Some alternative views of the iPad

April 4, 2010 | 1 comment

Just a quick post. The entire tech sector is ga-ga over the iPad; I’m pretty excited by it myself. But I thought I’d try and throw some realism on the fire by linking to a couple of interesting alternative posts on the topic.

Quinn Norton has some very smart comments about the blinkered vision of the wealthy middle class people who typically assess the impact of devices like this:

I live a really rich intellectual life and get to do lots of things most poor people don’t, and I appreciate that it’s because almost none of my social group are poor. But sometimes my social group kind of goes crazy and forgets that while they have a lot of power, my class is a whole lot bigger than theirs. And none of them will be buying iPads.

Dave Winer has been testing his for a day, and thinks the revolution is yet to come:

Keep dreaming if you want, but if you give the iPad to your mother expect the light to go on for you. At that exact moment you will realize how poorly prepared it is for that. [...] With the caveat that it’s after one day and I reserve the right to change it at any time: Today’s iPad, the one that I just bought, is just a demo of something that could be very nice and useful at some point in the future. Today it’s something to play with, not something to use. That’s the kind way to say it. The direct way: It’s a toy.

I think Dave’s comment – “a demo of something that could be very nice and useful at some point in the future” – is probably prescient. I am excited about the device, and I do want one, but I’m more interested in where this takes the computer industry as a whole in the future. Apple’s devices are famously locked-down (“The iPad is a LEGO set that can only be assembled into what’s drawn on the box,” as Jarek Piórkowski puts it), but the devices that follow it won’t be, although they will learn from iPad’s design decisions.. Specifically, it will bring about three things:

  1. A new kind of smarter, easier, more intuitive portable computer interface
  2. The death of Flash and third party plugins for multimedia content on the web (this is a big deal)
  3. Tacit approval for the industry to innovate away from the traditional PC model we’ve been working with for decades, and create new information appliances that more easily fit into peoples’ lives and can be used in a more human way

Actually, my last point was kickstarted by the iPhone, but the iPad makes it legit: whereas the former was a “mobile device”, the latter is being marketed and sold as a computer in its own right. Many more will follow.

All these devices with different form factors, designs and operating systems will have two things in common: you can take them with you, and they will run HTML 5+ web applications. The future is going to be very interesting indeed.

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1 Comment

  1. You see Ben, I am nowhere near as switched on as you are, so my views are purely functional – when Google Wave came in I was excited, however I did not find it a ‘big deal’ when I started using it simply because the embed on blogs was still complicated and rest…well…not so new. iPad however does change our perception about technology in general and proves thinking outside of the box. I see publishing, media and education changing with this new gadget – just for a start. I wish I could afford it though;)

    Sylwia Presley April 4, 2010 (10:09 am)

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