I love it when Jonathan Zittrain weighs in on things. Loved his book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, and mostly what he says here expands on ideas in there, focused on the platform side of things, and the growing lack of "generativity" and openness in the newer platforms coming out, like the iPhone and Kindle.
So if you haven't read the book, here's some pithy bits as summarized by Liz Gannes:
You don’t truly own the toaster — rather, according to Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain, “You entered into a service relationship with a breakfast-oriented provider.” That’s the tragic and giggle-worthy analogy Zittrain uses to illustrate his worry that the cloud computing model gives too much control to platforms, which must be trusted to do good.
His audience included co-panelist Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, a company Zittrain pinpointed as being at the center of the problem.
For instance, Zittrain called Amazon’s Kindle a device with “an operating system crying to get out.” To an even greater degree than with Apple’s iPhone, programmers can’t get direct access to develop on the Kindle platform, he noted. And Amazon retreating on the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature and zapping of U.S. customers’ copies of “1984″ — despite a convincing apology by Jeff Bezos — show the company can beam itself down to make the device less useful when it chooses.
Zittrain also pointed to Amazon Mechanical Turk, where people can be put to near-automated work that makes them effectively zombies for largely non-useful purposes such as giving five-star reviews for devices they’ve never used. In this case he thinks government regulation, like the FTC’s new blogging disclosure policy, could be a good thing — at least in the sense that it pressures Amazon to police tasks on its platform.