Why Cory Doctorow won’t buy an iPad (and thinks you shouldn’t, either)

April 2, 2010 | Rants and Raves | By: Mark VandeWettering

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?

Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either) – Boing Boing.


Comment from Jeff, KE9V
Time 4/2/2010 at 4:09 pm

I’m unsure why the iPad evokes such strong reactions, but suffice it to say that Apple could package horse crap and at least five million fan boys would line up at 5am to buy it, so “success” is always in the bag for the folks from Cupertino.

I plan to buy one. But after the iPhone launch I think we learned a lesson that Apple will add features and lower the price in version 2.0 and this thing isn’t making my credit card itch much so I can wait for the better, cheaper version.

In 2010 I think we will see at least another dozen or so such pads from other vendors with less draconian rules than the App Store, but also with a lot fewer applications.

I also think 2010 is when Android will trump iPhone and then we will see who is going to win this war; Apple or Google. I’m betting on Google but am willing to remain nimble in the battle! 🙂

73, Jeff

Comment from Mark VandeWettering
Time 4/2/2010 at 7:17 pm

Saying that Apple could package horse crap and it would sell is a cop out: there is a reason why Apple sells lots of product and has such brand loyalty, and it isn’t all hypnosis or a fad. Apple has a product design philosophy, and more importantly a sustainable business philosophy that underlies their product development, and it has allowed them to create and to invade markets where the pundits would have claimed that they had no chance.

Sure, we’ll see pads come out in 2010. They’ll probably run Windows or Linux and guess what? They will fail utterly to achieve any marketshare at all. Why? Because people (real people) don’t want Windows or Linux on a pad: they want their mail, their music, their games, and their photos. And it will be good at that.

Many people have also ignored what I think the major feature of the App Store is: it’s small business friendly. If you have a product idea, you can develop it and market it through the Apple App Store in a very simple, well defined way, and with minimal cost. You don’t need to create an online store, or even worse, master and distribute CDROMS. You also don’t need to create big software: you can make little software, that fills a small niche, and sell it to people at prices that encourage whim buys. I use Autostitch on my iPhone to stich panoramas. It was $2.99. I bought it because one day, I wanted to stitch some photos. A few clicks, and BOOM, I was stitching photos. Stuck somewhere and need a new game? BOOM, $3.99 and you get Zombies vs. Plants or whatever…

Apple has chosen to play in a world of consumer electronics, and success is definitely not “in the bag”. This arena is very price conscious, and brand loyalty is very low. If a different company offered better products for a better price, I’d switch in a heartbeat. I actually am considering the possibility of a Google phone (my wife has a G1, which isn’t nearly as polished as my iPhone) at some point in the future, because I do like their software philosophy better, but as of now, I’m not willing to give up the polish of the iPhone to get it.

Comment from Tom Duff
Time 4/3/2010 at 5:41 pm

A precursor, complaining about the iPod: No Wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Comment from Wouter ZS1KE
Time 4/8/2010 at 2:52 am

Aaah, but Cory is right, at least for now. Anyone who reads him, or for that matter your blog, would probably be better off with a netbook or something.

I won’t buy one, not even at the price you get ’em for (here in .za they’ll be comparatively much more expensive).

But yea, Apple aims at consumers, and they will sell a lot of them, whether the product is technically horse crap 🙂

And I think the strong reaction comes out because the Apple ][ (I still have mine!) was the ultimate hacker’s machine, while the latest offerings are extremely closed.

/me goes back to hacking his eee.

Comment from Gus
Time 4/22/2010 at 11:04 pm

I read your iPad post and have been thinking about it off and on. I disagree with the individual that mentioned that Apple fanboys and girls will buy anything that Apple sells.

I think Steve Jobs has done an amazing job to advance technology and introduce a fun and enjoyable interaction experience. The iPhone + apps was a brilliant idea. I remember how ringtones was a big business back in the day (I didn’t buy any thought, but created a few – now I would feel a lot better to spend a few bucks on an app than a silly midi/mp3 ringtone).

The iPad is seen by some as a larger size iPod but it is clearly more than that. I am a lot more excited about it after hearing of the upcoming OS 4 with task switching capabilities, as I mentioned to someone else it went from a wow cool tech to… I can see myself using the iPad instead of a netbook (at least in some situations – those mini Dell’s with SSD are nice too).

I still use a Treo 650 because it is still useful to me, like you I can check for movie times, the weather, I can stream Internet music (mostly do that when commuting) and run Google maps Palm app when needed. Of course this phone is old and dated and the iPhone is the next best thing in my opinion (I’m actually about to purchase an iPod touch).

What I like about Apple (say in comparison with android and other phones) is that Apple has the iPhone, iPod and now the iPad, with the opportunity to run the same app in those three devices, potentially reaching out a broader user base should one decide to create an app.

Just did a quick search and found this other post which contains some demographic information.

Anyways, Thank you for posting interesting information and points of view.