Many of Apple’s digital rights management (DRM) policies have consumers wondering if the iPad is going to be a device worth buying. Many have criticized it as being “a large iphone”. In many ways, that is all it is. It is a hybrid device between a cell phone and a tablet. It is really a new kind of consumer device that fills a small niche in the market. Without the functionality of a full-fledged operating system, Apple is taking the rights out of consumer’s hands to be able to install any software they wish.
Before I continue, I want to back up for a minute, and talk about what DRM really is. DRM is a service that content providers put in place to restrict access to music, programs, movies, or any kind of content. DRM is used by many companies, including Apple for their iTunes music store, Microsoft for their Zune Marketplace, Valve for their steam game distribution platform, and others.
However, the problem with DRM and the iPad is a unique one. The iPad is a strange mixture of phone and tablet laptop. Its operating system is essentially that of the iPhone, but with the hardware of a high-end net book, or a lower end tablet. The hardware would easily allow for a better operating system than the iPhone OS. The move by apple to use to iPhone OS over a customized OSX surprised many consumers.
This decision allows users to be able to download and install software exclusively from the iTunes. Apple can effectively filter out any controversial, questionable, or obscene content. These kinds of restrictions on software are extremely detrimental to the future of computing. Other companies may follow Apple and release such DRM systems in their operating systems. Allowing for access to, and installation of software is an integral part of operating systems and of computer usage.
Many companies will use DRM to curb piracy. However, there are more efficient ways to achieve this. Censoring the only means of application and content hurts consumers and developers. It goes against the foundation the internet was built upon, and will be a detriment to progress in computing.