Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The iPad (Again)

Hey! So what's up?
Not too much here. Last night Jamie, Ryan, and I tried to go to this new Thai place that we discovered and really liked. Well, we got inside, and although the sign on the outside was the same, the decorations had changed, the waitstaff had changed, and the menu was different. Our waitress told us that it was a new place (albeit a new Thai place), but their new sign just hadn't changed yet. Unfortunately, the food just wasn't quite as good under the new management.
Oh well. Back to Madam Mam's again, I guess.

The new iPads came out this week, surrounded by tons of hype and media attention. The iPad was on the cover of both Time and Newsweek, which I found fairly ridiculous (the cover story? for a machine that really doesn't do anything entirely new?), especially when I noticed that one of the iPad's big competitors, the Amazon Kindle, had to buy ad space on the back cover of one of the magazines in order to promote their product and took out a full page ad in the other magazine to do the same thing (while Apple landed on the front cover of both of these rags for free). The media just loooooves Apple.
And I, myself, have to admit to happily using several Apple products. I have an iPhone, and iPod, and I recently purchased a new MacBook Pro. They all work just fine. None of them is magic.
I guess that I'll probably be getting an iPad at some point in the future as well. It looks like it will provide a very handy platform for reading (books, periodicals, or just about anything else), watching various types of video material, and even checking email. I can actually see iPads eventually becoming extremely useful in my workplace as well. A handheld tablet that allows you to immediately access and read through a limitless number of documents could be extremely helpful in a courtroom environment (and if you could link the thing to a display mechanism like powerpoint, so much the better).
As I read in one of the articles I read about the new device, though, the iPad seems largely designed to serve as a platform through which content can be consumed, rather than as a platform which is well suited to creating content. Touchscreen keyboards, even good ones, probably aren't ideal for large amounts of typing, and the memory and processing capacity of an iPad probably aren't as good as more tarditional computers at things like recording, editing, and mixing music.
I find this move toward a device that's aimed at passive, content-absorbing consumers to be a little sad. One of the great things about computers, in my mind, has always been the fact that they put a tremendous power to develop, create, and communicate ideas into the hands of a public that previously had much less ability to effectively express itself. Now, instead of having to find an agent and a publisher, writers have the power to publish their writing directly onto the internet without the need for a third party intermediary. Musicians have the power to record music and to distribute it online without the need for big record companies.
The iPad, on the other hand, seems primarily to be a consumer's machine. The big draw for the gadget is that it's supposed to have tons of good content and apps (those are application programs for those of you who aren't so hip to the post-iPhone world). Of course, these products are going to primarily be available through iTunes- a distribution point exclusively owned and controlled by Apple (which is something else that's creepy about this new iPad- the more popular it becomes, the more Apple will cement a sort of death grip on the market for content for personal computing devices. Content developers may end up having little choice other than to play ball with Apple if they want their products to be widely available to consumers. It's weird to realize that Apple can get away with this because of its hip, cool image, but if a company like Microsoft tried to pull the same thing, the computer geeks would be screaming bloody murder about unfair control of the markets and new restrictions being placed upon the formerly free range development marketplace).

Crap. I gotta go. I'll probably eventually buy an iPad (in a little while- after waiting for them to work out the bugs and maybe bring the price down a little). I'll buy content. Probably from their store that offers iPad exclusive apps and videos and whatnot.
But the iPad is feeding into baser consumer instincts, in my opinion- encouraging people to remain passive consumers instead of producing new content of their own. Apple's also doing some dodgy things in terms of hemming in software designers and content developers.

Gotta run!

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