Search Form

Legal Jailbreaking: Is Apple worried?


Jailbreaking is now legal on all phones, including the most popular phone to jailbreak, Apple’s iPhone. When news of this first broke I immediately thought, “Apple just wont support the phones.” I didn’t think about money, or Apple’s potential revenue loss due to an increase in pirating, and I have good reason to think this. Yes, Apple will not doubt lose money, and pirating of apps may increase, but I don’t think Apple is terribly worried about the this for money reasons. Here’s why: Apple, is a hardware company.

Yes, Apple makes hardware. That is what they do. Yes, they make software, and yes they make good software, but it’s clearly not their focus when it comes to money. If Apple cared about making money with software, Snow Leopard wouldn’t be $29; iWork wouldn’t be $79; Logic Studio wouldn’t be $499; and Final Cut Studio wouldn’t be $999*. All of this software is notable to what Apple does, but it’s not at all what defines Apple (compare those numbers to Microsoft, a software company, and we get: Windows 7 Ultimate at $319; Office for $149-499)**.

What’s hardware without software? A paper weight. Lots of companies make great hardware, but perfect hardware coupled with bad software makes a bad product. That’s why Apple also makes great software. It’s why they are so popular. They want their hardware to shine by coupling it with great software.

Apple’s latest quarterly earnings talk about hardware and only hardware. They don’t mention their software division (at least not from what I could find); and even if it’s hidden in one of the hardware reports, I am certain it’s not much. Apple makes more money on hardware, and this is why I think Apple is worried about the money. What about pirating? I don’t think Apple is worried about this either, because I don’t think there are too many people that didn’t jailbreak because it was a crime. I think if someone wanted to jailbreak their iPhone in the past a little bit of illegality wouldn’t stop them; i.e.. this law isn’t something that is going to get a lot of people to start jailbreaking their phones. If anything I feel many people don’t/wont be jailbreaking their iPhone because of this opens them up to malware (and since Apple has added many features that people were jailbreaking their phones over, I don’t think too many people will be doing it now despite the new web based jailbreak).

While Apple may lose a little bit of money with a few more jailbreaks, I really don’t think Apple is worried. If anything, Apple is worried about losing customers that legally jailbreak their iPhone but get denied support because the customer voided their warranty by jailbreaking. Apple wants to keep control over their App store. They don’t want to lose that control, but what they don’t want to lose the most is their customers.

But, like I said, Apple is a hardware company. I don’t think they are too worried about this.

*I’m aware that Apple does have some expensive software, but Apple keeps they consumer and professional stuff polarized for a reason.

**I know that you can get Windows 7 for cheaper and that there are different versions, but to get everything you need Ultimate. I used retail pricing not OEM pricing because Apple doesn’t do OEM pricing.

8 Comments... What's your say?

  1. This is really poorly formulated argument. In this seven paragraph article, you state no less than three times that Apple (rather, the boardmen execs I take it) is “not worried” about losing money on software. What does that even mean? Apple is a business, and they’re in the business of making money. Have they even even ran an ad campaign in the last 10 years regarding charitable sentiments?

    One of The biggest shots in the arm to Apple with legalized jailbreaking, imo, IS the App Store. You counter this deftly with:
    “Apple wants to keep control over their App store. They don’t want to lose that control, but what they don’t want to lose the most is their customers.”

    While I’m tempted to agree with this statement at face value, I feel that what Apple doesn’t want to lose the most is actually control. The control of knowing that all SOFTWARE purchases for their products has to go through their central giganto-Emarkets.

    I think they’re pretty pissed that it’s now on-the-books legal for someone to bypass their store to download an indie game from a developer that didn’t sign up at

    • @Mike
      Hey my name is Mike too! (don’t you hate it when people do that?)

      The reason I feel that Apple is worried about losing the customers over the software loss is more complicated than you think. Apple makes 30% of the profit from the app that is sold; i.e Apple gets $0.29ish on a $0.99 app, but, and this is something most people don’t know, Apple also covers taxes in all the major markets and does all the hosting of your app. They even provide the servers for push notifications. All of that cost is from their 30% take which i’m sure cuts into it significantly.

      With that said, Apple makes more money on a potential Macbook Pro sale, than on an app sale, and if Apple loses a customer, that potential sale is gone. Apple has tried really hard to keep their customers because they deal in a high margin game, not a low margin game, and this high margin game revolves around their hardware not their software and keeping loyal customers.

  2. Great, now if only someone can invent a jailbreak for the 3GS running iOS4 and the new bootrom.

  3. Gosh, a couple of weeks later and some clueless types can’t even bother to read beyond the headlines.

    Jailbreaking a phone is under many circumstances NOT a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which previously looked to make it illegal.

    The Library of Congress made no statement about contract law (your end-user license agreement) or your contract with AT&T or even T-Mobile if you choose to vioate the Terms of Service that you sign up for.

    Meanwhile you miss the big picture: almost certainly, Apple is required under its agreement with AT&T to help prevent users from violating the AT&T contract. Things like using it for tethering without paying the tariff. VoIP that was not part of the agreement. Google Voice. E t c e t e r a.

    Apple fusses about jailbreaking just enough to show that they’re a good partner with the firm that got them into the smartphone business when Verizon told em to go suck eggs. What’s so hard to understand about that? You think they should just break their contract and hope that Verizon thinks they’d be a good partner, after they already told ’em to go to Hell?

    • @Walt French
      You bring a good argument, but I was strictly discussing Apple’s potential financial loss due to jailbreaking, and why they don’t see it as much a problem from that point of view. Also, while this was posted a couple weeks later, it was written much closer to the actual event, so I’m sorry if this feels like old news.

  4. Your making a bad comparison. windows ultimate has so much that the average user would never use and snow leopard doesn’t actually have. To make it a better comparison you’ll actually need to compare the home version or possibly the professional version (which is not that much more than home). Also your comparing the retail price to an upgrade price. I don’t know what the full price of snow leopard is, but the $29 is only if you have classic leopard. Buy windows in OEM form in a version that you would actually use and i would imagine that windows and snow leopard are roughly the same price.

    • I’m sorry what does 7 ultimate have that Snow Leopard doesn’t? Ultimate gives you bit locker and all the language support and a couple little things over professional; OS X has had these features for years. Also, while Apple says the $29 is an upgrade only, it’s certainly very possible to install it on an empty machine or to upgrade from Tiger. The official full version from Apple is $169, but comes with iWork and iLife ’09 which both retail for $79; $29 is the full price for Snow Leopard. Also, while yes, OEM is cheaper than retail (i was going retail only) , a quick search for OEM windows 7 gets me about 70-120 for full installs of home premium.

      Edit: spelling

      Edit: Here is the windows 7 comparison chart. Ultimate doesn’t have much extra, but OS X has had these features for years, it’s one of the reason they were added in Vista. In fact, the only things on this list that OS X doesn’t have is the built-in TV tuner support and the home group thing, but Macs do this through Bonjour.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ChrisTWL, tcpflorida, Cory Blomenkamp, Josh, Tom Gowing and others. Tom Gowing said: Review: Legal Jailbreaking: Is Apple worried? – […]

Join in, share your thoughts

You must be logged in to post a comment.