Cory Doctorow has a long write up on how he doesn’t like the iPad and why he thinks that you shouldn’t either. Since this is pretty much release day for the iPad, I thought I’d use it as a stepping stone to rant and rave a bit.
If we turn back our clock a few short years to January of 2007 when the iPhone was announced, we received all sorts of criticisms about the device. “It’s too expensive!” “It locks the user into AT&T!” “It doesn’t multitask!” “It doesn’t have a GPS!” “It doesn’t interface with X/Y/Z!” “It doesn’t do YYYY which smartphone ZZZ does!” The punditry was telling us all that it wasn’t something we should want.
Three years later, and it completely owns the smartphone market. It’s pretty clear that all those technology pundits and advocates don’t really understand why people buy gadgets of this nature.
Cory raises a bunch of points, and while they aren’t necessarily wrong, they are for the most part irrelevent.
As an example, Cory says that the iPad hardware “infantalizes hardware”. This is a hopelessly geek-centric view. For the millions of people who bought the iPhone and the millions that I predict will buy the iPad, this device isn’t a pathway to a career software design. It’s a device they can carry around, consume media, send and receive mail, and generally access the news and information that they like. The myth that Cory operates under is that somehow the devices themselves fuel interest and achievement in technology. The fact is that you could have given an Apple II to every single person in America in 1980, and you would have gotten a few more software and hardware engineers. And you would have gotten an awful lot of people playing Choplifter, and who figured out nothing more than how to run Choplifter. As much of a died in the wool software jockey as I am, I still have an un-jailbroken iPhone with a few dozen apps on it. I haven’t designed any new apps for it, and in spite of that, I’m very happy to own an iPhone. When I am standing in line at the grocery store, or want to know what movies are playing at my local theater, or want to text my sister to wish her a happy birthday, I don’t really want it to be a software design challenge.
And why all the righteous indignation for just the iPad/iPhone? Recently, it has come to my attention that most BluRay players have a pretty significant amount of computing power inside them. Why aren’t they open? Why can’t I write software for those? Why is all that amazing capability hidden away where we can’t have at it?
I haven’t as yet bought an iPad. I might. I might not. Some of the points about the lack of open-ness do offend me a bit, since I am a guy who likes to write and distribute software. But I’m a six-sigma from the norm software geek. Who am I to tell you what devices you should or shouldn’t like?