What do vendors gain by making closed hardware?

I have a Hp mini netbook, an xbox, a canon 7D dslr, a canon powershot point and shoot camera and an iphone.
The netbook is a hackintosh.
The xbox has a mod chip so it can act as a media server.
The powershot is running CHDK which enables an intervalometer and motion detection.
The iPhone is jailbroken so I can run non “approved” apps on it.
I paid full price for all of those devices and I haven’t caused any direct monetary loss for the producers of those devices. I consider that a win-win situation. The hardware manufacturer makes good hardware, and then I am able to do something with it that was not initially considered by the manufacturer. I paid for it, I should be able to modify it.

When I bought the 7D I knew that there was a ‘hacking’ effort underway and I was looking forward to some day when it would bear fruit. I have checked in every few months since then and I finally realized that instead of bearing fruit, Canon has killed the tree. With each consecutive firmware update, canon has locked the hardware down more and more. They have made it harder to develop for and now it is at the point where development has stopped. How does this help canon sell even one more camera?

I honestly don’t expect them to go out of their way to help us hack their hardware. I do expect them to help their bottom line by making innovative hardware cheaply, and making it as flexible as possible so that huge numbers of people buy it. Their continued efforts to encrypt and lock down the firmware on their cameras confuses me because their cameras still have a lot of flaws. The time that their programmers and engineers put into “locking the gates” could have been spent adding audio levels, reducing shutter effects, or enabling a record time greater than 12 minutes! As a law abiding purchaser of their hardware I am really offended. I am offended that they went on the attack instead of graciously acknowledging that their cameras are the focus of some innovative creative people. I am also saddened because I can not think of a way that it is good for the company, or the consumer, or the industry. This seems like equal parts greed and ignorance.

If you understand why they do this, I would love to hear it. If not, then I’m sure canon would love to hear it.

Public Relations Department
Corporate Communications Division
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042
E-mail: pr@cusa.canon.com

One reply on “What do vendors gain by making closed hardware?”

  1. My own two cents is that by locking down the firmware, these companies simultaneously lock people into the seemingly impenetrable logic of upgrades. I’ve read many a blog talking about how a magic lanterned T3i is in many ways a superior dslr in terms of image quality and functionality than a 60D or 7D. They all share the same APS-C sensor. The 60D does have the tilt-screen, but I think you get my point. Having firmware that artificially creates step-ups in their product line, artificially instilling categories like “consumer”, “prosumer”, “semi-pro” etc. It’s capitalism 101 really. Tweaks and hacks undermine this logic because they demystify the notion that these companies somehow, magically even, are in control of what determines the potentialities of the given mediums, be it computing, photography, moving image technology etc etc.
    On the flip side, you see this logic in some roundabout ways influencing the creative practices and ideas holding up DSLR videography, while constraining it to a path of test videos seemingly having “no story” (which is bullshit, a video of a kid smoking isn’t just a video of a kid smoking) and practitioners like Phillip Bloom validating their work against Hollywood’s aesthetic standard in continuous attempts to replicate a standard (which isn’t art in my opinion) in place of questioning what it means to attempt to digitally replicate the filmic moving image with a digital one?

    Just a little rant. But my two cents nonetheless. Thanks for the blog.

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