Open only wins with a business model

Without a business model for rooting phones, the carriers will keep exploiting the market.

Open wins, crowed tech activist Lauren Weinstein recently, on his personal blog, recounting how hackers "rooted" the HTC Vision, an Android phone sold by T-Mobile as the G2. (Picture from CNET.)

The root is controversial. T-Mobile does not like it. When it was first rooted, then rebooted, it de-rooted. This was done, T-Mobile wrote, for your protection.

Weinstein now says hacktivists have gotten around that T-Mobile block.

There are readers of ZDNet who are fine with T-Mobile's attitude. Lauren is not. I'm not either.

But I'm not cheering Lauren's blog post. Instead I'm challenging it.

The reason is that, while Lauren and his friends may be happily rooting and jailbreaking Android kit, the market remains status quo.

Like other phones, Androids are offered under terms that would make a loan shark blush. You can "buy" them for about $200, but that comes with a two-year service contract. Amortize the cost of that contract over the term and you're paying over $2,000 for that "cheap" phone.

Which you have no control over.

Carriers routinely load Android phones with what's variously called "crapware" or "bloatware." Ordinary users can't get rid of it. True, those with skills can, but most people lack such skills.

Full disclosure -- I lack such skills. I'm like a sportswriter who never played football. Sue me.

You're left with a two-tier consumer market, most of it ignorant or frustrated, with a tiny minority plugged-in and fighting back. Saying, "well you can root it if you want" is just another form of elitism. Only the elect deserve liberation -- the rest of you can pound sand.

The fighters are going to lose unless they can build a business model.

Carriers have a business model. I just described it. It's a great business model for the businesses involved.

It's also legal to rootkit a phone, under amended copyright rules approved by the Librarian of Congress this summer.

So there is no law-breaking going on here. But there's also very little money being made.

That is the challenge I want to put before Weinstein and the other hacktivists. How can people make money on rootkitting?

I've got a friend who fixes computers. He's good at it. He's technically adept. He's looking for an opportunity.

How does he make a living with this rootkit technology? How should he market it? What should he charge?

Drop me a note or leave your ideas in the talkbacks.

Without a business model for rooting phones, the carriers will keep exploiting the market. How can an open source Android provide them with market competition?

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