I freely admit this post is a “Someone is WRONG on the INTERNET” reaction but it has gotten under my skin as the meme jumped from blog posts to podcasts and yesterday, I briefly saw it mentioned on a website of actual yea olde Main Stream Media.
The meme, started on the original Cory Doctorow post on Boing Boing and then passed around by hand through word of mouth, states the iPad hails the “end of innovation.” Perhaps because my job is spending hours trying to see the forest for the trees, I look at components and devices and say, “How is this leveraged? How is this used? How can I employ this in a creative and interesting way to get maximum value?”
Some devices have one use. I don’t complain about the walled garden of the firewall or the intrusion prevention system. Some have many uses, like my Droid. Some are in between. One uses the tool for the job.
Holding the iPad in my hands, I asked these questions and all I see is the beginning. I know the interface is new and the whole cosmos of interface software and cloud-based storage will take 9 months to a year to appear and show people this new “thing” is more than a dumb xterm for streaming Netflix like from the years of the VAX. A year from now this question will be silly and forgotten. Today it’s the hot hot hot meme.
My thought process works through the device like this — and I like me bullet point lovin’:
* Before last week, a tablet was a $2000 device that required tethering to the host computer and was used for special purpose computing in drafting and art. Microsoft had tablets and *tablet software for years but they never bothered to bring it to market. Suddenly, we have a brand new market, and with a new market comes new competitors, new market pressures, and with new market pressures comes the pressure to fix issues, improve systems, and make things work. Look! Free Market! Capitalism! Innovation! This is what we, in the US, do best!
* The nub of the argument revolves around the Apple Store. I find I do not have a core issue with a final auditing process on software before releasing it to the world. Is it a horrible and terrible thing that an audit process is in place to keep software that crashes devices or is full of malware or turns your nice little device into a zombie host? I understand the world is not as seeped** in security as I am, but I see this as more a double prong:
1. It is a basic security check on software before it goes to market.
2. It forces developers to do the boring parts of a project and not just the exciting and interesting parts to make a completed application.
No one complains that XBox Live is a walled garden. Or the Wii App store. Or, hell, Best Buy. If you want to experiment with software and systems, new laptops are cheap and Ubuntu is a damn fine OS for that purpose. Yes, okay, perhaps it will take up to 6 weeks for your software to come to market via the Apple Store but this is a new pressure and a new set of regulations. You cannot simply release broken software and patch, patch, patch. (I am talking to you, OSS.) I for one am sick of the endless beta cycle.
* Another complaint is that one cannot write code on the iPad. First off, I doubt this will be true forever and I see an interesting market in a combination IDE and drag-and-drop construction kits to build new, cool things organically and on the fly like LEGOs. Second, no one is stopping you from joining Apple Developer Connection, downloading the toolkits and going to town on your own MacBook Pro or wherever you write code. What, someone cut your fingers off? They give you the SDK. They give you the developer guide. They give you podcasts. They give you sample code. They give you Human-Computer Interface*** guides. Youtube is full of lectures from Universities that give you an introduction. How much more do you want? Steve Jobs to come to your house?
Yeah, okay, you cannot write code right on the device (yet) but I cannot write code write on my washer, either, but code still runs in there in an embedded chip.
Of course, if you have an objection to Objective C, I’m right there with you. That’s a different argument for a different day.
* I heard, “You cannot make music on it! The MacBook Pro came with Garageband and now they don’t give me that and I am just a passive listener! I will never discover my magnificence as a composer!****” Really? Have you never heard of Google? I hear it’s on computers now. Can you not type “music software ipad” into it? Perhaps you can use that browser that comes on the iPad.
Less sarcastic: Anyone who has ever sat down to a DAW knows the mouse and keyboard are completely inadequate to the job. DAWs like Logic Pro or Pro-Tools require a small galaxy of tactile peripherals to hook to the computer to get it to work satisfactorily. Eric bought me Synthtopia’s MiniSynth Pro which, although being largely monophonic, was a joy to use. Yes, I don’t feel the ridges of the control surface under my fingertips but music production is a tactile art and it felt far more natural to push on buttons and push sliders with my fingers than clicking and dragging with a mouse. If anything is going to explode with the iPad, it’s this — electronic digital music production, DJing, mashups, and new music.
No, you cannot record live to it (yet). Nor can you hook a control surface to it (yet). I wouldn’t want to do any mastering on it and these applications desperately need access to cloud storage. But if anything is going to explode, it’s right here because it’s comfortable, easy to carry, and multi-touch for full five-finger action. When Propellerheads has something out for it, I will need to be alone by myself with it for a little while to cry.
* “I can’t draw on it! I can’t write my novel on it!” Considering tablets were designed and created as artist control surfaces to computers for a more natural interface, I won’t even go there because the stupid, it burns. Suffice to say, I hear Brushes for the iPad has gotten incredible reviews.
As for writing your novel, I do suggest a cheap netbook and dropbox. Or a bluetooth keyboard and the iPad dock and dropbox. Either/or.
* “I can’t open it and see what is inside! I can’t do my own hardware mods/maintenance!” I know I am a terrible engineer but I see this as a feature. I like building and modding machines, too. But I don’t want to foist my modded machine on millions and millions of people. Is it terrible to get a system into hands of those who are perhaps not a member of the Computer Priesthood who don’t want to or have to worry about upgrading their video cards and drivers? I mean, I don’t know about you but I love my Xbox360 and I don’t crack that sucker open… and no one says you cannot build your own tablet out of components. We need to learn and accept that bug reports, crash reports, and random failure due to hardware incompatibility is not an option any more, people do not want to support their own hardware, and move on from that point.
This is making me deeply crazy. The iPad is a peripheral device to your main MacBook Pro. It’s a surface. Surfaces have been around for a decade and all computing has not stopped yet! I do not think anyone is going to be doing any music mastering or live editing of full motion pictures or doing full animation or controlling supercomputing***** on it quite yet. On the other hand, DJ software using fingers to organically mix and scratch pieces together to build a track? Awesome. Unbelievably awesome. And the price is right.
The iPad has some features I am not thrilled with. I cannot read books off it because it makes my laser-eyes bleed. I tried and went back to the Kindle. Some of the software is rough around the edges. The integrated cloud storage it desperately needs isn’t there yet. I don’t like the smeary fingerprints. It is just a tad too heavy. But the end of innovation? Turning computers into completely passive devices and you into a passive drone? Don’t you have a TV for that? For people who claim to love science fiction and see the future, the minds seem pretty damn closed.
I have ranted. I am done now. Maybe.
* Fantastic tablet software, actually. If the HP Slate works, things will get interesting, fast. But Microsoft hasn’t been able to ship anything good in years save the Xbox360.
** Or as fascinated with. I need to go get help for my addiction to all things botnet.
*** This is the rub, right here. No more writing terrible interfaces. That’s where the innovation apparently ends — you have to buck up and put on big boy pants and produce code people want to use and can work with in a natural way. And In the End, the Command Line.
**** This one got under my skin because it was a comment made on the Slate Cultural Gabfest and I almost threw my Droid out the window. Except I love my Droid.
***** If you don’t think I’m not thinking about cheap surfaces and controlling huge distributed computations across clusters then you are crazy because I have had that thought.