What has been momentarily the top purchased Electronics item on Amazon.com, the Apple, Inc. iPod touch, has become the subject of a large scale, underground hacking effort. Specifically, there has been a lot of interest in porting a number of Apple-produced OS X Mobile applications from their former place on the iPhone, and yet another effort to simply load non-web applications.
The traditional iPods, minus Wi-Fi access, never really accrued much controversy by their widespread hacking. Because the world’s most popular portable audio player generated a huge market for a great many fantastic gizmo attachments, there was already a large body familiar with the operation, audio-in/audio-out mini-jack, and altogether comfortable with the idea of customizing the device. Since the introduction of the original iPod, use and curiosity of web-based audio communication grew because of its cheapness, but was limited because of the lack of mass adaptation.
The iPhone’s implementation of mass-marketed terrestrial antennas employed by almost every citizen made its Wi-Fi seem less relevant on the go and on highways (although the EDGE network notoriously lacked speed). Then, interest in neo-phreaking for use on Wi-Fi was low, if for no other reason than the hardware’s very purchase mandated subscription to a high-end audio communication service that allowed for visual voicemail. Third-party development was momentarily locked down, but naturally the dam broke and the water spilled into the valley, and somebody with their fingers dipped in that pot wanted to maintain that chill, DIY image early company founder Steve Wozniak – a man who once called the Pope for free – had helped them garner. In conversations with spokespeople, Apple asserted neutrality when it came to people modifying the iPhone or iPod touch, but the situation is in reality far more complicated, but nobody in AT&T or Apple’s corporate P.R. would say it. Back in generations one and two of the iPod, Apple’s store-based advisors were reluctant to mention hard drive capability for fear of culpability and backlash from the Record Industry Association of America. Of course, moving 10 gigabytes of music by hard drive was a battle the RIAA used to consider worth fighting, especially since the iPod had given such increased visibility to digital music.
It is of important that Apple Computer has with its recently acquired name, Apple, Inc, taken on a visible responsibility for not just a piece of hardware, but also associated media content. (For example, music purchased from the iTunes Music Store is limited to registered computers and can be burnt to CD only ten times by contract.)
At the time of this writing, the first, second, and third generation iPods can be outfitted with manifestations of Linux. During the first public sit-down with the iPhone and its essentially scaled-down graphical user interface, CEO Steve Jobs was careful to codify the operating system as “OS X,” even though it could not be properly called Leopard as one would run on a full-fledged desktop or laptop. The intense ease of portability for these new Apple handhelds, and particularly, the necessarily contract-free sales method for the iPod touch, would generate a great deal controversy; betwixt Apple and AT&T’s top brass, there was clearly a strained smile, for a concern that iPod touch hardware was capable of more than the network provider or Apple themselves were quite ready to bargain. The computing power demonstrated in Wi-Fi video streaming rattled the imagination, and plastic pryers would later learn that the chip-set would allow for 802.11a as well as b/g support.
Wild-eyed and unresolved speculations about hidden Bluetooth-readiness in the iPod touch aside, crack-open examination of its apparent processing power and sound card demonstrated that the device was clearly capable of iPhone actions such as entering Calender items, and inputting documents in Notes, not to mention other Widget-like functions made more easily possible Weather and Stocks.
In the words of an unnamed Apple insider, they use “the same damn binaries.”
These were disabled on the iPod Touch to focus market attention in a last drive for AT&T contract money. The front-page buttons advertise these capabilities in an important way, and way more money is on the line.
Concern in the direction of jailbreaking the iPhone in order to port the Apple-made applications is something of red herring in the underlying controversy and true potential of the two devices, revelations made only truly apparent once the AT&T contract was made auxiliary in light of the hardware. Many of these functions, albeit absent from the iPod “Front Page” can be activated through Safari-based web applications.
Of course, in one widely-publicized media stunt by a 14 year-old of all people, the iPhone had been freed from the AT&T service contract.
Wide and wild-eyed trump cards were thrown out that the iPod touch had secret Bluetooth capability, but many have dismissed these as simple conspiracy theories. As certain external track-shifters and volume-adjusters are already on the market, it may be possible to input audio to the device. Apple has been known to keep silent about certain capabilities of its hardware or projections for future software updates that might activate them.
Again, note that Apple, Inc. collected more money if people bought the iPhone because of their cut of AT&T service contracts they collect from AT&T.
An infamous fellow nicknamed “Martyn” made web presence when he came upon a broken iPod touch (or, “iPot”) and supposed that he might release code he sucked from its internal parts. Apple’s Legal was down on him in an instant to stop this progress in 3rd Party Development. iPot and iPhone purchasers, speculators, and developers should not have been surprised about this interest in stopping how information gets in and out of their handhelds. It is difficult to see a market for big-money applications on these sorts of devices.
The reason for all the convoluted mumbling was the possibility (and, for some, nightmare) of a Neo-Phreaking, especially as more end-users have been called by the trendy Siren of mass-produced and reputedly “user-friendly” products. Consider this: as these handhelds have become small enough to fit in the pocket(book), and urban areas have transformed into low-security Wi-Fi orgys, the AT&T commitment (not to mention the theoretical monthly charge alone) looked ugly if easy hacks could be made. Apple was so concerned about these that it made even humble disk drive usage difficult on its Intel Macs and byzantine if not complicated on older models or PCs.
Some have had dreams about an independent application running on the iPod touch, audio input from a microphone into the jack or a Bluetooth enabling with cheap devices in the docking port, and the holy grail herself: Skype, between all four million new buyers/liberated howler monkeys. Suddenly, planning a family plan feuded with AT&T’s.