Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How To Read the iPad? Revolution Or Power Grab?

Sue Halpern have written essay about the iPad and its wider implications for the New York Review of Books. Here is her conclusion:

The Open Source movement and Creative Commons both derive from the Internet’s essential freedom, a leveling that allows designers and filmmakers and singers and craftsmen and any number of writers, activists, politicians, artists, and entrepreneurs, many of them amateurs, to develop and disseminate their ideas. Imagine what the Internet, and our lives, would be like if, after inventing the Mosaic Web browser back in 1993, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina not only required users to buy it but required payment for every click or download or page view. Try to imagine how a privatized, monetized Internet might have developed, and you can’t, because its evolutionary path would have been so different. Apple’s iPad apps may be ingenious. They may be fun and entertaining. They may be useful. What they can’t be is free of Apple’s control.

It is true that the iPad, like the iPhone and iPod Touch, comes with a Web browser app that takes the user directly to the Internet. Arguably, this makes these devices comparable to any computer and renders the complaint about gatekeeping moot. In fact, Web browsing on the iPad is less than ideal. Keeping more than one window open at a time is not possible, and Apple’s refusal to enable Flash, a piece of proprietary software owned by Adobe Systems that underlies many websites and allows for animations and video, means that those websites are either not fully functional or not available at all. But why bother going through a browser to get to YouTube or to read the AP headlines or check the weather when there is a dedicated app for each of these? This is what is really revolutionary and game-changing about the iPad: once there is an app for everything, it’s Apple’s Web, not the wide world’s.
If Apple want's to conquer the world, maybe we have to wait to see what Google's Android-tablet will look like when it comes.

Hans Sandberg

Note: Sue Halpern makes a minor mistake when she calls the Rocket eBook that Barnes & Noble launched in 1998 for the "RockBook." I was there at the pressconference on October 23rd with Stephe Riggio and the poet laureate Robert Pinsky.

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