhone, and a PS3 meets all their needs much better than the "jack of all trades, master of none" PC did.
    So the PC is dead because a single machine can be replaced by three machines.
  • Re:So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:44PM (#38257564)
    I agree, the pc won't go anywhere. But, it would be nice to get all the people who are not capable of running a computer off the computers.

    I'll be a complete computer snob here... iMac, iPod, iPad, iChat are all for people who are iChallenged. Most people aren't smart enough to run a computer. Within a couple months the machines are so spyware and virus infected they barely run. A walled garden will keep them out of trouble.

    These people are not going to use Photoshop or code ever. Best to get them somewhere safe and maybe we can prolong the half life of a tech support worker.

  • Re:Frameworks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @01:02PM (#38257744)

    And precisely how does that explain FreeBSD, Haiku OS or any number of other OSes that are tiny in terms of the desktop market, yet still attract enough following to be viable?

    A lot of these projects are driven by precisely what you say is a fallacy. A lot of them are driven because a few developers dislike the status quo or for whom the status quo doesn't work. Firefox is probably the best example of that.

  • Re:Frameworks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @01:20PM (#38257904)

    Do you really think Firefox would be the same today (for better or worse), if it had never topped a 2% market share?

    What Opportunist said DOES precisely explain FreeBSD and others. If you want to make the extraordinary assertion that people who aren't using FreeBSD deliberately choose to develop apps for it instead of some other OS that they do use, go ahead. What seems to actually happen out here in the real world, is that fewer app developers are attracted to support smaller OSes and the original OS developers pick up some of the slack by also developing the core of fundamental apps, or porting apps to the OS themselves so the developers don't have to. Then there's the Debian solution, slower, stabler development so there's more time for other people to come and play in your sandbox.

  • Re:So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LingNoi ( 1066278 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @01:25PM (#38257954)

    Macs are general use PCs and have proven to be virus/worm/problem free for years in the hands of "normal" users.

    They haven't proven shit, as there are still many exploits out for the mac, they just silently fix them or take three years to get around to it [krebsonsecurity.com]. Fact is there have been tons of exploits for OSX but the fanbois and apple do their best to pretend it doesn't exist. Then you have the fact that apple is usually the first the fall in pwntoown [slashdot.org].

    Apart from the ignored viruses and how their computers always get owned first in hacking competitions they're great products, just don't go on a bullshit run with a spiel about how amazing osx is at security. It's not it's terrible and it's not even on Apple's radar. They're focused on UX not security.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @02:30PM (#38258534) Homepage

    The Firefox add-on system has been infected with this problem. It used to be that you could write add-ons for Firefox, put them on a web site, and let users download them. Now, Firefox has what's essentially an "app store". [mozilla.org] Add-ons have to go through an approval process [mozilla.com] which takes about two months. Then they have to be hosted on Mozilla's site. Mozilla tracks how many users are using each add-on through a back channel in the browser. Because of the new policy of very frequent updates to Firefox, add-ons have to be updated regularly, and for add-ons on the Mozilla site, this happens automatically and remotely. So your add-on is now tied to Mozilla's "cloud".

    Firefox itself is slaved to Mozilla's "cloud" now. It's become much more demanding about insisting that it be updated when Mozilla issues a new version.

    It's still possible to host add-ons on your own site, but warning messages appear if they're loaded, and they rapidly become obsolete and break as Firefox changes. It's still possible to turn off updates of Firefox, but by default, you get nagged. The jaws are slowly closing on Firefox users.

    This is what passes for "open source" today.

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grumbel ( 592662 ) <grumbel+slashdot@gmail.com> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @02:31PM (#38258542) Homepage

    It's okay give it a few years and your walled gardens will be infested as well.

    A well maintained walled gardens will never be invested with bugs and worms as you have a central authority to clean the mess up when security issues arise, assuming the issue even make it past quality control in the first place.

    Furthermore the security model is fundamentally different to what you have on a PC. PC software operates on the assumptions of having free access to the device and be able to do whatever it wants to, it's open by default, software running on an iPhone or Android device does not, it has an API it is allowed to talk to, but doesn't have raw system access, it's closed by default. There might not even be a way to get it by any standard means.

    See game consoles for comparison: Are they unhackable? No. But running unauthorized code on them generally requires a hardware mod, not just clicking on an malicious email.

  • Re:Frameworks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @03:21PM (#38258916) Journal

    I can't believe i have to spell this out and why so many bloggers think the sky is falling i have NO clue, except maybe just whoring for page views.The iShiny is a niche folks. sure it makes apple a metric fuckton of cash and makes too many developers drool at the thought of iMoney because Apple users will happily shell out real money for things Windows and Linux users wouldn't give a cent for, but its still a niche.

