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My dad, mom, grandma, and grandpa can watch videos, look at photos of their kids/grandkids, send e-mails to their relatives oversees, and read their favorite books on it, all without the need for a "computer-savvy guy" who has to teach them how it works, and fix it when it's broken. In other words, it's a logical conclusion of the personal computer revolution. I understand you need to run your Ruby scripts, but this product was designed for the 99% of the people in this country instead. You're not the target audience.

The thing is, without an open platform, the new, innovative ways of working with this machine will never be invented.

This is about far more than running your own Ruby scripts. It's about the fact that true innovation cannot exist in such an environment. And the problem is, you will not see what you're missing; people won't bother developing new technologies that have no platform they can legally run on.

Would the Web exist if Microsoft had been able to ban Netscape from running on Windows? What new, groundbreaking technologies are we missing out on because it's not worth the time and effort to create something new if the platform vendor can simply forbid you from publishing it?

This is alarmist nonsense.

The App store and the iPhone have fostered a colossal amount of innovation, and made a lot of normal non-techy people very, very happy. And a bunch of techies too.

And in the end I hope it doesn't come down to open source advocates getting their way so they can install vim, but it being about my Mum being able to use it without having to phone me saying that it's all gone wrong again and can I talk through 3 hours of trying to fix the damn thing.

>it being about my Mum being able to use it without having to phone me saying that it's all gone wrong again

You're confusing correlation with causation. The fact that your Mum has been unable to use devices in the past is not _caused_ by the devices being open platforms. Lots of people can't even operate a dvd player and they are certainly locked down devices. Being easy to operate and being locked down are mutually exclusive.

You don't mean mutually exclusive. You mean independent.

If events A & B are mutually exclusive, it means that if A happens, then B cannot happen, and vice-versa

or maybe orthogonal?

Would also be a good word. It taps a different area of maths for its metaphor.

I hope it doesn't come down to open source advocates getting their way so they can install vim

Installing vim isn't mutually exclusive from having a usable system.

Some of us might argue that installing Vim is the sine qua non for a (truly) usable system. (For what it's worth, I just love me some Vim. Overall, I'm on the "this device is perfect for most people" side of this actual argument.)

Doesn't a Mac run Vim and is usable by normal people too?

The iPhone model is not terribly detrimental to software innovation. Of course there's a lack of transparency, long approval waits just to release bugfixes, occasional bizarre app refusals... But mostly it doesn't matter because the open web provides an increasibly viable secondary outlet for software.

Hardware is an entirely different beast. Apple brashly requires hardware vendors to engineer their products specifically for the iPhone platform, and you can't work around these limitations in software.

For a glaring example, there's no open Bluetooth stack on iPhone OS. Most probably the underlying implementation is essentially identical to IOBluetooth.framework on Mac OS X, but instead of giving software developers the degree of freedom that's taken for granted on computer platforms, Apple has chosen to restrict iPhone OS to a much more limited API which can only connect to devices that contain an Apple-licensed chip.

Apple doesn't seem to mind suffocating independent hardware innovation in order to extract licensing fees. What a long way they've come from Steve Wozniak's days...

>but it being about my Mum being able to use it without having to phone me saying that it's all gone wrong again and can I talk through 3 hours of trying to fix the damn thing.

Isn't this part of the reason why people went out and bought the desktop Macs? Because everything 'just works'?

Locked Down Platform seems to me to be completely uncorrelated to Easy To Use.

I get what you are saying & I agree. There are huge advantages in doing things this Apple way. Your Mum gets to have something that works for her first, the 4% of people that have a preference for Thunderbird over Mail (just an example) because they like the way that it handles their profiles (again, just an example), well they are not the no. 1 concern. That makes sense. A product for the majority.

But, it is not just alarmist. The iphone has catalysed lots of innovation. Great innovation. This will too. It is all sanctioned innovation though. Unsanctioned innovation is important too. As things mature, it will become increasingly important.

Great point. imagine if the appstore had less stringent guidelines. There'd be a lot more iboobs, but also a lot more innovation.

I think freedom-to-tinker and freedom of expression are connected.

If freedom-to-tinker on the iPad is restricted, it makes me worried about freedom of expression.

They'll still be invented, just somewhere else.

The iPhone is a good example of how this might play out. It's a locked-down system full of problems for developers, but that doesn't mean innovation in the phone industry stopped.

