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Business - Written by on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:51 - 1 Comment

Denis Hancock
The iPhone and the battle for the future of the Internet

Nate Anderson published a very interesting article on Sunday where he quotes Columbia Law School Professor Tim Wu calling Apple’s iPhone the device “at the center of the battle for the future of the Internet.” Why? Well…

It’s not that he doesn’t like the iPhone; he does, he owns one, and he’s jailbroken it. The problem is control, or, more accurately, the lack of control that device users have over their own devices.

The argument builds on Jonathon Zittrain’s new book “The Future of the Internet (and how to stop it)“, where it is argued that “generative” technologies (think: open) are being marginalized by closed technologies like the iPhone and other proprietary platforms. As Wu went on to argue, open devices are important (and even the iPhone is making tentative steps in this direction), but without open access to networks they aren’t much good. There is also an interesting perspective on Wu’s history provided, notably including how he determined that some work in his former life (working with a device maker to help ISPs control content people can access) was “probably not very good for the health of the Internet or the future of free speech.”

Anderson concludes by properly pointing out that the “moralistic rhetoric” coming from the likes of Josh Silver (where openness is the path to righteousness, and the closed path where giant companies decide what and how much is evil) probably won’t sway many corporations, as companies may detect a tinge of socialism to their words. The key is having these companies realize that being “righteous” and extraordinarily profitable are not necessarily mutually exclusive – which I believe will the biggest driver behind wikinomics being accepted on a mass scale.



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Ken Leebow
Jun 10, 2008 9:02

Well, the scariest thing about innovation is that Internet access is already “controlled” by monopolistic-type firms, ie. cable and telecom companies. We’ve already handed off the future to cellphone monopolies.

I would look at the iPhone/iStore as a hybrid option. Thousands of edited applications will be available. And, the average person will be pleased by the editing. For the average person, too much time is wasted trying to identify the good stuff.

So, I wouldn’t be too concerned…and this is just going to up the competition: Blackberry and others will have to continue to create incredible products.

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Don Tapscott and Anthony D. William's latest collaboration, Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet. Learn more.

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