Jailbreaking, a term that has come to encompass several practices but generally refers to a user obtaining root access on their device, is controversial in a strange way. Companies like Apple and Nintendo hate it, and most users don’t care about it. Yet it’s constantly in the news because it is, in fact, a philosophical conflict.
RIM has posted an official response to the habit of jailbreaking BlackBerry devices, particularly PlayBooks, though the post doesn’t mention the product by name. Probably because it would be hard to argue against users creating functionality for the device that should have existed there in the first place.
It’s really not a bad or hostile post; penned by BlackBerry Security Incident Response Team Director Adrian Stone (his business cards are extra-large), it’s really more of an assurance that RIM is aware of and responding to the fact that root access is being sought and acquired.
As much as users would like to say that a company should be embracing jailbreakers (Microsoft is probably the closest big company to this ideal right now with WP7 and Kinect), it does make sense for a company like RIM, which prides itself on its ostensibly impregnable communications infrastructure, to assure its customers that it’s not going to let a few code monkeys destabilize the whole platform.
Yet considering the painfully incomplete state in which the PlayBook shipped, RIM might do well to consider the early adopters and hackers as their most loyal and dedicated customers. Apple doesn’t have that dubious luxury, so it can take an adversarial stance, but RIM should be patting these guys on the back — if for no other reason than that many of them paid full price for a device that they have since had to offload at bargain-bin prices.
It’s a prickly position they’re in, but embracing hackers could be perceived as the security-savvy thing to do. As it is, they’re essentially acknowledging that they will constantly be playing catch-up, when they could be saying they’re proactively addressing the security concerns, the way Google does with Chrome’s exploit bounty.