I keep reading how the recently announced Apple iPad is a step forward in computing.
Sorry. It’s not. It’s a step backwards.
What it does push forwards is the ubiqiuity of computing devices as consumer electronics. It provides a propriety platform for users to access what was once solely the domain of computing devices.
Smartphones, the iPhone is just one of this class, have been doing this for some time. Ordinary people have been able to access the web, email, entertainment and productivity applications for some time. The iPad does take this a little further along. This is a good thing.
But as for computing. The iPad is a giant step backwards.
Computing has taken some giant leaps since the 1970’s mostly due to hardware coming down sharply in prices along with the advent of open platform computing. (I’m not talking open source although that has had a major impact.) What that means is that for the most part, if I see an application I want to use I can download it or buy it and run it on my computer without any one elses permission. If I cannot find an application I need, I can write it or have someone else write it for me. Also without anyone elses permission.
That changes with Apple.
The iPad will use the same application store as the iPhone does, and everything there is controlled by a gatekeeper. Apple. If Apple doesn’t want me to run Firefox on the iPad I won’t be able to. And this will happen because they don’t like flash which means I’ll be prevented from playing a million browser based flash games by Apple. If the app I’ve bought gets unapproved by Apple, there’s a good chance I’ll lose access to it, no matter how much I depend on it. The gatekeeper is a nightclub bouncer.
Apple have always zealously prevented competitors from emulating their products. And they’ve managed to control their hardware. But there’s always been the software that they haven’t been able to control. Until now.
It doesn’t matter who it is, Apple or otherwise. Gatekeepers are bad for consumers. And that’s why the iPad is a giant step backwards in computing.