The geeks are at war. Which side will you choose? Are you with the Hackers? Or are you with the Shinies? At the heart of the fight is a device of such divisive power that it might as well have been forged in the fires of Mordor, where the Shadows lie.
The question tearing geekdom apart is whether the iPad is the second coming, or a spawn of the devil. The two positions can be resumed to the following: The Hackers object to the device being closed, just another example of Apple’s growing strategy to lock customers in. The Shinies like it, because it’s cool and it shines and it’s going to revolutionise media.
Many people have said what I mean better than I could. Besides Cory Doctorow, John Naughton has been extremely eloquent in letting us know why there might be something wrong with the iPad. For the Shinies, Nick Sweeney and Ian Betteridge have expressed some interesting opinions about why the iPad is good, and how it will change computing.
The core of the argument is openness versus usability, but one that goes beyond the old proprietary vs non-proprietary source code debates. The importance of the debate is that it lies right at the heart of the future of computing. Do we continue paying Apple exorbitant prices to produce beautiful products for us, or do we go for more open devices?
As an Apple customer, I have to admit that I have fallen prey to the aura of coolness surrounding their products. I own two iPods, a 60 GB 5th gen that I use mostly as storage device, and an iPod Touch, which is one of the most beautiful things I own. I also own a MacBookPro, which has been an amazing tool as a road warrior and seasoned conference presenter. I really like that it is a laptop that allows one to make the best of a presentation, and there is no doubt why the pros use it.
Having said that, I am becoming more and more annoyed with Apples lock-in strategy. So, I cannot install anything on their devices other than pre-approved software? I’m not asking for much Steve, I do not want to hack the entire device and install Ubuntu on it, I just want a bit of openness! But no, Apple has decided that the consumer does not choose, they get what they get, and that’s it. True, it will work beautifully for the vast majority, but I do not want to be locked in an all-encompassing media store. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m getting old and grumpy, but iTunes is beginning to scare me.
I am getting so annoyed with Apple, that I am seriously considering replacing my laptop. Being the flashy slave of tech-fashion that I am (note the sarcasm please) I recently placed a laptop skin on my Mac.
So, shall I be buying an iPad soon? Sorry but no. It is a big iPod Touch, and I have one of those already. Besides, the name is still silly.