April 3, 2010
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The iPad is not what you think

Cory Doctorow thinks the iPad is a computer, and laments that you can’t program it with quite the freedom we once enjoyed. He’s right, and he’s completely wrong. The iPad isn’t a computer: it’s an information appliance. We trained a generation to enjoy polished interfaces and to deplore the slightest deviation from UI convention. We accepted that “Don’t Make Me Think! ” was a reasonable goal. The iPad is giving the lady what she wanted. In any case, the software we write now isn’t something that kids can write; the APIs are just too big, the frameworks are just too complex.

Don’t like the world we’ve made? Get behind Smalltalk and Squeak and Tinderbox and artisanal software.

Dave Winer thinks the iPad is a wonderful toy. He’s right, too. And he’s completely wrong, because he’s imagining the iPad is a replacement for his mother’s old laptop. His mother doesn’t need an iPad to replace her laptop; she needs an iPad to replace the TV in the kitchen, or that silly digital picture frame. It’s an appliance: you use it in addition to your real computer and in addition to your phone.

Marc Benioff thinks the iPad is all about video. I agree with Tim Bray: this is (almost certainly) entirely wrong. The iPad isn't just about consuming media: that’s what your phone is for. The iPad is a for making stuff when you’re doing stuff. It’s not a heavy-duty creator’s tool: that’s your laptop back on your desk. The iPad is the tool you have handy.

Lots of people are saying they’ll get an iPad in a generation or two, when they’re better and less expensive. Good luck with that: while you wait, people are going to be using them to get stuff done. They’ll actually write a few chapters of their novel while sitting in coffee shops. They’ll come up with a clever presentation while riding the bus.
You won’t. See you around.

Kottke gets the spirit of the press today.

Lorem iPad dolor sit amet, consectetur Apple adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua Shenzhen. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud no multi-tasking ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip iPad ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor iPad in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse CEO Steve Jobs dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.

The iPad is a new thing. It doesn’t replace your computer. You use it when you don’t want the whole computer, and when your phone isn’t enough. It’s a new tool. You don’t have to get one – you can use other tools and get stuff done. But it makes stuff easier, and faster, and readier to hand.

Remember how PCs got adopted in the first place? You had a few enthusiastic users who bought business PCs with their own money or robbed Peter to pay for them, and everyone thought they were silly toys until they were in a turf war and their secretaries were sending hand-typed memos and their rivals had PageMaker and PowerPoint. It’ll be like that again. 90% of success is showing up, and part of that is showing up with enough computing power to get the job done.

It’s an impressive little machine. And it’s got lots of dimensions for growth. It’s fast, but we can use more speed. The screen is gorgeous, but we can use even more pixels. It’s got great typography, but we need more. It’s got a terrific battery — a whole day of video! — but people can always use more. (This is good news: room for growth means this is the start of something big, not just a splash.)

So, sure, it’ll be better next year. But I’ve got things to do. Right now.

Has anyone noticed that it’s black? And that iPhones are black, too?

When Apple returned from the slough of despair, Apple’s branding seized white. Macs were white, iPods were white, Apple stores werre white. Black meant Windows; for years, Apple’s machines were white, high-end PC's were black, and low-end machines were beige.

Now, Apple branding has taken back black – for accessories. These guys are smart.