So, Motorola practically overnight turned from pioneer of neat Android devices to nasty villain, trying to lock everything down with eFuse chips. Technicalities flying around about if eFuse will ‘brick’ or won’t ‘brick’ the phones. Motorola, of course, says that it wouldn’t. It’s just phone won’t boot into “unauthorized” software, thanks to the chip.
I suppose if users would still be able to restore “official” software then it’s not completely horror of horrors, but still, this obsessive desire to not let consumer step out of line is disturbing. Primarily, because it’s not really needed.
Sure, Motorola wants to be sure that user has experience they have validated. But if someone wants to mess with phone’s software, let them. Disqualify them from support, but don’t try to brick/disable/not allow booting of the device. Put a big red screen that scares regular users into bringing device back to service, but if someone knows what they are doing, let them.
Can you imagine your computer refusing to boot if you try to install Windows 7 instead of Windows Vista or one of Linux versions? It’s just hardware.
Of course phone manufacturer could claim regulatory compliance troubles (which they did) if someone manages to force phone to work at twice the allowed transmission power, but that’s generally not a problem for the manufacturer. As soon as end user buys the device, it becomes her or his property. If they modify it, and device becomes non-compliant, FCC could, theoretically, go after the user (and it has full right to do so, because if your neighbor suddenly decides to overpower all other phones in the vicinity you don’t be very happy).
Copyright and licensing? Also seems to be BS — if user installs something on the phone it’s no longer company’s concern that they don’t have a license for that software.
User’s data protection? Why, if you get user permission, why would you care? Have you ever noticed how all those pesky privacy laws only get used when someone’s nasty experience with a company gets into mass media (“We can’t comment on individual user cases due to privacy laws” is a standard response) yet it never seems to prevent companies from buying/selling user data as they see fit?
I guess the only remaining thing is control. Moto wants to be able to cram down the user’s throat its own “experience”. Kinda like Apple (though I don’t think Apple’s iPhone or iPod die when someone tries to load unauthorized software — there are ways to dual-boot into Android just for the fun). Except Apple’s experience, although restrictive, is at least polished and generally thought through.
Motorola never was a software genius.
My first encounter with Moto soft was in Houston, where local cable company was giving out Motorola set-top boxes. I thought Scientific Atlanta was clunky but Moto pretty much took the golden prize. Tiny window with useful information, surrounded by giant tables with useless abbreviated junk, and three advertising banners (!). Needless to say I ran back and begged for something else.
Cellphones were pretty much the same disaster — fantastic hardware, good signal reception, and extra crappy menu systems with way too many levels, non-obvious choices and so on and so forth.
And now with newer devices Moto is trying to push “Blur”. Because it wants to bite off a bit from the social network madness. You know, force user of the cell phone to create account on their servers, get all of the information through their applications, etc.
Sorry, but Android 2.1 already got to the point where most of manufacturer’s customizations are no longer essential. HTC is still prettier than standard Android, but it’s getting there. And, of course, being locked into Moto-Blur hell means not being able to update to newer, faster Android revision, because Moto will have to re-do the crippling of the software before you get the chance to enjoy new features.
Additional disadvantage — devices are being put out to pasture faster than before. How long has it been since first Droid was released? Last Thanksgiving or so? Well it’s already marked as “end of life” device, as there’s now Droid X. Better, faster, greater. Sure. But what about those who bought into 2 year contract, and are not interested in buying a new device? Motorola will have to support the phone for a while, after which, as long as eFuse protection is still active, users will be locked into antiquated version of phone OS. It’s like not being able to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, because your hardware manufacturer made every possible step to lock you out from changing OS.
So, I believe this whole eFuse controversy is a result of regular marketing BS — where marketing department gets to dictate how hardware should or should not behave. What users should or should not do with the phone. Horrible.
Can we please return to the time where user was important and in control?
Or at least release old devices from the lock-down once support stops.