Current computers are sandboxes - you can do with them whatever you want, run arbitrary code, create your own workflow, and operate without rules. The iPad is a themepark - it has specific programs that do specific things, and then it's got little roped off paths between them. For many users (the proverbial Mom), a well-developed theme park is more attractive, because all they really wanted to do anyhow is ride the roller-coaster or the Ferris wheel. People like the average Hacker News reader (or even the average reddit or digg reader) can't stand the roped off paths, but for Mom, those laid out sidewalks are a relief.
Apple certainly seems to be executing on that vision in a entirely different manner than Microsoft did.
EDIT: They'd still be selling the "Theme Park" version to the other 95% of us.
Benefits: sales to the tiny minority of people who won't buy an iPad now, but would if they were more 'sandboxy.'
Doesn't sound 'very tasty' to me.
For example, 99% of annoyances of computer users is that
they install too much software for the resources of the
machine they have. Then the computer starts suddenly working
slower and slower -- and they don't know why. This happens
with Macs and Windows.
In a machine like the iPad Apple can control what software
will run and make sure that it is adequate to the resources
of the machine. Also, from what I see, they limit the
possibility of concurrent running programs to interfere with
the user experience.
That was, and is, a serious design failure.
On a tangent, why aren't more Linux installs (outside of 'live' distros) making use of UnionFS? That makes it easy to 'lock down' the base install because all of the writing goes to a separate partition that could be completely removed to restore the original state. Are their performance issues with UnionFS (performance in a desktop-sense, not in a server-sense)?
Yes, but there is no reason why you couldn't sell the unlocked version of the same kit. If a non-geek has a bad experience, then let them downgrade the thing. Heck, a company other than Apple might charge them another fee for that.
Apple has been doing this for decades and it's nothing new. If you want freedom and flexibility, you should look elsewhere.
Apple's been doing that gig for years.
It's still a jail, and if Apple officially removed it - you can still say 'jailbroken' but that's a minor point.
"If you want freedom and flexibility coupled with world-class design, then you do buy an Apple -- with top dollar, meaning high margins for them."
Not true. I can't officially run OS X on non-official Apple hardware with official Apple suppport. Not to mention if I didn't buy Apple hardware then it would most likely kill their margins ;) iPad will eventually have the same 'freedom' as OS X and iPhone.
What most of us don't see right away is that there are financial costs for supporting freedom and flexibility. These costs are in marketing, support (reliability and usability), and security. Given the right target techie segment, these costs don't matter for freedom. Unfortunately if you're targeting the masses of non-techies, that's a completely different story.
(FYI I am an OS X user)
It's still a jail, and if Apple officially removed it - you can still say 'jailbroken' but that's a minor point.
I never said about removing the jail. Just building a cozy luxe visitors center just outside the wall.
Not true. I can't officially run OS X on non-official Apple hardware with official Apple suppport.
In my idea, people would be running non-official Apple software without Apple support.
iPad will eventually have the same 'freedom' as OS X and iPhone. Nothing less, and nothing more; and certainly nothing new.
You're dead wrong. If the iPad is to become as pervasive as they would like it to, Apple is going to have to open it up enough so that it can operate as a general purpose computer for the small segment of the populace that wants it.
The key is in the italics. There is no technical reason why Apple can't have their "walled garden" and still let a few people do dangerous things if they want. Will it be what the FSF calls "free?" No way.
Actually, they are already doing some of this. It's called the "iPhone SDK."
It essentially has the same problem as a jailbroken iPad/iPhone/Hackintosh. There are costs with supporting issues that arise from this if it's official.
"In my idea, people would be running non-official Apple software without Apple support."
Well then why complain when in all likelihood a 3rd party will give you what you want for Apple products - ala unsupported jailbreak?
"You're dead wrong. If the iPad is to become as pervasive as they would like it to, Apple is going to have to open it up enough so that it can operate as a general purpose computer for the small segment of the populace that wants it."
