Sunday, April 04, 2010

iPad: A step backward

If you watched the most recent episode of Modern Family, you might have come away thinking, "Well, I didn't really want one at first, but maybe the iPad isn't so bad after all."  I did.  But then I went to the Apple store to try it out, and I was thoroughly underwhelmed.  I love the idea of a portable tablet, but it seems that Apple is only interested in giving people one more way to buy apps, music, and now books from their store.  Moreover, the iPad offers you very little freedom with regard to how you use it.  I can't help but agree with Corey Doctorow as far as why you shouldn't buy an iPad.

I'm a very proud user of Ubuntu -- a free, popular, easy-to-use Linux distribution.  What I love about Ubuntu, and the Linux motto in general, is that I have so much freedom in how I use my computer.  For 95% of what I might want to do with my PC, some enthusiast out there has already put out software to do it, and FOR FREE!  I can run a DVR/media center, web/file server, virtualization server, or whatever else for free.  Over the last 4 years, I've saved $500+ by running my own DVR on my old computer instead of shelling out $15+/month to a cable company.  It took some extra hardware and some time to set everything up, but it was well worth it and my DVR can do way more than anything I could have gotten from the cable company!  Linux isn't for everyone, but using it for the past 4 years has helped me tremendously in understanding the computers and networks that power the Internet and help us every day.

My problem with the iPad, and with Apple's software/hardware in general, is that you only get all of the functionality if you deal with Apple devices exclusively.  If you want all of your photos and music and videos to sync the way they show it at the store or on those commercials, you're going to need to use a Mac and all of Apple's software.  And don't count on being able to read any books you buy from iBooks on any non-Apple mobile device.  The convenience factor is nice for people who really do know nothing about computers, but like Corey Doctorow says, it sets a horrible precedent for children.  It puts them at Apple's mercy for nearly all of their media and computing needs: including changing the freaking battery!  Are you kidding me?

One Laptop Per Child wasn't quite the runaway success I was hoping for, but I do believe it's a better approach than Microsoft or some other company just throwing money and/or cheap computers/software at developing countries.  If kids grow up thinking that only the software developers in some far off part of the country (or across the globe!) are able to fix their computers, it's crippling to their education.  Open source software (such as Firefox, Ubuntu/Linux, and the OLPC software) allows people to take advantage of incredible software while still allowing them the opportunity to learn about their computer and to modify the software as they see fit.  It puts the user in control of the experience.  If all the user wants to do is surf the web or communicate via email, that's fine.  But if the user wants more, say to make an application for tracking their crop performance or to customize language translations for their local dialect, open source software allows them to do so.  They don't need to wait and just hope that Microsoft will do it for them.

Yes, the iPad is very new and shiny.  It's very easy to get wrapped up in the hype and buy Apple's newest toy.  But do you really want Apple to be the sole gatekeeper to the books, music, videos, apps, and whatever else you buy for your new $500 iPad?  I certainly don't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My neighbor and I have been simply debating this particular topic, he is usually looking for to show me incorrect. Your view on this is great and precisely how I actually feel. I simply now mailed him this web site to indicate him your own view. After wanting over your website I e-book marked and shall be coming again to read your new posts!