A friend of mine once bought a brand new home. He picked the floor plan and excitedly watched as the builders applied their various crafts and created him his dream home.
The home came with a builder’s warranty, which warranted it against defects in construction for something like 10 years.
Some time after he bought the home, he was feeling a little flush with cash so he went out to his local electronics store to buy a new flat-screen TV, surround sound system and all the appropriate DVD players and TV decoders.
When he came to check out at the store, he had to give his address to the clerk at which point the clerk became a little sheepish and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t sell you the brand of TV you selected.”
“Why ever not?”, my friend asked.
“Well, it’s where you live. You see, the people who built your house don’t allow you to have any equipment built by that manufacturer in your home.”
“That’s ridiculous!”, my irate friend replied. “They can’t dictate what I can and can’t use in my own home!”
“Well, actually, they can. You see, it was in your purchase contract…. You can get around it though, if you sign this form saying that you understand that using this equipment will void your home warranty then I can sell you your electronics today,”
“What do you mean, it voids my warranty? What does my choice of TV have to do with whether or not they used the right lumber to build the place or whether or not they hammered enough nails in as they were putting it together?”
“Umm… I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but those are the rules. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m sorry.” The salesman sheepishly replied.
Of course, this story isn’t true. I don’t have any friends who have purchased brand new homes… but it does highlight something that IS true.
I have an Apple iPhone 4. I paid good money for this wonderful piece of hardware and yet Apple dictate what programs I can run on it and which ones I can’t.
If I try to run programs that Apple don’t approve of, I’m allowed to do so according to the US Copyright Office but it will invalidate my warranty.
Yes, you read that right. If Apple have made my phone with a defective case which will fall apart 12 days after it was manufactured then running a game that Apple don’t approve of on my phone means that they will no longer fix it, even though it’s a hardware manufacturing defect not a software issue.
I don’t get it.
I am actually very happy with my iPhone and have no desire to ‘jailbreak’ it so this won’t actually affect me but the principle is still there.
Could this happen in any other industry?
Could your car manufacturer refuse to fix a drive-train that is under warranty just because you put pink floor mats down on the floor of the car?
Could your TV manufacturer refuse to fix your faulty TV because you watched “I Love Lucy” reruns?
No. They couldn’t.
So why can Apple (and other phone manufacturers) get away with it?