04 April 2010

Thumbs down for iPad

Several people are finding it hard to be excited by the iPad. Their verdict, in summary: an over-grown iPhone, with less functionality and connectivity than its smaller sibling, that locks users into consumption (of Apple-approved apps) rather than supporting creation.

Aaron Swartz and Cory Doctorow both rail against the boundaries of Apple's walled garden (which, Tim Bray has described as Disneyfied). Jeff Jarvis is modifying his initial enthusiasm. And this, by Quinn Norton, on the lack of impact of hyped technology on poor people, is salutary.

Incidentally iPad's backlit LCD display, while ideal for video and games, is, apparently, no match for Kindle.

[Quinn Norton and Tim Bray links via John Naughton]


  1. All the people you mention above don't get the iPad IMHO. It is not about the device as such. It is about the media and software. Take a look at some of the iPad apps available on the first day e.g. Things & Evernote. They are a whole level of functionality above their iPhone versions, and dare I say look more aesthetically pleasing (and more fun to use) than their desktop versions. These apps have come out on the first day. Wait until 12 months from now and see what apps are available.

    Software and not the device, and I keep hammering on to anyone who will listen (and lots that won't)

  2. Thanks for the comment. I'm sure you're right about the user experience. It's Apple, it will be compelling.

    But there's lots going on here and what people are really reacting to IMO is the over-hype (remember the state Guardian Technology allowed itself to be whipped itself into when iPad was first announced), and the sudden, very powerful position Apple has. No longer the plucky innovator, champion of the free spirit etc., but a business that locks customers in to both product and service in a way that seems to have spoiled the party. So cynicism, once reserved for Microsoft, is now directed at Apple.

    Additionally people are perhaps beginning to pay lip service (if not respond with real behaviour change) to the environmental impact of a device for every purpose, multiple displays around the house etc. (once a Bill Gates future scenario, as I remember).

    And, I may be wrong, recession may have made people outside Apple's core constituency just a little more reluctant, even resentful about perceived pressure, to shell out for another device. Time alone will tell.

  3. I think there are two things going on here - one is the potential loss of geekdom as Apple makes technology accessible to a whole load of people who have no interest in being geeks and the other is the loss of full control over the experience. The challenging question is whether one can achieve the former without the latter - personally I think Apple are showing us a way to achieve an appliance-like quality to computing experiences, but they are doing this through a walled garden approach (though nothing like as closed as some like to argue) that I would like not to be the only way, but that seems to be the only way today.

    The challenge for all those who dislike what Apple is doing is to stop behaving (and thinking) like geeks and to work out how to offer the experience that Apple delivers in an open-source way.

  4. Am with you on this, although don't think disliking Apple's business approach necessarily aligns with geekiness. It's simply hard to beat Apple's inventiveness in both user experience and business. Look, for example at this patent filing for a peer to peer payment system: http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/ia.jsp?IA=US2009053441&REF=RSS (via, as so often, John Naughton: http://memex.naughtons.org/archives/2010/04/08/10624).