    As someone in retail I can tell you there are TWO reasons why the iShiny is growing like crazy while the PC is so much lower and NEITHER have to do with the death or birth of anything. 1.- The iShiny simply hasn't existed very long so those that want one may not have gotten one yet. Look at how PC sales went nuts when they first became affordable, hell stores were going through units as fast as they could get them in the store.

    And the most important reason 2.- The PC is mature technology and for the vast majority of the masses has been "good enough" for several years now. Even a 5 year old laptop or desktop is frankly INSANELY overpowered for what the vast majority do with a personal computer and everybody and their dog and their dog's squeaky toy has one if not several. In just my own family we have a single core laptop, dual core laptop, a dual core netbook, and no less than FIVE desktops ranging from a 3GHz Celeron for my mom all the way up to my quad. With all the units going through the shop I could frankly add another desktop or 3 without even blinking but what the fuck would i do with them? hell I'm typing this on a 1.8GHz Sempron I keep as a nettop and downloader box. This thing is circa 2003 but you know what? for the web and downloading it is quite peppy, even plays SD flash without a complaint.

    So let these guys get their panties in a wad, it isn't like Windows PCs and Linux servers are going anywhere. Ballmer will put out his abomination called Windows 8 Dumbass Edition and finally get a big fat pink slip for Xmas next year, Apple could frankly put a brick in a box and still get lines around the street thanks to branding, but what is to be afraid of? The iPad? While I've met a few people that have actually forced themselves to use it constantly just to justify the money they spent the rest I've seen basically treat it as a really expensive portable video player, Mobile Phones? They are disposable razors. Folks get a new one with contract and shitcan the previous one, everyone i know has drawers full of the things. Sure they'll spend a dollar on a fart app or some shit but other than Angry Birds there hasn't been anything worth talking about.

    But I hate to break the news to this guy but at the end of the day, when it comes to actually wanting to get something done? Everyone plops down in front of their desktop or laptop and breaks out an assload of software. Everybody and their cat has frankly mountains of the stuff, from some stupid app that came with their camera they really love to Quickbooks/Quicken to a bazillion other free and pay things they have collected over the years like so much belly button lint. What are they gonna do, give everyone a free copy of every app they own? try to force them all to go buy it all over again? yeah they tried that shit with the lousy backwards compatibility of Vista and I spent a year and a half wiping the damned thing off computers for XP.

    TL:DR? Appstores are a niche market for a niche product, that is all. Sure they make good money but that is ONLY because they are a NEW market and once the shiny wears off and those that want one have one the bottom will crash and crash HARD. Don't forget there was a time not too long ago when much of the same things being said about the iShiny was said about the Palm Pilot, like how it would replace everything and rule the world. Where is it now?

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @03:45PM (#38259116)

    What about those of us who bought an iMac because of its form factor?

    I wanted Unix under there, but I also wanted to be able to unplug it from the wall and box it up in under 2 minutes (its box has a carrying handle) so I can move it easily between places. I didn't want a laptop screen.

    And what about iChat? It does brainlessly easy A/V chatting along with file transfers, text chat and so on and is just a front end for the AIM protocol. How is that for people who are "iChallenged"? Sure, less tech-savvy people can *use* it, because it is easy to use - this doesn't automatically mean that "nerds" can't use it because it's too easy.

    This isn't like setting the difficulty on a video game. No one is going to judge you for playing on "easy". Well, no one smart anyway.

    You sound like a hipster desperately looking for something to define himself by. "Oh, iChat?! pff! That's for lusers! MUD clients are where the cool kids are hanging out!"

  • by xdroop ( 4039 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @05:56PM (#38260064) Homepage Journal

    Apple's App Store is a logical result of the chaos that's been exhibited on general purpose computing platforms for the last 20 years.

    When end users experience crashes, blue screens, data corruptions, poor user interfaces, hung devices, and insufficient functionality, they are not "feeling their freedom". They are feeling the results of you exercising yours. And when their "local nerd" is asking them questions which leadingly suggest that they shouldn't have been doing what they've been doing, they feel angry.

    End users want computing like they want toast. Put in their bread/data, push a button, and get their toast/video. The fact that this is very hard, and in some cases virtually impossible, does nothing to limit the end users' expectations. For years they have been told these computers will make their lives better and enable them in so many ways -- which they have, but they sure don't like the hidden costs that these ecosystems have dumped on them.

    You know all those arguments that have been made? If you don't like it, you don't have to use it! That's all the end user is doing.

    Sturgeon's Law explains that 90% of anything is crap. If curation -- in the form of App Stores or whatever -- can change those odds, even just a little bit, end users are going to move towards them in droves.

    Software engineers have squandered their freedom, and end users are increasingly acting like they don't want to have any part of it any more.

    (I wrote up a much longer article [xdroop.com] on the same theme.)

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva