Will the recent EFF ruling break Apple's Monopoly on iOS Application Stores?
As reported by ZDNet Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan this afternoon, the Electronic Frontier Foundation was able to secure special dispensations from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which now effectively legalizes SIM unlocking and Jailbreaking, the procedures which "Free" cell phones and mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad from a carrier lock as well as permit the installation of applications outside of Apple's App Store.
Larry feels that the immediate impact of this ruling will do very little, at least immediately, to alter the application landscape for iOS devices. But I'm not so sure.
If Jailbreaking and unauthorized applications for iOS are now "legalized", that takes a large portion of the the stigma and the psychological barrier of illegality away, even if the procedure itself voids the warranty of the iPhone and the iPad. To date, it is estimated that approximately 10 million iOS devices have been "Jailbroken" and are in current use.
De-stigmafying Jailbreaking may very well jumpstart a cottage industry of 3rd-party "App Stores" which could provide all sorts of applications which would never see the light of day on iOS, such as Adobe's Flash.
Given this new ruling, Adobe could, in effect, provide its own App and Jailbreaker which could install Flash libraries, AIR, and any number of other applications that would normally never pass Apple's highly restrictive review processes.
Cydia, a well known underground "App Store" could now become a legitimate business, offering completely legal business transactions with 3rd party app purchases and downloads as well as provide a real, paid support model, whereas previously it could only support via best-effort through the community as Open Source.
Cydia already supports PayPal-based purchases for iOS applications hosted on external "Repository" downloads, much in the same fashion that Linux supports external package feeds using Debian APT, but now the developer, Jay Freeman, known to the community as Saurik, could very well host its own store without fear of reprisal from Apple.
If not Freeman himself, any enterprising individual or company could combine the Open Source Cydia store application with a brain-dead-easy Jailbreaker and accompanying support model could step in and fill the 3rd-party void.
Still, while Jailbreaking remains an unsupported and warranty-invalidating activity only the more adventurous users will probably begin freeing themselves from Apple Cylon Tyranny.
However, hope for forcing Apple into a more capitulating position could very well arise in the form of the current class action lawsuit that is set to proceed against the company in Federal court in the State of California, which is attacking Apple as well as AT&T for alleged monopolistic practices of carrier and application store lock-in.
Additionally, the Justice Department itself is currently investigating Apple in an expanded probe related to the changes to its SDK which effectively locked out Adobe and other ISVs from using 3rd-party APIs and other unapproved developer libraries on Apps submitted to the App Store. This could potentially cause the existing class action to be promoted to a broader and more significant venue if the US government itself files suit against Apple for monopolistic practices.
While we might not see action brought against Apple for quite some time, the foundation for an unrestricted iOS and fully sanctioned and supported 3rd-party App Stores for iOS is in the process of being laid down. Today's EFF victory will likely be remembered as the cornerstore in that effort, years from now.
Are legal, supported 3rd-party App Stores on the horizon for iOS devices? Talk Back and Let Me Know.