You had a dead/slow industry, Apple woke it up, and now everyone is moving forward quickly. The customer wins.

Open phone platforms like Android will enjoy growth because of that open platform, even if Apple remains closed.

One example of this that comes to mind is the Xbox. When the Xbox was first released, while being essentially a computer, it was only meant for playing games and watching dvds. Later when modding became easy, and therefor widespread, people developed new applications that made the Xbox do things it wasn't supposed to do. One of these applications was XBMC, or Xbox Media Center, which from the beginning was a 'clone' of Windows Media Center. But today is the basis for startups like Boxee and Voddler, and is the (IMO) most competent htpc platform, as well as the most 'cutting edge' one. Redefining the way we think about media.

There's a similar story with the Linksys WRT54G routers. And while you might be able to jailbreak the iPad, it's just a lot less likely that a community will be able to form around 'alternative' usages.

The thing is, without an open platform, the new, innovative ways of working with this machine will never be invented.

You mean aside from the ones Apple developed? Why is the platform vendor always excluded?

You're right. Why are people always ragging on Microsoft?

The logical conclusion of the personal computer revolution is the person doesn't control their device?! That's not revolutionary; that's a return to the bad old days...

I recommend you read this if you want a reminder about what the personal computer revolution is all about: http://www.newmediareader.com/book_samples/nmr-26-kay.pdf. The point is to get to the point where people actually give a damn about computers.

As much as I love esoteric computer languages and UNIX, I don't consider those to be the paragons of the promise of computers.

That's not the point I get from the article. It talks about people being literate and able to create tools. It talks about power, not locked down narrow use tools.

EDIT: "We would like the Dynabook to have the flexibility and generality of this second kind of item[paper or clay], combined with tools which have the power of the first kind[cars, television sets]." I'd say they were aiming for inspiration AND power. I'd also argue that inspiration without power is worthless...

But you have to be inspired to make great tools- the medium itself must be inspiring. That was the whole point of Dynabook, tools that are inspiring enough to want to change them, figure out how they work. I'm sure there are many young hackers looking at the iPad thinking, "man I want to make some great stuff for that!". I know I'm thinking that.

When I look at a shitty netbook what am I supposed to be inspired about? Tinkering with Linux is no future of computing- it's nigh time to get out of that pipe dream.

Though, I expect and look forward to Linux to be installed on the thing within two weeks of it getting to the stores ;)

Yes, because most people don't want a device. They want to be able to watch videos, read books and listen to music. The enabling device is incidental.

Netbooks, which are basically the same price or cheaper, can do the same as the above and are much less locked in. More immediately, they also have Flash support, multitasking, and USB ports.

People still need more heavy-duty computers to do those other things as well as for non-leisure stuff. The advantage of an iPhone was that it was extremely portable and you could just pull it out on the bus to pass the time.

The iPad is barely more portable than a laptop, and much less functional. I guess reliability of the machine is greater since it's so stripped down. Other than that, I don't see what's so special.

> "can do the same as the above"

I heartily disagree. There's a big difference, huge difference between "can barely" and "does it really fucking well". The iPad shoots for the latter (we'll see if it hits), the netbook's mere existence is predicated on the former.

If your definition of "can do the same" means "someone willing to bang their head hard enough and willing to live with a substandard user experience can do it", sure. But IMHO we need to strive for a higher standard than that.

After the iPod, the Mac, and the iPhone, I don't think geeks still get why Apple is successful: they build devices that normal people actually want. I think there is some collective head-in-the-sand in the geek community because what people apparently want is not at all like what geeks want. The average user doesn't want freedom, doesn't want an open kernel, doesn't give a shit about standards, they want to have a slick, usable, and intuitive user experience, and so far netbooks are failing hard at it.

The average user doesn't want the ability to hunt down zip files on obscure websites, downloading the file, and being able to run whatever app is inside. They like having a central place where all apps in the universe reside. This may or may not be good for the industry as a whole, but it is what our users desire.

IMHO the constant spec-based wankery is why nobody has yet caught up with Apple. I'm seeing a lot of internet chatter about how netbooks do more (does more, poorly), how the cost is too high, how the CPU is too slow, blah blah blah, but conveniently ignores what is IMHO the one defining reason Apple has succeeded in the last decade: user interface.

"My Android phone isn't locked down!" <-- Your Android phone also crashes all the time, emits strange cryptic messages that only developers understand ("a process has been forced to exit"?)

