Friday, April 09, 2010

IPad Anger

In the days preceding the actual release of the IPad we were repeatedly told that the release if this device would be the most significant event of the year. It made the cover of both Newsweek and Time. It was covered on the national news. Every talk show host had one. articles gushed over how it made all other computing obsolete.

The actual device does not live up to its press and some people, including me, dislike Apple's role as gatekeeper for content and the model for content which assumes that you will be buying everything, sometimes for more than retail price. Personally, I resent the pressure to buy a $500 device (which costs more that $1,000 after warranty and extras) so that I can buy content that I get free now.

I've vented on the IPad several times already and I wasn't going to do so again until I saw this post on Huffington. Basically, the author, Daniel Sinker, is offended that some people don't like the IPad and mounts a spirited defence of it.

First, to prove that the virtual keyboard is usable, Sinker used it to write his post. That doesn't convince me. I have used virtual keyboards on other devices and there is no way that you can touch type. You can enter text but it is more of a stunt than proof of anything.

Sinker moves on to the expectation that moving content from paper to the IPad will cause people to start paying for subscriptions again.

In his day-after critique, Jarvis says "it returns us all to their good old days when we just consumed, we didn't create." The "their" in that sentence are big media companies, who are furiously building iPad apps in an attempt to rescue their broken business models. And he's right: the apps these companies have released are for consuming conglomerate content. But what do you expect from a pig but a grunt? It's not Apple's fault that big media companies don't know how to create new things. It's not Steve Jobs who told the Wall Street Journal to charge more for an iPad subscription than a print subscription or Time magazine to make the bizarre decision of releasing a separate app for every issue. Big media has done a great job of making bad decisions for a couple decades -- who'd expect them to stop now?

Since Steve Jobs made a big presentation on the IPad to the Wall Street Journal, he may have told then to charge more. At minimum he gave them the impression that they could. Jobs made the rounds to Big Media and told them that the IPad was their salvation. That means he made them expect that they could charge their newsstand (not subscription) price for content.

Sinker also dismisses Apple's gatekeeper role:

A lot of the "there" there is about control: do we want a gatekeeper to devices we own? It's a valid argument, but one that applies equally to game consoles, mobile phones, most real-world content distribution, and many other corners of life both digital and physical (I can't walk into a Japanese restaurant and order latkes, in the same way I can't upload a Word file to Flickr). But for some, there is a line in in the sand and the iPad, apparently, is one grain too far

This is a very strange argument. No, you cannot go into a Japanese restaurant and order latkes but you can go to a different restaurant that does server them. There are no competing stores for IPad apps. If you want a WiFi-finder app or a subscription to Vougue or FHM then you are out of luck. Apple has rejected these, and, since on-line subscriptions to these magazines require Flash, you cannot get them through the web browser, either.

Sinker indirectly bring up another sore point about the IPad but I will have to point it out:

But the only thing locked down on the iPad are the apps. The web is (wonderfully) wide open. Reading, Listening and Watching, also open -- I can drag in any epub-format books, mp3 audio, or mp4 video that I want. But you can't execute arbitrary code on the iPad. And if you know what that means, my guess is that you've already got a device that can.

When talks about dragging in content he means that he had to use a real computer to download or rip the content then connect the IPad to his computer with a sync cable and use ITunes to move the files. I have yet to see anyone say that they love ITunes. For a company that is supposed to make things that "just work", ITunes generates a lot of hate. Plus, what's with the cable? Microsoft has supported wireless syncing on the Zune for years.

Sinker finishes with three paragraphs of ranting about how great the IPad is and how it will be transformational in ways that we cannot appreciate, yet. This isn't worth arguing with. He is speculating on things that may or may not happen months or years from now. If these new, unimagined, paradigms emerge then they will speak for themselves. In the meantime, the IPad is still just a toy instead of a serious tool.

No comments: