SAN FRANCISCO, July 26, 2010 - iPhone owners can now add applications not approved by Apple, but whether Apple will support jailbroken iPhones is another story.
"As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones, as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably,” an Apple spokeswoman told Leander Kahney, editor and publisher of the Cult of Mac blog, author of an eponymous book, as well as "Inside Steve's Brain."
Apple has also argued that opening up its mobile platform will open it up to more pirated software and content, malware and to porn applications, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said he doesn't want on the system.
Indeed, CTIA, the wireless association, issued a statement Monday that warned mobile phone owners to check their contracts before they jailbreak or unlock their cell phones.
"While some consumers may welcome the elimination of these copyright protections when considering new applications and features for their wireless devices, they still need to review the terms of service from their carrier and device manufacturer since altering the underlying source code may void the manufacturer’s warranties and adversely affect how the device operates on a wireless network," said CTIA's General Counsel Michael Altschul in a blog post. “Wireless carriers and handset makers go to great lengths to protect their customer's privacy by blocking spam, filtering for viruses, and testing software that is sold through their portals. Unfortunately, ‘jailbreaking,’ or other modifications to a wireless phone’s operating system, increases a consumer’s risk for malware, spyware and other vulnerabilities.”
Nevertheless, Monday's news was welcomed by Apple enthusiasts.
"The jailbreaking exemption is good news for consumers," Kahney wrote in an e-mailed note. "While I understand Apple's desire to preserve the iPhone's ease of use and stability, there are plenty of users out there quite capable of managing apps for themselves -- you can install any software you want on your Mac, why not your iPad or iPhone?"
Whatever happens, the Copyright Office's decision will have widespread repercussions since a whole new economy and ecosystem has mushroomed around Apple's devices: More than 85 million devices run the iPhone operating system, and there are more than 200,000 iPhone applications that have literally been downloaded by the billions.
The iPhone operating system has also become an important platform for several kinds of emerging mobile media applications, such as streaming internet radio Pandora, streaming rentals via NetFlix, and of course iTunes. Content owners now have to decide whether the iPhone OS will continue to be a safe and secure platform for their content given all of its past statements about how opening up its platform will cause major insecurity.