There is a lot of huffing and puffing going on about people ‘hacking’ the iPhone. At the heart of the matter are the twin definitions of the verb ‘hack’ that are not always well recognized. Many people take ‘hacking’ to mean malicious invasion of electronic systems, for instance in order to steal credit card numbers. An older definition of the word is simply to tinker with technology. In this sense, a ‘hack’ might be a clever modification of a bicycle or a mobile phone.
Apple has been exploiting all the hype about the iPhone to make highly preferential deals with individual carriers. This has happened in the US and UK already, doubtless with more to follow. These arrangements seem to benefit Apple and the carriers, but I doubt very much that they benefit the consumer. It is like Toyota building cars that can only be filled at Shell service stations, then trying to prosecute people who try to remove the restrictions, allowing them to be filled elsewhere. Just as the people own the cars and should thus be free to modify them in ways that do not endanger others, people who own iPhones should be able to tinker with them. Likewise, just as the Toyoto-Shell case is clear-cut collusion of the kind governmental competition authorities police, so too does the Apple-cell carrier situation.