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Miguel de Icaza: "As a software developer, I find the iPad inspirational." (tirania.org)
51 points by acangiano on Jan 29, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments

Several problems with this article:

1: Critique against mouse and keyboard rings hollow. It's stuck around so far because it "just works" for a large number of apps. Touchscreens not similarly proven.

2: Limitations of the hardware is touted as a "great opportunity". Opportunity how? An opportunity to unleash gosh-darned ugly hacks to get around said limitations?

3: Written by Miguel de Icaza, known troll/closed source afficionado. Notably, nothing is mentioned about how hard it is to develop on an entirely closed platform (see iPhone troubles). Considering who the author is, not surprising in the least. Generally i try to avoid ad hominem but in this case the author's own bias gets ahead of dispassionate analysis.

Critique against mouse and keyboard rings hollow. It's stuck around so far because it "just works" for a large number of apps.

But there are a large number of apps where it doesn't. Also, the "workstation" form factor is inherently stationary, and it soaks up all of one's interaction -- to the point where it's often easier for a computer user to "interact" with someone else sitting in the same room through an IM client.

Limitations of the hardware is touted as a "great opportunity"

[Citation Needed]

I think he's touting the new interface possibilities. What "limitations" specifically are his new "opportunities" and where does he say that? Seems like a stretch for glass is half-empty from a text about the glass being more than half full.

As for the 3rd part of your post, I find it ironic for some reason.

I can see why this post was downvoted but you've got some good points.

Sure, but the personal attack 'known troll' bit is over the line.

I was having a hard time figuring out why I needed an iPad. Even after watching the keynote (besides the 'new, shiny' lust) I had no real reason to want one. Then I realized the 3rd party opportunities for this thing are insane. Yes, there have been tablets in the past but there has never been what basically amounts to a cheap, 10" piece of glass that can recognize all your fingers and an array of gestures. I am very excited to see what other inspired developers do with this device.

I'm wondering about the possibility of building dynamic multi-touch interfaces for any scriptable desktop app.

The iPad has high speed wireless connections and so at least potentially could act as a very powerful input peripheral client for many desktop apps talking through a server running on a "real Mac" (or even Windows).

Something that could "remote control" any app through some form of App-specific remote window sharing would be a good start. That would sell very well for awhile.

I think there's huge potential in this:


I note that they have an SDK and what looks to be a whole bunch of PC apps. The iPad could communicate with your home Mac or PC to a USB dongle which acts as hardware interface.

Maps and mapping technology are ones that do sharply stick out as more than a natural fit for the tablet form factor combined with touch screen compared with today's mobile devices. This space has plenty to gain in innovation with the iPad.

Watching video from online (iPlayer etc.) would be my ideal application for this - an iPhone is too small, a laptop is too clunky and uncomfortable and I hate watching video sitting at a desk.

Another thing that might be a hit is multiplayer games. I was playing an air hockey game with my son on his iPod Touch and it was surprisingly good. With a bigger screen that could really be an interesting thing to watch.

Lots of board games might work pretty well on something like the iPad as people could sit round it.

Put a camera on the next generation. Augmented Reality is where it's at. Imagine an App like a Frommer's guide that did information overlays on whatever you were pointing at! Then you could zoom out to a map view and see what was around you, then zoom back in to a "Street View" to where you want to go.

Agreed. The touch interface on the iPhone/iPod version of Google Earth is a great illustration of the potential.

Let's just hope that enough people buy it in its current form to make it attractive to app developers.

It does 95% of the things people usually do with their computer with 5% of the headaches. Shouldn't be a problem.

Not to mention 75M people already know exactly how to operate it.

Yes, but they already own an iphone. And they'll need to keep that iphone because apple, smart as they are made sure you can't make voice calls with this device.

So either they will have to convince those 75 million people to carry two devices or find a new market.

I intend to buy iPad. I don't intend to carry it much: I see it being used at home, comfortably on the couch.


I'm seriously confused here. Is this the same guy who thumbed his nose at Microsoft and instigated the creation Mono?

