The threat of closed digital devices, iPad version

Today the lame jokes about Steve Jobs being Moses carrying the iTablet down from the mountain turned quickly to much lamer jokes about iPads and feminine hygiene. But I think the name was not the only reason for this negative response. There are various ways that the iPad delivered less than was expected and definitely less than it could have. Instead of an open platform, like Apple’s superb Mac line of computers, it is an overgrown iPod Touch. It restricts you to the applications Apple approves. I don’t care that there are 140,000 of them; I care about the ones that will never be because of the Appstore Cerberus. Also, what’s with the refusal to allow multitasking? Under the constraints of a device as small as the iPhone, this is perhaps acceptable (but why can Droid phones do it so easily?) but for such a device it seems like a really stupid restriction.

What’s much worse, in my mind, is that the iPad may succeed wildly (Dave Parry, @academicdave on Twitter, tweeted today: “The problem with the iPad, is it just might succeed. (via @Chanders)”). Then we will have DRM’d e-books all over the place, competitors will try to have the same closed mentality embedded in their devices, people will begin to forget the freedom to install any program on your computer. I fervently hope we are not witnessing the beginning of the end of the consumer-oriented computer as an open platform.

Apple did choose temptingly low prices for the various versions of the iPad and I can see lots of attractions for students and book/textbook publishers. The device is not all bad. It’s truly tempting me, which made me sit down and articulate the above to stay level-headed.

Ideas for the above, and lots of good discussions, can be found at, siliconAngle, Ars Technica, CNET, the New York Times, and Gizmodo on (more than) eight things that suck about the iPad.

UPDATE: See this post for the point that the iPad does allow unrestricted Web apps, and these are truly open with HTML5 and other free technologies. Point taken, but why only web apps are unrestricted?

Incidentally, I am going to pay attention to the State of the Union Address, which is on right now, but not by watching it. My desire to hear oratory, even excellent oratory from people I respect, is non-existent any more. When it’s all summarized in a newspaper online so I can get the main points in less than five minutes.