> After the iPod, the Mac, and the iPhone, I don't think geeks still get why Apple is successful: they build devices that normal people actually want. I think there is some collective head-in-the-sand in the geek community because what people apparently want is not at all like what geeks want. The average user doesn't want freedom, doesn't want an open kernel, doesn't give a shit about standards, they want to have a slick, usable, and intuitive user experience, and so far netbooks are failing hard at it.

Just saying, but having an open kernel doesn't prevent Apple's user experience. If Apple were to post their source code to apple.com right now the iPad's user experience would not take an immediate nose-dive due to the universal law that "open source != good user experience." Please don't act like freedom and good user experience are mutually exclusive.

I'm not - but geeks fight the wrong battles regardless. Instead of realizing and building what our users want, we constantly tread water and waste our time on issues (important to us, and us only) like opening our code. This has no tangible benefit (nor harm, to be fair), yet it's something we fight about instead of spending this time building slick, efficient UIs.

For example, I just read a most interesting exchange on a board, where one guy was going on about how the video experience sucks because there's no DVD drive - it's completely missing the forest for the trees, getting hung up about a single insignificant detail that's at the very best a nice-to-have. This sort of tunnel vision prevents the broad view required to execute this sort of device.

To be fair, that guy might have a huge DVD collection, so a lack of a DVD drive is a deal-breaker for him. Why does he have to like it?

I think there is some collective head-in-the-sand in the geek community because what people apparently want is not at all like what geeks want.

I had an epiphany (albeit a minor one) when thinking about this problem. I asked myself, "Why do I have such a problem with Apple's closed app store?" The conclusion I reached is that a core part of my geek personality involves resisting authority figures that I didn't choose, whether it's manifest through running Linux instead of Windows or starting my own company instead of pursuing a traditional career. I suspect that, to an enterprising and independent geek, accepting Apple's way is like giving up the fight for independence from unwanted authority figures.

> I don't think geeks still get why Apple is successful

No they don't, that's probably why everyone on this thread is saying the same thing as you ..

> the constant spec-based wankery

The way you actually transform platform openness into spec-based wankery is beyond me.

The iPad is a living room computer, a couch computer, a coffee-table computer. It won't live on a desk, it will live in the places in a house that people live in. The goal is not to replace desktop computers, but to supplement them.

>The iPad is barely more portable than a laptop, and much less functional.

How many users actually use all the functionality?

My sister bought a 15" MacBook Pro for Xmas. She checks work e-mail via Outlook Web Access, occasionally works with MS Office documents for the office, uses an IM client, YouTube, browses the web for vacation ideas/planning, iTunes, iPhoto and... that's it. Not a luddite. Quite savvy and bright. Only 30. Yet that's all she does with a $1700 laptop.

Granted, you could do the same with a netbook, however, the iPad has nothing to really "mess up". There's not much to configure. There's not much updating. It's instant on. It has better battery life. For her intents and purposes, it does 95% of what she wants. I can say this for my parents, and either most of my friends, or their spouses.

For these types of users the lack of a full-blown OS is actually an advantage. There's nothing "to mess up". There's very few things to configure. No boot times. Longer battery life. Easier to carry around. Cheaper than a conventional laptop or desktop. Can be always online (WiFi or 3G). Presumably a very simple "restore" or factory default reset process. I would also assume you could get a MobileMe account and have all your data backed up in a data center somewhere for easy restore.

I, personally, am not sold on the device. I already have an iPhone, and I have different computing needs as a developer. However I won't ignore the fact that it'll cut the mustard for a large number of users as an "occasional" computer, if not a primary computing device.

... And to use the iPad she still needs to have the laptop to sync it to.

Actually, you don't. You can sign up for 3G on the device. You can buy and manage content from the iTunes or App stores right from the device - just like the iPhone.

Until you need to get an OS update, put your existing content/apps on it, transfer your contacts, exchange documents, backup, etc. Just like an iPhone.

I understand what you're saying, but the key is enabling. This device enables some things at the cost to many others.

Mind you, I'm not saying it won't be cool, and I'm not saying it won't sell many units, (although I have my doubts). I'm just saying this isn't the logical conclusion to the personal computer revolution. A personal computer is, by definition, a general purpose computing device, which this most assuredly is not.

