Apple's latest greatest gadget has hit the street -- the iPad was released last week and has been generating all sorts of commentary. I told my husband that Apple's hype machine was clearly in top shape as I found myself moving from, a few months ago thinking that it sounded cute but I didn't need one to, on release day, deciding that I must have one. Eventually. I try not to buy first-generation Apple products so I'm waiting, but I'm pretty sure I'll have one within a year to 18 months.
The Ars Technica review provides a good overview of the device:
The larger screen doesn't just offer more space to work with—it opens up a different and more immersive user experience. Because of this different experience, though, the closed nature of the platform can get under some users' skin in ways the iPhone and iPod touch do not.Of course, there was the usual "Will it Blend" video - which on one level I find completely horrifying, but on another level... look at the video and note that the iPad is still running even after the initial smashing!
Truthfully, this device is one that can only really be understood by playing with it firsthand (we know, it took us more than 18,000 words to tell you that). No matter how many words get spilled on the iPad, there's still no simple way to describe how it feels and how it's different from a typical computing or smartphone experience. Those of us on staff who were highly skeptical about the iPad before having touched it had a very different understanding of it after spending some serious time with the device. This is likely to be the case with most users. The iPad has numerous flaws—most of which can be fixed with software updates, and we hope that they will be—but it's still a device that will undoubtedly kick off a shift in how the general population interacts with software and content.
Apple has a lot of fans, but they also have a lot of detractors, and every new innovation they come out with means that a lot of conversations start happening. The iPad has made some people very excited about its potential to revolutionize computing, but it also made some very apprehensive. The apprehensiveness is not so much about the gadget itself, but some of the business and design decisions Apple has made.
Cory Doctorow is perhaps one of the most vocal critics of the iPhone/iPad/app store model of computing, which he claims:
really feels like the second coming of the CD-ROM "revolution" in which "content" people proclaimed that they were going to remake media by producing expensive (to make and to buy) products. I was a CD-ROM programmer at the start of my tech career, and I felt that excitement, too, and lived through it to see how wrong I was, how open platforms and experimental amateurs would eventually beat out the spendy, slick pros.Others have also lamented Apple's new apparently stringent constraints on developers. Rafe Colburn writes:
Apple should suffer in the court of public opinion for them. This is a paranoid move and a defensive one. Apple’s mobile products are the most popular in their class right now, and they have the best community of developers of any platform vendor. Given their position of strength, they don’t need to act out of insecurity. And yet this is the second big defensive move they’ve made recently, the first being their offensive patent lawsuit against HTC last month. Apple’s innovation impresses me, but their business practices are chilling. Customers need to let them know that they expect more from the company.John Gruber, a fan of Apple products, wrote a lengthy review with plenty of food for thought. His overall assessment:
After the iPad was announced, I got two types of emails from readers. The first group saying they were disappointed, because they had been hoping I was right that The Tablet would be Apple’s reconception of personal computing. The second group wrote to tell me how excited they were because I was right that The Tablet would be Apple’s reconception of personal computing. Count me in with the second group. Apple hasn’t thought of everything with iPad, but what they’ve thought about, they’ve thought about very deeply.He also wrote an analysis of what he thinks going on with the new developer constraints.
Greg Knauss wrote a response to Doctorow and others who are objecting to the lack of tinkerability that I thought was pretty thoughtful. Worth reading in its entirety, but here's a snippet:
There’s a reason most of us aren’t Cory Doctorow. We don’t want to open up our devices. We don’t want to hack them. We want them to just goddamned work, thanks, and if gluing the case shut makes that possible, bring on the Elmers.That last bit is why, even though I started in UNIX, I now use Macs. I don't have time for the nonsense and BS and hoops that Linux and PCs make one jump through to get even simple things done. Macs work. They're elegant. And they're simple. (They're still computers, it's true, and sometimes will end up in weird failure modes, but the amount of hairpulling I do when dealing with PCs is so much greater.) Anyway, a number of people have also started writing up their kids' reactions to the iPad. Since my 21-month-old has already pretty much taken over my husband's iPodTouch, another reason we hesitate to get an iPad is that it's sort of hard to justify hundreds of dollars for something the kid will end up playing Toddler Concentration match games on. And we'd have to get two, or only use it when he wasn't around, because using it in front of him would just be taunting him, and that's just mean.
Is that me abandoning my fate to corporate overlords? Is that an abdication of my responsibility as a goggle-wearing, becaped techno-citizen? Of course not. It’s me making a rational decision, getting something I care a lot about in exchange for something I don’t care quite so much about. It’s not dumb, and it’s not naive. It’s the market at work, and if my corporate overlords can’t make the trade worthwhile, then I’ll go somewhere else
This isn’t about the “easy enough for my mom” trope that Doctorow hauls out as a straw man. I’m an experienced technologist, and have been banging — often literally — on computers for twenty-five years. At least half of what I do, even today, is meta-work, effort that goes purely into keeping the goddamned things running. My wife is not a technologist, but uses a computer every day — and hates it. That she has to fight, constantly, to get her tools to do her bidding is insane. It’s all wasted time and wasted effort, and exactly none of it has anything to do with what she’s trying to accomplish. Her tools suck — all our tools suck — and there’s no excuse for it. Would she trade inscrutable and doesn’t work for inscrutable and does? In a heart beat. I would, too. Everybody would, and will.
But the iPad is not only fun for kids, cats like it too!
Finally, one other aside -- the photographer whose picture was chosen as the default screensaver got a nice write-up at ArtInfo, although I hope he's gotten paid by now!