Jay Freeman, better known as saurik, recently gave a TED talk on the philosophy of mobile software. He compared the iPhone’s App Store and the jailbreak mentality to how consumers buy and modify cars. He made the case for what he has based his career on: that consumers do not want the software limitations that Apple maintains on iOS.

The first half of saurik’s TED talk explains the state of the car industry, and the consumer approach to buying and modifying cars. His comparison is interesting, and it definitely merits his point about Apple’s App Store philosophy…

Saurik described how some buyers of cars don’t mind keeping their car the exact way that they bought it. However, he made the case that most buyers of cars like to add and modify the look and features of their investment; whether it be the color, seats, or stereo system. He argued that this same mentality needs to be applied to the App Store.

In Hacker News, saurik wrote a post clarifying the points of his TED talk,

“The idea is that the App Store is designed to install “applications”: units of software that typically involve an icon on some kind of launcher that opens a window into some new functionality the device previously did not have.

However, is that really all that users want to be able to do with their devices? If we just look at the stories posted to Hacker News about Android software we already see that would be a flawed premise: there is a long train of “cool” surrounding products like Swype and 8pen. These programs replace the system input manager, aka the keyboard, for all applications.

These programs are not just apps: they are extensions to other applications on the device. We also see this in the form of custom launchers, dialers, and widgets: Android has numerous ways that developers can extend the core functionality of the handset in ways that escape the trap that is the icon.”

The goal of saurik’s talk was to basically praise the jailbreak mentality, which makes sense. Whether or not his assumptions about consumers tendencies are based in factual, statistical evidence, there is definitely a point to what he had to say.

“Go look at your average jailbroken iPhone: the stuff people are developing and installing is amazing. There are almost no limits to what you can change on the device; it isn’t open source, but it is damned close. No system feature or application is immune to the influence of small and large changes. And, if you really insist that open isn’t open until it is open source you can gut the bootloader and install Android on the thing thanks to the iDroid project.

This is why I absolutely hate it when I read people focusing on rejected applications or “opening up” the app store. In a future where Apple did exactly what you are asking them to do almost nothing will have changed: people will still need to jailbreak their phones and developers will still be writing and distributing all of this cool software using Cydia.”

Saurik actually came to Apple’s defense in his post after the TED talk. He talked about the reasons that Apple denies apps, and that there are legal reasons why Apple has to function the way it does. In fact, he believes that Cydia is not like the App Store at all. There are very few actual “apps” in Cydia, mostly hardware and software tweaks.

In the end, saurik wants people to stop pleading for Apple to open up the App Store like the Android Marketplace.

“So please… PLEASE… I implore you: drop the battle to get Apple to open up their App Store. Instead, work on getting Apple to open up their device (and, in the case of desktop Mac OS X, to maintain the reasonable open-ness of their MacBook line of computers). Until users are able to install whatever software they wish on the hardware that they own we will not truly have won back any of our freedom.”

I encourage you to watch saurik’s 13 minute TED talk. He makes an insightful presentation from an intriguing point of view.

What do you think about what he had to say? Do you agree with what he says; that the OS needs to be opened up instead of simply the App Store?

  • Marcus Carter

    I agree I watched a vid on cnet about how android is bettr than the iPhone bc of the marketplace is open even though the editor admitted that U would probably get buggy pieces of crap apps! I don’t want that! I want well screened apps that r bug free and “Swype” would b god-like on this phone! PRAISE THE COMMUNITY!!

  • Hi,

    I totally agree with Jay freeman that softwares should have screws. I would really like to play with my cellphone, PC , laptop and a Mac. Having more options means that a whole new world of opportunity to improve and contribute to the technological era.

    Till now i have unbranded many Android OS phones including mine and my brother and jailbroken around 10 iPhones and iPods and believe i enjoyed using my device after that. Played around with me PC by changing the file sytems, installing MAC OSX on a PC.Installed Android on an iPhone and many more things……………

    Bravo to this guy and the open source community (& also iPhone jailbreaking community)


  • Irha

    What is the name of first theme that he mentioned?

  • Stu

    Just wanted to congratulate you on a great post Alex, really enjoyed reading this.

  • Angi

    Great great article!! Great read thanks!

  • nXt

    Just watched the talk. Sorry to say it was stupid. He focused too much on cars, didn’t really go over jailbreaking. He showed screenshots of some jb apps/hacks, he needs to go in depth with them. All the awesome hacks adds tons of functionality to the iphone. A lot of people think jb an iphone just means you can pirate apps.

  • Fman52

    Cool car!

  • plor

    I d really wanted to tell him: Freeman, please come to the point…

  • A lot of people are complaining that my speech didn’t make much of a point, or that it wasted too much time on the analogy. Please let me be clear about my audience: if you tell other people to jailbreak their device, you may find this /fun/, but it will not be interesting. Many people simply do not understand what jailbreaking /means/: they think it is a place for “rejected apps”, or something only developers do.

    This talk really was designed for someone who has never done it and doesn’t understand it. The people in the audience often had never heard of jailbreaking, and they had only a vague conceptualization of what an app is or what software means on a phone. Jumping into the software, therefore, simply doesn’t work for these people: they don’t understand the mentality or why that isn’t in the App Store.

    Meanwhile, I think it is interesting to state that the time for my talk was originally set at the “wtf, this is almost insulting” time of “six minutes”. That is not enough time to really explain anything that the people in the audience don’t already agree with. It wasn’t until 24 hours before the talk that they increased my time to eight minutes, and right before lunch during the conference that I was given twelve.

    Therefore, I will tell you: I also don’t feel the timing was quite right (I needed to do 1-2 minutes less of the cars and 1-2 minutes more of the phones): I simply didn’t have the benefit of being able to practice the timing of the various expanded sections before going on stage and giving the talk that I had completely ripped apart and put back together during the lunch break of the conference.

    • I thought the analogy was great. Unfortunately we won’t see Apple’s integration with these apps/tweaks/mods into the App Store, but hopefully a second-hand “Mod Store” may be supported by Apple one day. Let’s hope for the best!

      Great speech, by the way.

    • Unnamedplayer

      Cydia sucks. Make it faster and stop it crashing. Cydia is a piece of garbage and so r u fatso. U r nothing but a stink. A piece of bread SMELL!

    • Suavedude

      Great speech! Well delivered too. I appreciate the context within which the speech was delivered considering the tech level of your audience and time restriction. Keep up the good work, man. 

    • Ali

      We all love Jay … Especialy when comes to jailbreak iphone

    • Ali

      We all love you Jay … Especialy when comes to jailbreak iphone

  • Bennlloyd

    I agree Thomas.G, great speech and analogy was spot in. Easy to understand and follow and summed the whole JB/car customising analogy perfect. The boy done good.!!!

  • Eric

    Great job Saurik. I actually watched this live a couple weeks ago when you did it and i thought it was very good, you could tell you were trying to break this down so even the most ignorant person could comprehend.

  • Ken

    My brother watched ur prez, before hand was
    very scared to jailbreak. It was enough to clear up his understanding of doing so. he now is looking into the forums and looking for the better of the jailbreak options, I was fortunate to be able to use “jailbreakme” he has a later software so he can’t. Thanks Jay..