Padded Out Dept.

This'll be the last post I make about the iPad. Honest.

The arguments I see popping up about the device seem to be in two camps. On one hand, you have people who complain it doesn't do enough, that it's a closed-ended system, it's locked down, doesn't have certain hardware functions, etc.

Then you have the people who love it because of all those reasons.

Maybe it comes down to semantics. E.g.: "Locked down" is another way of saying "doesn't have anything I don't need/want" (although what you'll want now as opposed to later is an open question, but never mind). Ditto "doesn't do enough": whose definition of enough is in play here?

Et any number of ceteras.

It's all part and parcel of another debate: How simple should computing be? Should we make devices that require no particular computer savvy on the part of the user (something Apple has made an art form), or should we demand that people at least learn some of the "rules of the road" before touching anything so they avoid making asses of themselves and others?

I've grown up with what amounted to the second option: that you didn't park yourself in front of a PC and attempt to make use of it without knowing at least something about what you were doing. Now we're seeing a whole world of devices that are almost entirely task-based, where you don't even need to know what a file is or why memory is important. People like me, I think, have a hard time as seeing this as anything but a variant on the idea that you can eventually make a car that requires no understanding of what gasoline is or why you need to change your oil ever three thousand miles.

Even that analogy doesn't fit very well, I think. The whole point of owning a car and driving is to be able to go independently from point A to point B; in 100 years, there could be any number of ways to do that which have nothing to do with travel as we currently know it. Ditto computing, which is by and large a way to accomplish things that in and of themselves have nothing to do with computers per se.

Apple knows this, and that's why they direct so much of their energy towards making things which are not "computers". That's also what makes their critics edgy — they feel like their territory's being nibbled away at, and that one day they're going to wake up in a world with no keyboards, no command lines, and no freedom of operation.

Is that a legitimate worry? I dunno; I think there's always going to be a decent market for general-purpose computing devices (whether or not they have a fruit logo on them). I am, however, willing to accept the possibility that computing as we know it in any form is ultimately transitory. Who today, apart from the odd hobbyist or technology historian, wants anything to do with toggle switches on the front panel, or punch cards? In fifty years all of our current nattering about the presence or lack of this or that function may seem just as quaint.

That doesn't make me any the more enthusiastic about trying to type on something that has no tactile feedback, though.

Tags: technology

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2010/01/29 13:13.

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