The Illegal use of Safari

As this Slashdot story says, Apple’s “Safari for Windows” according to it’s EULA could only be installed on Apple-manufactured hardware. Which is, needless to say, pretty stupid. I understand the issue has been resolved now (i.e. Apple have changed the license) but the fact it happened in the first place is just hilarious.

Now as companies go, Apple is a real bastard anway. I mean, they have attempted to sue people left right and center for just discussing products that they might (or might not) be going to release; they don’t have a public bug database (and they seem to ignore some bug reports); they don’t let users know what is going on with their development plans (Java 6, anyone?); they release software as a “beta” which expires and actually refuses to continue working once the final product is released even though getting that requires you upgrade to a whole new operating system version (Boot Camp – and yeah, I know the license for the beta said that this would happen all along, but it’s still rubbish. As far as I know not even Microsoft uses these “What I giveth I also taketh away” tactics). Apple is also a control freak – why can’t I transfer songs from one computer to another via my iPod? Because the software won’t let me, and that’s the only reason. Despite all this many people pay good money for Apple products, that is, they actually pay money to be shafted by Apple. I myself have paid more for Apple hardware and software than I have for PCs, primarily because I would rather be reamed by Apple than use Windows (and I do, occasionally, still need to use commercial software which isn’t available for Linux or BSD).

But I’m going off on a tangent. The real issue is software licensing, and what a pile of droppings it normally is (what other product imposes conditions on you after you’ve already paid for it and taken it home from the shop?). A lot of it is questionable in terms of legality anyway (as far as I understand, copyright is about the conditions under which you can duplicate or reproduce copyrighted works, not what you do with them afterwards, even though many software licenses try to limit use in various ways). The really annoying thing is that you’ve really got no recourse if you don’t like the terms of the license, other than not to use the software (or to ignore the license, which might be illegal). The “must be used on Apple hardware” term is a perfect example of a potentially very annoying (to the user) condition which doesn’t actually seem to benefit Apple in any real way.

I can see what benefit Apple thinks it’s getting from terms such as this (which I think it’s safe to assume is a boilerplate term used in a lot of Apple software licenses) – they’re trying to increase hardware sales. If you want to use OS X, you have to buy a Mac to legally do so. This sort of license condition is, however, anti-competitive. It makes non-Apple hardware less useful because you’re not allowed to run OS X on it, even if the hardware is perfectly capable of doing so from a technical perspective. I can understand that Apple don’t want to provide technical support in that case but they shouldn’t be trying to make it actually illegal to install their software on any machine you like.

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One thought on “The Illegal use of Safari

  1. Whilst I can see why a software company might once have wanted to tie their software to particular hardware, I can see no clear benefit in doing so now. For instance, apple’s marketing strategy could go something along the lines of “we want to be selling a complete computer solution. Since the software and hardware aren’t to good to the end user without each other, we would like to be seen as selling the whole lot as a solid, reliable package.” I’m no programmer, but it makes sense to me that software is more likely to be stable if it knows the hardware it’s dealing with.

    However, this does seem useless now. For a number of reasons. 1. I’ve installed Ubuntu’s linux distro on a number of systems: it works great no matter what the hardware. 2. Apple will still sell hardware because people like it. But it will sell additional software if people could run it on their PCs (legally), and avoid being draconian in the way you have illustrated.

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