Given the history with iPod, iTunes, & iPhone I'm going to disagree. All of them are closed systems with the same critics. Yet all of these products have been wildly successful despite that. I'm not saying that this would work with any company, but it works with Apple; it's the part of their company DNA that has proven time and again to work. As I've said in previous posts, there was a time when Apple was more 'open'; and it was a total failure that almost took down the entire company.
"There is no technical reason why Apple can't have their "walled garden" and still let a few people do dangerous things if they want."
I agree but there are a myriad of other reasons as to why they shouldn't such as extra costs, making their content partners (movies, music, and books) happy (I suspect this is a really big reason), and so on. It's not perfect for everyone; but it's worked for non-techies, Apple stock holders, and Apple's partners.
"Actually, they are already doing some of this. It's called the "iPhone SDK.""
Then why complain? Just pay the $99 and be happy.
I suggest moving on and helping either the Chrome OS or Linux hardware movement if you really want officially blessed freedom. You're not going to get that from a mainstream console maker; we are a niche audience.
This how it's always been done? Really?
GCC: Initial release May 23, 1987
Commodore64: Release date August 1982
EDIT: thanks for the correction on yearly vs. one-time.
The jailbreaking world has reverse engineered a lot of these internals, like replacing SpringBoard, etc.
Selling an official hacker version will only serve to confuse the other 95% of customers. (Apple's philosophy of simplicity goes beyond just their UI design.) I don't think this makes a lot of sense either when members of the 5% will eventually jailbreak it anyway.
Why would you do that? To compete with every other sandbox vendor that can simply copy all the expensive work that you put into UI and design and sell knock-offs at half the price?
Put yourself in the company's shoes. Your narrow interests are not in theirs.
That's why you a) wait until the other environment is well established first and b) charge a $250 markup.
"Less powerful, but easier to use" is a hard sell. But "Does the same stuff, is safer, and $250 cheaper" is an easy one.
Even for the non-technophiles, there's a tremendous amount of value in such a device.
Last year my parents were moving out of their home into a smaller, elderly apartment. They found an old HP iPaq I apparently left behind in a box years ago. They called me asking if it would allow them to browse the web sort of like an iPhone, but from the couch. My response was "sort of, but not really". Their response was quite dejected. They really hoping it would've allowed them to browse on the couch.
We've been down the netbook idea road before, and the laptop road, but the solution ended up being an iMac. My father (in his 60s) has terrible eyesight, so a large display was great. Time Machine was also the "killer app" for them -- they hated making backups before, but my father begrudgingly made some every few months (I used to do it for them during holiday visits).
iPad though? Exactly what they want. Especially my Mom who is a bona-fide technophobe. She's still "afraid" of computers, fearing she'll "mess it up". The iPad is perfect for 95% of what she does. The only thing she still has to use the iMac for is a few games (which could be re-bought for the iPad or her Nintendo DS), and for scanning in the family photo albums. Instant on. On the couch. No keyboard. Nothing to "mess up". Access to all the computer's media (especially if there's AppleTV like streaming from their iTunes library).
As articles have mentioned, this is the perfect computer for the family technophobe. Or for replacing that old laptop you had around that you were considering replacing with a netbook for casual-couch-computing -- so they can futz around on Facebook or do a quick email or look up a quick thing while they watch TV or have a spare moment.
I don't browse the internet from the couch and have no desire to.
Someone should write an iPhone app that does this over Bluetooth.
The idea of typing shell commands on a touchpad makes me cringe...do people really do this?
Yeah. Not for day-to-day work, mind, but if I am on-call say, this is the difference between being able to go out in the evening and just check something quickly if I have to, or restart sommething, or lugging a laptop around and needing to find some space to set it down, connect the 3G dongle, log in, blah blah, all that business takes longer than actually fixing whatever's gone wrong sometimes! I am really looking forward to the iPad, it will be liberating.
> The idea of typing shell commands on a touchpad makes me cringe...do people really do this?
Granted, I think that about netbooks. I used a 10" ThinkPad for two years and the idea of using something smaller just sounds insane to me.
A 'reimagined' shell for the iPhone might work really well. Something similiar to zsh, with lots of prediction.
I really wish they had gone with a transflective screen, like Pixel Qi's..
It's not for me, but I can definitely see the allure for a certain (large) segment of computer users.
