Open and Closed Platforms

I keep having to explain why I don’t own a smartphone. There’s one big reason, but let me quickly run some other things that matter before I get to it.

I don’t like the idea of having a distraction in my pocket at all times. I know I’m prone to procrastination, so I’d rather not have a spinning roulette wheel distracting me with potential fun new things. I also don’t like the idea of having a tracking device in my pocket at all times, especially not when they’re being actively abused.

But the biggest reason is that I don’t want to spend a lot of money to not own something. The smartphones are locked down, with limited controls and a gatekeeper approving any program you want to run. There’s little visibility into what the built-in apps do on the network or any ability to change them. (Heck, you can’t even set a screensaver on the Amazon Kindle.)

The common objection I hear is that it’s possible to jailbreak these devices to solve some of these problem, but why would I want to buy a jail in the first place? And then deal with poor support, broken upgrades, or other hassles because I have unauthorized access to something I paid money to not own?

It just frustrates me, on a lot of levels. I concede that building a walled garden can be a great business decision, but I don’t like feeling controlled, and I don’t like having a toy to play with in predetermined ways instead of a tool to create anything I want.

Now I’ve explained it several times in the last few weeks, I changed my mind about a different platform. The Ouya is a gaming console designed to be open and hackable. I hate the name and decided to pass because it has huge problems ahead of it marketing to customers, attracting developers, getting retail placement, etc. But I decided to buy one in this last two days of their Kickstarter campaign.

I know that maybe nothing will come of it. Actually, I think Ouya’s schedule is fairly unrealistic, and there’s a real chance I won’t receive a console at all. But I’d rather take a risk supporting something open than have the certainty of getting something closed.

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