If so, isn't he at least a little conflicted about the closed nature of the platform?

Funny, I never took it to be nose-thumbing so much as fellatio. He's the Pied Piper of Hamelin who led a small army of open source programmers straight to their language and APIs just when the townsfolk were at the peak of panic that they were losing the mindshsre of developers. (...developers, developers, developers,...) That's an act of deep love, not defiance.

Well, as deep as as a quid pro quo seeker might feel, anyway. He certainly never came off as an idealist.

He is well aware about the closed nature.

But he has plans for it http://monotouch.net/iPad (found on HN)

Does this sound like thumbing one's nose ?

In the Summer of 1997 my friend Randy Chapman invited me to interview at the Microsoft Internet Explorer for Solaris on the SPARC (because of my background in the Linux/SPARC port). I went to interview to Microsoft that summer and met both Randy Chapman and Nat Friedman for the first time in person. We had known for a long time from the LinuxNet IRC network.

At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very interested in it inmediately. Upon my return to Mexico Federico and I started to design a GUI control infrastructure for Unix that we code named `GNOME'.


Funny, I just started thinking along similar lines.

I was underwhelmed initially by the iPad as well. Then I remembered this painting program I wrote back in the '90s for my Mac IIsi, and how cool it was (geometrical forms with palette animation) -- and then I started thinking about a touch-based version of this program -- maybe with networking -- and then I turned to my wife, and said, "You know that new thing Apple just came out with?"

When a bunch of devs are underwhelmed at first, but then start to see possibilities in moments of calm -- this is a sign of a game changer.

So, reading that I am supposed to come to the conclusion that absence of choice is now a good thing?

No keyboard, no mouse, only a multi-touch capable screen and this will somehow liberate software development?

I really don't get it. If it was in addition to the usual input suspects, then sure, that would enable lots of stuff.

But to be able to type, use the mouse for precise on-screen pointing without getting your hand in the way of what you're doing, those are things we already had.

Now you lose those and in return you get interaction with your hands on a relatively small screen.

On screen keyboards are nice, but even a lengthy email would be pretty cumbersome that way.

Choice is good, lack of choice is not 'fascinating', it is limiting. Limitations will drive creative people to come up with ways around those limitations but for now this is what you've got to work with.

Another thing I don't understand from the article is this sentence:

"but the specter of having a small user base for my experiments always discouraged me."

Why does that matter? Not everything is about how many people adopt it. If you can make a small group really happy that counts for something too.

It's not a general-purpose computer (much like an iPhone or an iPod). It's a browser and e-mail and e-book reader you can use while on the bus. For reading, it's less cumbersome than a netbook.

But there's that keyboard dock. That should make composing long-emails (or using the iWork suite) less of a painful experience. Since it doesn't allow connecting a mouse, I will wait until there is emacs ported to it ;-)

emacs is an extensible Lisp runtime, and Apple has shot down all such applications in the past. I don't think they're going to change their tune for the iPad.

I would not hold my breath.

Are you sure they won't allow bluetooth mice?

Apparently it does not have a cursor.

I've read that in several places now so I'm assuming that it is true.

Won't = "won't one day." Adding one for a bluetooth mouse would be very easy. They will probably hold off on that to firmly establish the new multitouch UI conventions, though.

The iPhone doesn't have a cursor, it'd be silly to think that the iPad would.

You could jailbreak it and run X and Gnome on top of the iPhone OS ;-)

use the mouse for precise on-screen pointing without getting your hand in the way of what you're doing

If you're a developer or a similar tech-savvy mind, it should take you all of about 30 seconds to come up with an alternative for precision pointing in multi-touch. (It would have to be app-specific at first, of course.)

"but the specter of having a small user base for my experiments always discouraged me."

Why does that matter? Not everything is about how many people adopt it. If you can make a small group really happy that counts for something too.

Depends on the size of the user base, and its composition. Having a small, unimaginative, not-savvy, highly conservative user base is no picnic. Been there, done that.

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