Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently promised one irate customer some unusual "freedoms" -- freedom from Flash; "freedom from porn". But is Apple's "freedom" really tyranny in disguise?
That's the sentiment voiced by Columbia law professor Tim Wu in a recent interview with The New York Times. In a new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, Professor Wu details what he views as potentially dangerous "information empires" of the American past and present, including the pre-1984 American Telephone & Telegraph monopoly, the pre-1930 NBC
He describes this history, stating, "It's largely a story of the American affection for information monopolists and the consequences of that fondness."
Today, he says that one of the greatest realms of free technology is the internet and firms like Apple are trying to reverse that. He states, "I know the Internet was designed to resist integration, designed to resist centralized control, and that design defeated firms like AOL and Time Warner. But firms today, like Apple, make it unclear if the Internet is something lasting or just another cycle."
When asked which company he fears the most at present, he comments unequivocally, "Right now, I’d have to say Apple."
When asked why he fears Apple's influence, he states, "As I discuss in the book, Steve Jobs has the charisma, vision and instincts of every great information emperor. The man who helped create the personal computer 40 years ago is probably the leading candidate to help exterminate it. His vision has an undeniable appeal, but he wants too much control."
As to whether the situation will improve after Apple's CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs eventually steps down, he remarks, "I think it may not matter. I think the mark of Steve Jobs is firmly placed on that firm, that it will continue to be him long after he passes from leadership."