Michael Robinson did it for publicity
Om Malik wrote an entry in his blog about how Michael Robinson took a cheap shot at Vonage by suing Vonage over the fact that they are selling “locked” devices (the Linksys PAP2 and RT312P) and not disclosing that fact anywhere on the box.
Om does have a point. If this were really about the consumer, why wouldn’t have he sued the stores selling the devices or the manufacturer Linksys? Or even better, why not take the matter up with the Federal Trade Commission?
While I disagree with the methods used by Robertson, I do agree that the idea of having the shelves cluttered with a number of different versions of the same adapter locked to different providers is just ridiculous. I also agree that Linksys and the retailers have a responsibility to disclose to customers that the device only works with a particular provider.
People bring up the cell phone argument all the time as a counterpoint to this. Most of the service agreements I’ve seen with wireless carriers pretty clearly state that the wireless phones they provide will only work on their service and nobody elses.
Of course, if you have a GSM phone, you should know that almost all GSM phones are unlockable either with hardware or a code you punch into the handset. That means you can take your phone with you to another GSM carrier. Of course, with Cingular and AT&T Wireless merging, that will leave T-Mobile as the only other national GSM carrier remaining, so it doesn’t give you that many options.
On the CDMA side of things (e.g. Sprint, Verizon), the providers will only allow phone numbers they sell on their network (i.e. they restrict it by the electronic serial number) and I don’t seem them changing that anytime soon.