iPhone and the DE-volution of Handheld Computing Power

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That's right. I believe the iPhone's net effect is to take computing power away from people.

I had intended to write a piece about the increase in computing power coming – literally – into the hands of the masses thanks to developments like Apple's iPhone. But on closer analysis, the iPhone's lack of programmability actually makes it *less* open to user modification. Customization, as in changing the look and feel of the features, or downloading new official Apple-approved software, is as available or moreso than on any cell phone.
But the iPhone is not an open platform. It does not run on Python or one of the other user-friendly languages that invite people to create their own applications or modify the ones already on the phone.

Of course, the justifications for a locked software set are many: it guarantees that no one will do anything to the phone that breaks it. Apple can provide official support to everything that actually gets on its phone. More importantly, Apple can charge for anything that's put on one of their phones.

But this means that while consumers do have immense computing power in the palms of their hands, they don't have access to that power. They can only exploit the abilities of the programs already provided for them.

So far, it appears that even techno-enthusiasts are willing to make the trade-off: they feel the consumer functionality offered by the device is worth losing programmability. It's an old deal – one that people make not only with their technology providers, but the providers of all the goods and services in their lives. And as such, it represents an interesting allegory for the techniques of social control developed by Ed Bernays and his proteges back in the 1930's and 40's, when it was believed that a society of satisfied consumers would prove more compliant.

In simpler terms, as long as iPhones keep working as they should, and providing people with what they want before they know they want it, no one will ask how to get inside them.

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