Once something like this comes out with a transflective screen, I might pick one up. Typical LED/LCD screens are too difficult to use under bright lights.
A back lit screen might not be great for reading on a sunny day, but for someone like myself, who has had to give up reading actual paper books because I can no longer see them, and is stuck reading only eBooks where I can have a back light and enlarged font, the iPad is exciting. Finally, I'll be able to relax on the couch again and read comfortably, rather than having to sit at my desk.
I do realize I'm in the minority when compared to the overall consumer market, but there are a lot of visually impaired users who would actually benefit from the back light.
Like old good days, with nicer display. :-)
Daniel hit the nail on the head. The industry has been tending towards making high-spec machines while often neglecting human interface issues. People complain that all of this email/booting up/installing/URL stuff was too complicated, and we techies blamed them and told them to RTFM.
In the meantime, others directly address their concerns, and surprise -- people give them money.
Apple actually had something like this in the mid-90s called "At Ease", designed as a child-safe file manager. You had programs on one tab and files on the other. I remember it from elementary school, and always felt that a more modern version of that would help less computer literate people.
More precisely, they want a backplane into which they can effortlessly plug in various appliances. Press Buy, download it, plug it in, it just works.
Open Mail, type letter, hit send, hear "sent mail" swoosh.
Open Safari, enter URL or search term, click Go, get webpage.
Push lever, insert bread, wait 30 seconds, eat delicious toast.
Open Word, type stuff, hit save/print/email, get happy boss.
Open Youtube, enter search/URL, push Go, Laugh.
To be fair, there are some people that complain that their computer doesn't work, only to find out that they didn't plug it in or hit the power switch. The iPad doesn't solve stupidity.
The question posed at the end is an interesting one: at the moment, the iPad appears to require a regular computer (just like an iPod touch does). Presumably a future version - or even a software update for the existing model - will get rid of this dependency.
Apple's paradigm is that the devices revolve around the main computer, and I don't see that changing. However, it could be that the "main computer" evolves into a headless thing (like the new Mac Mini Server) that auto-magically handles the Ethernet, USB devices, and mass storage for the iPad(s). Plug it into the wall, the router, and the printer, and it finds the iPad(s) via Bonjour on your wireless network. Your Mac Mini Server (MMS) downloads your upgrades for you, stores your media, and backs up your contacts and files. It works like a remote harddrive. Just drag files you don't need any more over to its home screen icon, and they're kept on the server now. It's also your hub to access your digital camera or other USB device, and shares them over 802.11n to the iPad(s).
Then, a few years later, when our Mobile Me accounts have like 5 TB limits and enough people have HD-streaming broadband, that computer can be replaced by a simple dock with an Ethernet port and USB for the printers and cameras. Apple's getting $99/year instead of $500 for the server, but still making bank. You buy stuff on iTunes and it automatically appears on your iDisk. You download it when you sync your iPad with your iDisk and put it in your iPad's library. Tired of that song? Throw it out on the iPad and download it again later.
Most people just want to use the web and email (most of the time THROUGH the web) on a computer. So give 'em what they want.
And if you say "what about Flash!" I'm gonna guess one of two things: you want video (cough cough PORN) or you want to play Farmville.
So this time, Apple's going to have a serious competitor early on. Interesting times for us consumers.
I bet you see iPad evolve into Apple's cloud computing platform while the OSX-based notebooks stay they way they are.
This also has some serious long term problems for Mac OS. What if Apple decides (or has already decided) that the future is closed-architecture cloud computing devices? You'd see OS X (OS XI?) dead before the decade is over.
It raises an interesting question though. Is Apple slightly killing off their supply of future developers? If people don't grow up with programmable machines will the IPad generation be so into programming or as knowledgeable about computers actually work in general. I know a fair chunk of my knowledge has come from diagnosing and fixing faults in computers.
Edit: Also hearing so many people saying: "My mom should get one of these" is really them saying "I wont buy it, but someone else should". Really makes me ponder just how successful it really will be.
