At the risk of doing the Vodafone thing to death…
There is a conspiracy in the mobile phone world, using DRM as an excuse for content lock in, and the public haven’t yet noticed.
There was a time, not 10 years ago, when the latest piece of geek gear would open up a world of hacks and extensions. In the Apple II world at least, we’d spend much of our time writing drivers, or coding hacks to get 3rd party gear to work on the Apple II. Floptical drives, personal organiser (now called PDAs) interfaces, printers, tape drives, industrial strength scanners, all had published APIs or protocols, and companies actively promoted technical documentation for hackers to use their gear. Some would require a little hardware hacking, others just software, but in general, the manufacturer didnt care. And in most cases, approaching them about the driver you’d just written would get you a “with our compliments” letter, and they’d start directing other interested users to your code. This has all changed due to DRM.
I’ve written previously about Vodafone’s disgusting attitude towards users, and how key features of my Sony Ericsson K700i have been disabled unless I pay Vodafone for the privilege, but the conspiracy doesn’t end there. It continues with Sony Ericsson, the manufacturer of the phone, and countless other network operators who also rebrand these phones.
I bought the K700i so that I could write Java apps for it, particularly the Apple II emulator that I’ve already written. Nothing special about that, most people learn Java these days at school, whether it be a simple Hello World or something more extensive. And what a great hack to get your own code running on these babies? After all, that’s one of the features marketed by Sony Ericsson, the ability to run J2ME MIDP applications, as is MP3 files as ring tones. Silly me assumed that because the phone supported it, that I’d be actually able to use it. Is it possible to copy J2ME apps directly to the phone and have them run? No it is not.
At least Sony Ericsson have a free developers’ site, where they provide all the technical specifications for writing applications. But the first thing you’re hit with is that the phone is completely managed by DRM. Even free applications need to be wrapped in a DRM package before they will run on the phone. And MP3s? Vodafone won’t allow you to use MP3 files as ring tones, unless they are DRMed. Of course Sony Ericsson provide the developer application that allows you to illegally DRM any content, which rather stupidly defeats the purpose, but still, all these companies are conspiring to make usable content only available for subscription download from the network provider.
And the man on the street apparently has no idea. They’ll happily download that MP3 ring tone or wallpaper from their network provider, for almost a third of what it costs for their monthly rental, and which for the network provider is almost 100% profit.
What if I happen to draw my own wallpaper? Record my girlfriend saying “Ring ring”, or even dare write my own Java application? Can I easily download it to the phone? Of course not.
These phones should be open to everyone, to do what they are technically able to do. If the phone runs J2ME apps, then let me run any J2ME app, and make it easy for me to do so. If I want to use MP3s as ring tones, because it is one of the phone’s key features, then let me do so.
There is a conspiracy in the mobile phone world, where our access to phone technology is being restricted by network providers wanting to make money for downloads. Don’t believe the bullshit that they are protecting copyrighted works, the DRM is there to lock you into paying for downloads. It’s a con, its a conspiracy, and it has to stop.