freedom. I'd venture to say that I value the kind of freedom that they provide me more highly than I do the freedom from any one free software instance.
If I had to choose between "you never see the source, and have to pay big bucks, but Google continues to work as-is" and "no Google, but you get the source and the ability to control your own devices," I'd go for the first option in a second, because it enables me to do more things—not in theory (in theory, of course, the opposite is true) but certainly in actual everyday practice.
As I've outlined elsewhere in this discussion, but perhaps not so explicitly, the problem with RMS and the FSF is that they care only about one kind of freedom directly: the freedom to control one's own hardware and software.
This freedom is seen as being logically prior to all others. In a bizarre, historical sense, that may be true—if hardware and software had always been completely and entirely locked down, we wouldn't have the computing world that we have today.
At the same time, most people can not and do not take advantage of this freedom, don't care much about it, and might even have a great deal of trouble imagining what it amounts to.
But the list of things that they are able to do thanks to Apple and Google that they couldn't do without Apple and Google is quite long and quite clear to them.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to protect openness, but FSF discussions always manage to carry this to the logical extreme: you shouldn't use Apple and Google because they may eventually, someday lead to the end of open computing (e.g. the end of Apple and Google). So, even though Apple and Google radically expand the list of choices that you have at every moment of your life relative to not having them, you should forego them and have neither. Not to worry, though—since you have the more fundamental freedom (the freedom to control your software and hardware), you can just remake Apple and Google!
This is not going to fly with the average consumer. They won't be getting a free and open Apple or Google anytime soon—and thus, not using Apple and Google represents a net loss of freedom for them.
The best analogy I can think of is that of dropping someone in the middle of a wilderness with no other people in it and over which no state has control, then flying away and yelling down to them as you depart, "Congratulations! You're the freest person on earth! Enjoy the rest of your life in the wilderness, where nobody will ever control you again! And don't worry—if you get bored or lonely, you can always build civilization anew, this time with More Freedom[TM]!"
For the wilderness explorer that likes a solitary existence (or, say, the RMS-styled software developer), this may all indeed be true. But most people would find this kind of freedom less desirable than, say, the freedom that comes with a management job, a million dollar bank account, and an apartment in a major city.
The wilderness explorer cries out, "But you're not free! You have to go to work! You have to use a bank! You have to pay the rent! You have to pay your taxes! A policeman could write you a ticket for any number of things!"
Everyone else says, "You poor thing—living in the wilderness all alone like that, with no amenities, no friends, and nothing to do!" (Think RMS in his no mobile phone, doesn't use anything but Emacs, has never seen another email client world.)
Which one is "freedom?" It's a silly question. They both are—or they both aren't. Because freedom isn't an objective quantity.
As I mentioned in another post, society doesn't come to us as an empty field of possibility. It comes to us with conventions and practices that are well-established and well-understood at any moment in time. These open up new possibilities for individual life—that is, in fact the benefit of "society" in the first place, and why we bothered to evolve the capability—it enables us to build New York City, or create an iPhone, or go to the Best Birthday Party Ever[TM].
But each of these conventional practices that is so liberating and desirable for most people also comes with built-in rules and norms. These are not optional, and they are not choices; the rules of participating in society are *what society is made of*. Birthday-party behaviors (smiles, pleasantness, wishes, singing, gift-giving, cake) are *both* rules and also *what the practice is made of*. To have the freedom to go to a birthday party, one must submit to the rules of birthday partying. To refuse to *do birthday party things* is to lose the ability *to birthday party*. The rules and limitations are intrinsic to the experience and its benefits; you cannot sacrifice the one without the other.
Similarly, to have the freedom to enjoy a mobile ecosystem or a powerful desktop environment, one must submit to the conventional and existing rules of practice and integral processes that currently constitute them. Legalities (DRM, copyright, and so on), for better or for worse, are the general formalizations of such rules as these possibilities for behavior exist right now.
Some, like RMS, argue that this isn't freedom, or that it directly leads to unfreedom, and thus, the right answer is to never go to another birthday party (after all, who knows where the incredible rule-making tendencies associated with such functions will end—the tyranny of society and social norms knows no limits; concede to this rule or to that one, and you'll eventually have to concede to another; the more you become dependent upon birthday parties for your well-being and social life, the less you'll be able to escape the accumulation of rules without radically altering your life in negative ways).
Most people, however, are much more interested in simply going to the birthday party than they are in living in the wilderness. They concede that they'll have to sing the song, put on a smile, issue well wishes, buy a gift, and eat some cake as conditions for engaging in the behavior. But they just plain don't mind. It may even be *why they go in the first place*.
Just like I appreciate Google and Amazon surveiling me since it helps me to find the things that I want to find. It is part of how they work, and I value their ability to do this. It's a quid-pro-quo that we agree upon. To me, this relationship also represents a kind of freedom, and a more important one than my ability to hack the code (which I haven't done—in the submitting a patch or similar way—for at least a decade).