The device is not targeted towards the people you interact with on the web right now. All Hacker Newsies* are sufficiently tech literate that the costs of the device in terms of lost freedoms outweigh the ease-of-use gains. Ditto for basically anyone commenting or blogging on the "tech" internet. Over in the other internets^, you'll likely find people who would like that tradeoff, but they won't really start talking about it until it ships. If you drop around those places in March-May as the devices roll out, you'll see more "I want one" posts. In fact, I know at least one car enthusiast who is already planning on building his dashboard around an iPad.
Mac News/rumor sites are unenthusiastic because their average commenter owns an iMac, a MacBook, and an iPod Touch. They were looking for an excuse to whip out their credit cards, and it's not for them.
TL;DR - you're looking in the wrong place.
* - there an official term?
^ - there are multiple "internets" because there's minimal intersect between the community niches.
I don't think that's true. We're regular folks too, you know. We want to, like, just do stuff sometimes. Hands up who owns a phone? What, you don't exclusively use your GPL Ruby VOIP client you wrote yourself one afternoon? Shame on you! :-P
Abstracting away the hierarchical file system is a positive for my mom, who can never find stuff she's saved, but I have no issues using one in the first place, so my gains are smaller. She'll be thrilled not to have to navigate an application installer or download some component from the web to run something, but doing that is nearly effortless for me.
It's no loss at all to my Mom that the iPad can't run some GPL Ruby VOIP app she wrote herself, because she can't write a Ruby VOIP app. By contrast, I would be giving up my ability to write and run my own Ruby VOIP app.
Overall, I (as a very tech literate person) benefit less from the positives and feel the pinch of the negatives more than my mom (or any less tech literate person). It could still be a good trade for me, but I wind up looking at a totally different values proposition than my mother would.
 - I have no interest in writing a VOIP app.
This is utter nonsense. That's the same as claiming, that the more tech literate you are, the more ugly UI you need. Ease-of-use means being more efficient for everyone. Or are most tech
literate still punching cards?
iPad is not the device you will do your tech literate stuff: you will use your computer for that.
Why do people think that iPad has to replace something? Sure, if all one does is browsing, some emails, and a couple of games, iPad may be the he or she they needs. For others (including "tech literate" people), it makes a great complementary device, best suited for browsing, e-books, etc. I wouldn't want to hack in Ruby on iPad, but when browsing on my couch with my iPad, with its IPS screen, portrait orientation and amazing multitouch UI I couldn't care less about all the freedom it has not.
No. Its not about that.
Since most such people already use a laptop throughout the day and have iPhone. So its something they think might be more used by people who are not carrying a computing/entertainment device throughout the day.
However, I was watching the unveiling with my mom, and she thought it might be perfect for her needs. She doesn't have (or want) a smartphone and doesn't really need (or want to spend the money on) a full-fledged laptop. But she does want an easy-to-use portable device, especially one that she can use on trips for emailing, maps, watching movies, etc.
Oh, and the Wii analogy fits perfectly for her, too.
And really, that's not saying "they are inferior people so they should buy this limited computer", it's saying "they don't want to care about the details and I don't want to care on their behalf, and this looks like a good alternative. They might get on well with it". It's a recommendation from mutual self interest rather than scorning the 'lesser' computer user.
They're going to be especially serious in countries with somewhat limited iTunes Store that does not support music, movies and shows.
For instance, Poland, which is rich enough for iPhone but apparently, but not for full version if iTunes Store.
I completely agree with the article, though. I've got very excited about all my non-tech friends, which constantly suffer from tech problems.
The presented problems are no longer purely technical, though, like they were on regular computers. They're just usability issues.
Funny, but have been I doing that with iTunes on a bunch other Apple devices for years now.
Actually, the downloader utilities from eMusic and Amazon pretty much inject those things directly into iTunes.
From what I see, there's no classical filesystem on Apple iPad - just per application resources - so it won't work easily.
Obviously, there are some fixes to this particular problem. However, keep in mind, that I just wanted to give few examples of possible confusions.
Without the actual device, it's hard to give more specific examples of complains.
No need to go into details. From the hackerish perspective, the internals of iPad might be nothing but BSD/Mach combined with touch screen.
