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The Apple iPad: Just What We Deserve

February 1st, 2010

Like many, I was swept up in the sport of imagining what sort of magical interactive paradigm Apple would present with its new tablet computer. Would you talk to it? Wave at it? Put your face on it? Would you be able to hold it up in front of your friends face and see on the screen what they would look like as a zombie?

Well, like many, I was disappointed with the well-made but annoyingly locked-down media consumption device that Apple delivered. I ranted for two days about how the iPad was more a business avenue than a computer. That it was a media buying appliance dressed up as a lifestyle device. Basically, I was pissed that the device encourages the consumption of media over the creation and sharing of ideas. The iPhone managed to support both consumption AND communication. I had assumed that surely the tablet would build on both of these pillars, while using its increased screen size and power to allow for even more creative ways of making and sharing. Portable devices are supposed to be social, right?

However, the avenues for getting media onto this machine seem to be few and far between unless you’re going through an Apple approved venue. The browser doesn’t support Flash, so there will be virtually no alternative music or video services online. Pretty much all the music, movies, and books you consume have to come through the iTunes Store. There is no camera, so there isn’t a way to share photos of the things you see or video chat with friends. There is also no phone, so you can’t send text messages or talk. Where’s the rebellious creative fun!

After grumbling for a while, I came to an epiphany that has put me at ease and lulled me into a state of acceptance of this, the next big gadget. We, the People, deserve the iPad. We deserve the inherent restrictions of our benevolent big brother Steve looking out for us. We’ve had more than a decade of wild romping through the world of interconnectivity online and we’ve proven ourselves incredibly irresponsible. We steal music. We steal movies. We steal whatever intellectual property we have the good fortune to hear about on Twitter. Our society is like a teenager who wrecks his parents car, and now we have to deal with the consequences or there won’t be a car to drive by the time Prom rolls around…or something…

So, the iPad represents a new Internet paradigm. It is a curated, safe world where the people are shepherded to the media experience they desire for a fair price. You won’t be able to do whatever you want or share whatever you want, but you’ll find what you’re looking for really quickly — and with a host of suggested related materials to enjoy later without ever getting out of bed. I guess I can live with that.

Design, Gadgets, Ideas

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