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I’m shocked to find ‘reverse engineering’ going on here

By July 29, 2004Uncategorized

N.Y. Times reports: “Apple Computer Inc. on Thursday responded to RealNetworks’ creation of iPod-compatible software by calling it the technological equivalent of breaking and entering. ‘We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the (legal) implications of their actions,’ Apple said.”

By the way, the phrase ‘technological equivalent of breaking and entering’ has a more familiar name: reverse engineering. Apple is apparently shocked to find this sort of behavior going on. I wonder if they would be shocked to learn that some of their customers might enjoy being able to play RealNetworks music on their iPods.

A lawsuit by Apple challenging RealNetworks’ creation of software to allow its music to be played on the iPod would be a strange path for a company that prides itself on catering to consumer demand for convenience in music portability. A strange path, but also –unfortunately– a well-worn path as Siva Vaidhyanathan describes.

Apple’s actions bring to mind a Zen proverb: “If you want to control the cow, give it a bigger pasture.” I’m not sure I know exactly what that means, but I know for sure that the people at Apple that are contemplating taking up legal arms against RealNetworks don’t understand it either. Maybe we all just need to think about it some more.

One thing we can easily grasp is the irony of possible action against RealNetworks.

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