I’m surprised by the reaction @sil, @jeremy, and @jonobacon had to @bryanlunduke’s argument in the first segment. I expect these comments from people in the general tech community, but I’m surprised to see them coming from such large figures in the open source world. I’m also surprised because usually I agree with whatever @jeremy says because he’s a pragmatist, whereas @bryanlunduke has no problems with being more of an ideological purist.
Nonetheless, I empathize with Bryan’s point here. That the Xbox One requires an Internet connection to the extent that it does is a conscious decision that is not necessary to deliver a product that lets users play games and use Internet services (the Wii U, for example, does not limit you in this way). A broader example of this would be comparing modern day open source desktops to proprietary ones. The latter collects more information about users and uses the Internet to enforce DRM in a way we don’t see in the former. That’s thanks to open source developers making the explicit decision (and as Bryan argues, ethical decision) to uphold certain standards of privacy and transparency. Those of us who use open source desktops aren’t sitting around missing out on the technological innovations of the closed sourced ecosystem. We don’t get certain software, sure, but we are still Internet users and participants in the digital world. And we can do more with our Linux desktops today than we could back when the original Xbox launched without giving up our freedoms.
Another example would be the way mobile OSes are designed relative to desktop OSes. The latter (even the closed source ones) will let you do a great deal of work without constant support from a company. Even Chromebooks will let you continue to browse the web and manage files if Google were to stop supporting them. But our phones are so heavily intertwined with online services that they are significantly hindered if those servers shut down. Google Play services is integrated into so many aspects of Android that a large number of apps would simply stop functioning even though they’re not explicitly tied to a service.
To suggest that mobile OSes should be developed more similarly to desktop OSes is not to suggest we go back in time or move into some fairy tale land. It’s to acknowledge that the values and practices we’ve come to accept in certain markets should be actively challenged and rejected. It’s to acknowledge that some products are still currently developed in a way that doesn’t require giving up so much access and control. To suggest that modern computing and Internet usage requires us to be so beholden to every company that makes a product buys into and encourages a developmental model that all four hosts agreed, to varying extents, is not desirable.
As to what we do about it, there, I again agree with @jeremy that transparency is the answer here. Get companies to be upfront about what they’re selling. It’s okay for a consumer to opt to buy a service that comes with a product if that’s what they want. As long as the company is being straightforward, I wouldn’t call this unethical.
That said, I do agree with @bryanlunduke that we as consumers should stop buying smartwatches that effectively turn into digital watches with crappy battery life the moment Google or Apple stops supporting them. We shouldn’t invest in fitness trackers and scales that give us no way to use the advertised features without giving our data to the manufacturers. We shouldn’t accept a market where “smart” TVs don’t last nearly as long as dumb ones from our parents’ generation entirely because the makers have no interest in making products that will last longer than their own personal desire to make money off of us. And opting out does not mean not getting to use watches, scales, activity trackers, or TVs. It just encourages development of technology that better respects users, the likes of which we see regularly made for our Linux distributions, traditional digital cameras, Bluetooth speakers, and other products where companies haven’t yet convinced us that it’s okay to expect our device to only last a year or two.