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January 28th, 2010

The iPad

So, uh, heard any tech news lately?

Because I’m a geek I watched coverage of the iPad announcement yesterday in a conference room with a number of coworkers and, honestly, it was a good time. The collective feeling in the room was one of disappointment though; almost no one really wanted the iPad. Their beefs were echoed on various tech sites. “No camera!” “No SD slot!” “No video conferencing!” All legit.

But as a friend said yesterday, we’re not the target market for this. That is, geeks. This isn’t quite for us. This is, to steal a phrase, a computer for the rest of us. A lot of the elements of classic personal computing are gone from the iPad. No exposure to a file system… that’s pretty big. No mental model of folders and documents. That’s huge. No keyboard. No mouse. Substantially lower risk of viruses, malware, etc. due to a totally closed application store. It takes a lot of the ideas of computers and throws them out.

Rafe Colburn sees it as the beginning of the end of personal computing, particularly from an openness angle. I agree to a point; there’s no choice with a lot of the iPad. You want books? Apple’s store is the way to go (although there is that Kindle app…) Movies, TV shows, apps? Apple’s store or the highway. There isn’t another email client yet, no other web browser, no other address book or any of that. There’ll never be direct competition for the iPod app.

There is one point he brings up which I totally buy though: “I think that it’s a real possibility that in 10 years, general purpose computers will be seen as being strictly for developers and hobbyists.” Absolutely. Maybe even sooner. The whole general purpose computer is, frankly, dying. Putting them in netbook form has been interesting to some people but, in the end, it’s still just a miniature traditional computer. (And Dave Winer thinks Apple struck out.) I mean, does a typical computer user need to know a programming language anymore? No. How to load a program from tape or disk? No. Why, then, do we subject these users to all of these other constraints when all some of them want to do is post something on Facebook? Exactly.

It’s a 1.0 product. It’ll get better. I think the base price is good. I think Apple will have a hit on their hands precisely because they invest in the closed system – they have top talent, they have the processes, and they can make the experience second to none. And for a lot of people, for better or worse, that trumps being able to export a document to an open format.

All that said, I do want one. I don’t have an iPhone or iPod touch, and would like to have an in-between device. I often take my laptop with me on the train to and from work and, when I’m not doing web development, I’ll read and listen to music. It’s a waste to have a big, 5.x pound device with me when I can just have an iPad which does what I want.

(And ten years ago we would have killed for this technology!)

Posted in Technology

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