Edit, reply to following comment: How is "it does what I tell it" a narrower definition of enable than "it does what it's allowed to do by the people I bought it from"?

I'm not trying to be flip; I think it looks very sexy. However, it's just a narrow tool, not the end-all of computers.

Only if you accept your very limited definition of enabling. You mean so that you can program it. I'm guessing most other people think it means so it can do loads of cool stuff without me having to speak in 1s and 0s.

> You mean so that you can program it.

Oh, so programming it is the only thing that Apple limits? Wow it's more open than the iPhone! I can wait to install the iPad version of Opera!

Netbooks, to respond to the sibling comment, don't have large touchscreens.

Agreed. Few people went on about how miserable and useless and limiting the pocket calculator was.

And then those few bought RPN calculators.

I guess their 1984 ad campaign was more precient than Steve could have imagined. The surprise is that he is the old guy on the screen. Now, who's the woman throwing the hammer?

The king is dead! Long live the king!

Mac OS X is quite user friendly, yet isn't locked down. No need to lock a system down to make it usable.

The problem is that the iPad doesn't run Mac OS X, it runs the locked down iPhone OS. You can't run just anything on the iPad.

Agreed. The locking down is unnecessary. It hinders power users and prevents those who would become power users from having the option to do so.

Define "power users".

Power User:

1) An account that is a member of a default privileged group present in Windows 2000 through Windows 2003. Has the ability to install random crap and break everything, but not the ability to fix anything (unless they exploit their breakage ability to escalate privileges).

2) Someone who reads "top ten ways to..." articles on sites like Digg, Reddit, or Lifehacker and then blindly copy-pastes shit from <pre> boxes into their terminal. They have no clue how anything works nor the facility to learn, but they sure are earnest and they love to evangelize! They'll seize any opportunity to apply their cargo-cult knowledge to help you with the problems they think you have. They love to defrag and "Repair Permissions", but don't have backups. They're the audience/creators of 'themes' and 'skins'.

Historically these people (largely adolescents) have been know-nothing partisan tweakers of Windows, Classic Mac OS, BeOS, Amiga, or any number of 8-bit home computer platforms. Recently Linux has become the cool thing to wank over -- compiz and Ubuntu helped a lot with that. The Hackintosh phenomenon has led to a lot of them defecting to Mac OS X.

Someone has an axe to grind..

At the minimum, people who wnat to use software more powerful than iPhone apps (Photoshop, music production, programming, etc.).

I don't understand. How does buying an iPad prevent people from using other computers for those purposes, or wanting to, aside from the opportunity cost of actually buying the device?

You seem to be talking about things that machines can do, but you're referring to people. If a machine is limited it does not follow to say that the person is limited.

Of course the person is limited. They are limited because they can't for example, install Firefox on the iPad and use it as the browser rather than Safari. The person is limited because the locked nature of the device limits them.

If an iPad is their only computer there they will be limited to functionality avaiable on the iPad unless they shell out for another computer.

Right, and all that goodness would be destroyed for your family if others could run Ruby scripts on the device.

I imagine you should be able to see the difference between not targeting a particular audience and doing everything to lock that particular audience out.

The problem in what you're saying is that it wouldn't have been THAT hard to do a product that does both : Add an usb port and add the ability to install custom software, even if hidden in the bottom of the OS where your grandma doesn't even notices it, and you have a device that pleases everyone. I still don't really get why they wouldn't do such a thing.

EDIT: I'm kind of getting sick of this. Basically all the posts on this thread sum up to this:

Some guy say "Yeah but my grandma can use it !". And gets tremendously upvoted, so ok guys we get the point.

And some other guy says "Yeah ok, but what prevents this slick grandma-friendly platform to be open at the same time", and the guy get less upvoted, like the very point of this Ipad is that it be user friendly, like we hackers don't care at all about openness, denying the very point of this article, wich IS :

"Why can't we have a platform that is BOTH user friendly and slick, and open"

I still like to believe that openness and usability / polish / "shinyness" are not mutually exclusive. Maybe it's idealistic (I definitely can't point to any irrefutable examples), but insofar as we're part of the people shaping technology, I don't think it's a bad ideal to strive for.

I still like to believe that openness and usability / polish / "shinyness" are not mutually exclusive. Maybe it's idealistic (I definitely can't point to any irrefutable examples)

Mac OS X itself is a good example. Normal users can just click on the dock icons and never need to have any awareness of the Unix layer underneath.

