A slow-motion argument has broken out among tech bloggers following a piece on GigaOM with the title "Why Apple Should End Its Fight Against iPhone Jailbreaking.
" John Gruber at Daring Fireball fired back with a post saying "Apple Isn’t ‘Fighting’ Jailbreaking
." Grant (@chpwn) Paul responded with his own post "Apple is ‘Fighting’ Jailbreaking
," to which Gruber replied with "Nope
." The position we take at MMi shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but it's always good to examine other arguments.
Colin Gibbs wrote a piece on the subscription-only GigaOM Pro
where he called Apple's efforts to block jailbreaking "self-defeating and short-sighted." He argued that Apple could sell more iPhones if they just let jailbreaking happen "even implicitly, with a wink and a nod," as he put it: not supporting it, but not fighting it. John Gruber at Daring Fireball, known (perhaps sometimes unfairly) to follow the Apple party line, disagreed, writing that "Apple isn’t “fighting” jailbreaking. They simply don’t support it." Gruber's retort was that iOS 4.0.2 fixed an important security hole, and that Apple would be shirking its responsibilities if it hadn't done so. After this back and forth, @chpwn weighed in, writing on his blog that Apple's refusal to support downgrades "is direct proof that they are strongly against jailbreaking." Gruber's comeback was that "it’s about security and support... Apple isn’t going to support downgrading to an older version of the OS with known security vulnerabilities."
Taking the last first, of course
Apple supports downgrading to an older, more vulnerable version of the OS... if that OS is Mac OS X. They have a support document
describing exactly how to do it, and downgrades all the way to 10.0 Cheetah - which was trivially easy to gain root on - are supported, as are all subsequent versions riddled with security holes. So this argument fails on its face.
Next, the idea that Apple shouldn't have fixed the PDF hole is a red herring. Of course Apple should fix wide-open holes like that one, which made any iPhone vulnerable from malicious websites, but that's not an argument against all
jailbreaking. Pwnage-style bootloader exploits require the user to intentionally put their devices in DFU mode, as opposed to userland exploits like JailbreakMe 1 and 2. It's difficult to make the case that these present a security problem to the average user.
Apple didn't start with the "security" argument, of course: the original case the company made
was that it was a violation of copyright. The fear, uncertainty and doubt
Apple spread about security was an afterthought, and as digital-rights watchdogs the Electronic Frontier Foundation said at the time: "Sure, GM might tell us that, for our own safety, all servicing should be done by an authorized GM dealer using only genuine GM parts… but we'd never accept this as a justification for welding every car hood shut."
It would be truly ironic if the "free-market" test of whether Gibbs is right happened in - of all places - the communist People's Republic of China, where the iPhone/iPad carrier may end up offering pre-jailbroken devices
to customers. In any event, no company has ever gone broke offering its customers more choice. This is about control, plain and simple.