Apr 302008

Jonathan Zittrain, author of “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It,”  doesn’t like closed-system devices like the iPhone.  (Network World article here.)

In a way I don’t like it, either.  But isn’t the computer industry following a trajectory parallel to that of others, such as the automotive industry?   Once upon a time there was a place for dozens of small-time car manufacturers, just as once upon a time there was a place for kitchen-table computer software companies.  In both industries, there were consolidations, buyouts, washouts, until only a few big ones were left.  Once upon a time cars were made of parts that were bolted together, and an entrepreneur or even a lone customer with enough money could design something different.  A shade-tree mechanic could make his own bearings.  But then we got unibodies and integrated systems which were less amenable to tinkering.  Isn’t that similar to what’s happening with iPhones?  Cars are now commodities.  One can even buy used ones with far less tire-kicking and under the hood inspection than was needed in the old days.  An iPhone is the computer version of that.  It just works — no assembly required.