"What we want to do is deliver an increasing level of value to these customers, but there are some customers which we choose not to serve. We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk; our DNA will not let us do that. We've seen great success by focusing on certain segments of the market and not trying to be everything to everybody, and you can expect us to stick with that winning strategy."
-Steve Jobs, 2008 October
The iPhone OS (3.2) that supports the iPad is a full-fledged Mach/BSD kernel, as much as 10.6, and it's just a matter of which kernel extensions and system and user applications you include in the total build.
If they did this, they could have background tasks that would satisfy 80 to 90% of what devs want to do, but preserve battery life.
They can do this in such a way that it's useful if the user's running a 3-4 apps, but it's downright ugly if they're running an excessive amount.
While commenting on some web forum (HN, Reddit, etc) or chatting on AIM/IRC, I often find while in the middle of typing a comment that I want to look something up on the web, e.g. a fact or spelling, and then come back to finish my comment armed with whatever knowledge I just looked up.
The best interim solution is to copy the text of my partially-finished comment, quit the current app, open a notes app and paste the comment, quit the notes app and open web browser, look up whatever I'm looking for, quit web browser and go back to the notes app, copy the comment again, quit notes app and open up the original app and find whatever I was replying to again, paste in my comment, and finally finish typing.
I don't really need multi-tasking to get around this, but it might be helpful if there was a way to "freeze" the current state of an app so I could use another app for 5 minutes without the first one having to quit and lose all of my context.
In general, the trend in "nice" apps seems to be very much toward them remembering exactly where you had been when you switch back to them rather than starting back at "the top". This seemed revelatory when the first apps started doing it; now it seems obvious.
Doing that requires a fair bit of work, though, by the app developer... so perhaps Apple could do something with the system frameworks to make that functionality be more "for free" to the developer. When iPhone first came out, developers found out that their apps were completely shut down by the OS when they switched away, so they imagined their apps working the same way as they would on a desktop OS when they get closed and reopened: back to the "main menu". There's no reason that has to be the case, though, if developers just persist the relevant bits of the user's state when they switch away then restore it gracefully.
* in general; if memory is running low, Safari will "forget" everything about other pages, so if you were writing something substantial, it'd be best to remember to Select All + Copy before switching away. This is unfortunate.
I think the iPad is something special, because it's going to open the door for us to rethink what a computer should be. Maybe this is the chance we have to rewrite everything.
We've been hearing that refrain for decades, and it's never worked out in the marketplace. People who don't care about technology want to spend the least possible to get a fully-capable product. They want one computer that does everything and lasts forever - not a niche device that has to be tethered to a real PC anyway.
The Wii is a poor example because it didn't succeed by being simpler - it sold by offering a compelling gimmick and content that was not available on other platforms, for an underserved market of children and baby-boomers. The iPad doesn't offer any content you can't find elsewhere, and the 'touch' interface is one that's failed to find a significant market in full-sized computers for over twenty years.
Yeah, that's a lot closer to describing my mom - housewive all her life, approaching 70 - but since the kids left home she has gotten one laptop after another, and her use is actually quite sophisticated by now - certainly beyond "browser only". I did give her an iPod touch but her only interest in it is inflicting pictures of her grandchildren on innocent civilians while she's out on the town - she uses her laptop for everything else. She has no particular interest in spending money on something like a tablet.
And don't forget the generational thing too - I'm going to be the mythical "grandma" one day, and when I retire and have an empty nest I am going to tweak my gentoo box all day long :-)
John D. Rockefeller did this by taking a nascent and highly localized oil industry (originally only in Pennsylvania and then Ohio) dominated by wildcatters and other independents and transforming it into a highly integrated and even ruthless competitive machine by which he could always beat his competitors on price while serving major emerging new markets. This was not based on any genius he had about the oil products themselves. He was not technically trained concerning such products. What he understood was business and innovation in emerging markets for these products. Hire the best talent. Gain control of the railroads that were vital to ship the products cheaply and efficiently, first by pressuring them through building a system of pipelines that threatened to undercut their business and then by entering into deals with them involving secret rebates so as to incentive them to deal with Rockefeller either alone or on highly preferential terms. Use legal innovations to set up trusts and partnerships that allowed a series of corporations, one in each state, to function as an integrated whole at a time when it was (people forget this) illegal for a corporation to do business across state lines, thereby gaining hegemony in the U.S. oil market that no other competitor could come even close to matching and eventually using this as a springboard for international dominance as well. The result (setting aside the illegalities involved): the building of an empire that grew exponentially in relation to anything else around it owing to its ability to offer quality and cheap pricing to consumers.