In the mobile space, Android is 80% there.

I've actually been meaning to get an iMac or Macbook for my parents to replace the old desktop at home. BUT when I checked out the iPad today, everything just clicked into place - this device is perfect for them!

First of all, its cheap compared to a mac laptop or desktop. Secondly, it is great for surfing and checking emails, which is what my parents do 99% of the time on the computer. Any laptop or desktop would be an overkill for their use case. Thirdly, the iPad's zooming functionality is the best in the market now, and would be extremely useful for older folks with bad eyesight. The small screens on netbooks just do not cut it.

I think apple has again come up with a device that will revolutionize the way we use computers, just not the way all of us tech minded geeks wanted it to.

I can see the ease of use argument, and that Apple products certainly do well at that. But, thinking on a longer time line, isn't that target audience shrinking. What is the life expectancy of the pre-computer literate population? How big is this audience now? I'm just asking. I have no idea.

On the other hand, a much larger audience would be the vast unwashed masses in the third world who use cell phones to access the internet. The sales volumes are higher, while the price point is lower... I wonder if Apple would go there, or would they leave that market to others.

The fact that developers are not the target audience is, I think, a problem. It means that apps will be created that developers think people would want to buy, NOT apps that developers would want to use.

I must use a different machine to build applications for this, which means on the gradient of iphone to macbook, it's much closer to the iphone. If the only niche it fills is for grandmothers, secretaries and managers, how will the developers ever really grok it? It seems like they'd only be monetarily driven... and that just sounds like iFart.

I mostly agree with you, but: developers are people too.

>but this product was designed for the 99% of the people in this country instead. You're not the target audience.

Fair enough. But a not-insignificant chunk of that 99% is the friend or relative who asks you to write a small piece of software to do some calculation for them or some quick script or tool to automate some repetitive task. And then you have to sit and explain to them that this thing they bought isn't a real computer in the same way that their desktop was.

And how do you get that stuff on it without being able to plug in a USB drive?

How do you get the text you're reading right now on your computer without being able to plug in a USB drive?

That just means a device for people who have very few technical skills will need a near-constant and perfectly working internet connection to be passably useful.

I would classify myself and quite technically skilled, and I still need a near-constant and perfectly working Internet connection to be passably useful. :P

I'm confused. How does skill level factor into it? And what is wrong with assuming that internet connections are usually available?

Assuming that internet connections are usually available ensures that your device will be utterly useless in many rural areas. In some places around my city, there is no broadband internet available at all, perhaps even when considering offerings from cell phone networks.

There is one place in our city that offers free wifi, and few people are aware of it because they do not advertise it. Our library has computers one can use, but no wifi.

People living in and around major cities may want to pretend that everyone is able to have nearly continuous internet access, but that's not the case. Even assuming one has a smartphone, Edge isn't a pleasant thing to attempt to even browse the internet over.

They have a USB adaptor for loading photos. See http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/

The iTunes stores! It is monopoly at its finest. Apple could eventually half the price if the masses by their books and software and rent or buy their movies all from Apple.

Eventually, there will be an iPad to Apple TV interface, and they can cut out the cable companies too.

Scary now that I think about it.

It is monopoly

In what market and by what definition?

Grandparent is probably thinking along the lines of a local monopoly, analogous to an old company town: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_town

The analogy is not perfect, since you can buy mp3s and movies and ebooks from other services. But on iPhones and iPads the barriers to getting content from non-iTunes sources is certainly higher than it otherwise would be on a regular Mac (or any other PC for that matter).

full disclosure: lifelong Apple user

Here's an idea: someone can come along and build something half has good as the iPhone ecosystem. Who's stopping them?

My dad, mom, grandma, and grandpa can watch videos

Oh, but they can't because those are on YouTube and it doesn't do Flash. Simple doesn't have to mean purposely disabled to make more money.

This would be a valid concern if it were true. If:

1. Youtube DIDN'T have an HTML5 video mode (both non-web and web).


2. Apple were somehow asking people to pay for Flash support and profiting from that.

Since neither is true, your concern here seems unsupported.

There is an app for watching YouTube videos. In my opinion the app is even better than the YouTube website itself with its ads and trashy comments.

My iPhone can watch YouTube videos and it doesn't have flash.

It doesn't need Flash to play h.264 video. There is, as they say, an app for that (just like the iPhone + iPod Touch)

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