The iPad Is A Step Backwards In Computing

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.

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  1. Jon Shute

    You’re right on all accounts, but Apple don’t see it as a step back. Probably because the iPad isn’t for us. Well, except for those who want a larger iPhone.

    Instead the iPad is for those who don’t understand computers. Those who use friends and relatives for tech support. The iPad doesn’t get malware, following dodgy links in email is fine. Lots of the things that can go wrong with a normal PC just can’t happen either, and with a minimum quality bar on the apps you avoid random bits of downloaded software as well. The iPad is for those people.

    OK, it’s for us as well. It means we don’t have to support those people as much any more.

  2. Pingback: The Future of Tabletop Games | Stropp's World

  3. Longasc

    I do not like Apple.

    They sell the same – often even older and more outdated crap – with a shiny white surface and tell us it is great.

    OK, they did good stuff with their Mac computers, and the iPhone was of course a great idea. But when it comes to Flash or other music players, the iPod was not really special.

    The iPad is even for Apple a step backwards. Not only because of the no flash stuff. It is a device desperately looking for a reason to exist, and it is not going to appeal to elderly people who did not dare to touch a computer up to now.

    Buy a laptop or a console, these devices have uses. Or a Kindle. The iPad is good for watching… movies? On a mini screen? yup, I watch movies and soccer on my phone all the time… cough.

    It is really pathetic of Apple to think of possible scenarios where this touch thingy might be useful. It is not the time for touch devices – yet. Right now they are restricted to rather clumsy inputs and primitive applications and are not really useful.

  4. lowkey

    the ipad will usher in the next age of the web. the 1st was one way communication, the 2nd was two way communication, the 3rd will be the removal of the restrictions of input devices allowing the user to directly interact with the data.

  5. Stropp (Post author)

    @lowkey — if it’s simply the removal of restrictions of input devices, then why iPad? There are plenty of other tablet devices in the works, some of them well before Apple’s offering. What are Apple doing that noone else is?

  6. lowkey

    @stropp – hi. i’m not saying the ipad is the answer, the google tablet might be, but just like the ipod broke the dam in the mp3 player market and the iphone broke the dam in the smartphone market, the ipad will break the dam in the tablet market and, like you say, there will be plenty of tablets around in a year. jobs is very good at spotting emerging technologies and launching them to the general public. so, like i said, the ipad will usher in the next age.

  7. lowkey

    i should add, it may not be the eventual winner but it will be the initial winner. its brand its too strong.

  8. Stropp (Post author)

    @lowkey — I think you’re right that the iPad will become a market winner at least initially for these sort of devices. Apple have a really strong brand and a terribly enthusiastic fan base and that is a huge market advantage.

    Still, as a personal computing device, it’s still a step backwards. My fear is that this will reignite the trend to close up computing devices and deny consumers the freedom to use these devices in the way that they want.

  9. Adamski

    Hi, i see your point there, but i don’t care if it’s a step backward in computing – it’s a huge step forward in promoting “removal of restrictions of input devices” as @lowkey said. This will be a huge eye-opener for many people who use the computer only for internet/mail/multimedia anyway, but they feel that a computer must be something huge, with a screen, keyboard, touchpad or mouse. iPad is the first widely available device with a proper multi-touch glass screen. Tablets were around for a long time but they are the cheese of the cheese – most have to be operated with styluses or are terribly slow to react to any gestures and very rarely do they offer simple multi-finger gestures. This is the step forward. And that’s why it is also a step forward in computing in the sense that developers will now have to redefine what they do and push it onto a new and exciting platform. The iPad will be so easy to operate that many people who have never used a computer will be able to use it.

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