It is not too far-fetched, I think, to say that Steve Jobs is doing something similar in taking on the wildcatters of today in a quest to win the major markets of the information age. He has so managed to unite amazing product development with tightly integrated and company-dominated distribution channels with ground-breaking arrangements with the telcos (who are the vital connecting links, or "railroads," of our day) as to build a formidable empire that threatens to crush any direct competitors in its field. The genius is undeniable, even down to having set up retail outlets of a type that everyone would have laughed at just 20 years ago.
Who can tell where this quest for hegemony in today's open-systems world will go but the implications are both intriguing and frightening at the same time.
In that sense one could argue that Chrome OS' hardest competitor will be the iPad. I wonder if they saw that coming.
Things I have recently helped relatives with:
installing software for their navigation system, so that they could update the maps
Getting their internet radio connected
installing a webcam and skype
In fact my impression is that "non-power" users often try to do even more hardcore stuff with their computers than I do, simply because they don't know which technologies are just hype and which ones are ready for prime time. For example my father tried speech recognition and used on of those horrible fax/scanner/printer units that hijacks your computer.
Perhaps we family-support geeks will now have to have a Mac dedicated to keeping all the iPads in our extended families up to date. ;-)
Then again, they could always offer some sort of update program at Apple stores. They could even charge for it.
Many people use their computer for Skype calls with family. Having video is a really nice bonus there.
I think huge swathes of the populace would be just fine with spending $15 a month, and having their friends and family IM them as a form of paging and calling back with Skype.
I do feel sorry for ATT's network, though. Think of the strain that the iPhone put on their network, and now they're accepting a computer!? makes me happy I switched to Verizon.
You didn't watch the presentation, did you? It's indeed under $15 a month for 250 MB a month. Plenty for IMs, emails, and the occasional Skype call.
In my opinion, Apple is one of few companies that works on their product design until it appears magical, and their meteoric rise is the result. The standards for "Mom" are Star-Trek-high.
many older people rely on their computer to keep contact with their relations through skype etc.., and it does not offer it.
If it was a little more robust, did not require a persistent connection to a desktop (to manage files) and had Flash then maybe so, as it stands i just don't know, im fairly confident my mom wouldn't like it.
I see myself using the iPad for this sort of quick-and-dirty post-shoot curation and showing off. Especially if I'm traveling and don't want to lug my full-on laptop with me.
I wonder if someone could come up with a Bluetooth or WiFi enabled mini-USB micro-dongle you could just leave plugged into the camera behind its media-port panel?
The Camera Connection Kit gives you two ways to import photos and videos from a digital camera. The Camera Connector lets you import your photos and videos to iPad using the camera’s USB cable. Or you can use the SD Card Reader to import photos and videos directly from the camera’s SD card.
Presumably these photos would get sync'd back up with your "real" iPhoto when you plug it in to iTunes.
The iPad has a different set of peers. We're not living in a world where the only tablet devices are the Kindle and Nook. There are actual fully functioning tablet PCs that can run the things normal PCs can. Apple is trying to move us from open devices to a closed one.
The iPad is not for developers, so applications developed for the iPad are going to be applications written to make money. The developers will test the applications, but they will not write applications for their own use unless they really need the hardware UI provided by the iPad.
This is a console with a web browser, not a computer.
The iPad has, in a sense, already made it. It, despite some people's protestations, is just a big iPod touch. Whether this form factor works or not, people have responded extremely well to its abstractions and simplifications, despite the limitations.
She doesn't really like computers, but she's determined so she knows how to use them. I think that the group that just wants Facebook will start to want something else once they're used to Facebook.