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New Fast Company: iWorry

MosesPadclip.png(Well, "new" in the sense of it's the most recent; it actually went up earlier this week, I just didn't get around to linking to it here. Ahem.)

"iWorry" is my foray into the iPad discussion, focusing less on the product and more on its support infrastructure:

But the iPad isn't a phone; it is a general purpose computer. It does email and Web and documents and presentations and games and all of the other kinds of things we do with our "regular" computers. Yet it will suffer under the same restrictions as the iPhone--prohibition of any application that Apple doesn't like, for whatever reason. Sometimes that means the application uses undocumented features, but startlingly often it just means "duplication of features"--the application does something that Apple's own software does, but does it differently. (This raises the uncomfortable question as to whether the Kindle app for the iPhone--which works quite nicely, actually--will run on the iPad.)

These restrictions aren't going to hurt Apple's bottom line, and admittedly will probably make for a more comfortable user experience on the device itself. But the risk -- and the source of my worry -- is that the locked-down app model moves from these kind of appliance systems to the kinds of devices that have historically been open. If the next version of the MacOS insists that you use a "MacOS App Store" to get the software you want, I'll be moving to another platform.

I brought up a similar point in a conversation with Annalee Newitz, who wrote about her own concerns about the iPad for io9.com, Why the iPad is Crap Futurism. I think her summary of my point following the quote gets it exactly right.

As futurist Jamais Cascio told io9:
This is Apple's big push of its top-down control over applications into the general-purpose computing world. The only applications that will work with the iPad are those approved by Apple, under very opaque conditions. On a phone, that's borderline acceptable, but it's not for something that is positioned to overlap with regular computers.

The iPad has all the problems of television, with none of the benefits of computers.

If I get one, it will be for the hands-on experience of seeing what kinds of uses I would have for a device that sits between a smart pocket device and a notebook computer. But I promise not to like it.


It's the same mistake Apple made in the frist place all over again.

I have real mixed feelings about the App Store. Cons: what you said. Pros: Apple, for the first time ever, seems to have made micropayents for software really work. And it looks like a relatively open platform for developers -- less so than a traditional Mac or PC, but more so than the cell phone app market that existed before it. And the reward for being slightly less open is the prospect of actually getting paid, which -- as a one-time shareware author turned free software developer -- has its appeal.

I doubt they'll ever lock down the Mac, but it might be nice to see the App Store come to it, in a non-exclusive fashion.

Stephen Fry (who was meant to be in seclusion writing the next stage of his memoirs.. bad, bad Stephen!) attended the launch and makes a point that once you actually use one, you will understand that this is the future.

It may be so interface-wise but, unless, the app lock-down goes, it won't be in mine.

(Actually, that does raise an interesting point... is the future going to be defined more by richer participation or richer choice? No, they aren't mutually exclusive)

Showing myself as an old timer who cut his teeth on the predecessor to the PC, the Unix workstation with the X Window System, I have to wonder why it's so important to have any app beyond a browser on the iPad if you have a good WiFi connection or decent 3G bandwidth (i.e. not New York City). We're decades beyond "the network is the computer" and everything important can live in the cloud. The AJAX application model isn't anything new these days. Everyone is addicted to Gmail and alternatingly thrilled and terrified about Google Office and its cousins. These "apps" couldn't care less about what's available or or unavailable in the Apple Store. Why should you?

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