[FoRK] What the hell just happened?

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Tue Apr 6 16:22:20 PDT 2010

The above sums up my reaction to the iPad after having it a few days now.

I've noticed that the general pace of tech news --- aside from iPad coverage, which has also been slightly less intensive than I would've expected --- has been pretty sluggish the last several days.  I suspect there are a whole lot of folks out there right now intensively playing with the device, and that's driving the silence.

Many of my assumptions were wrong.  A few were right.  Most were "not even wrong" --- i.e., irrelevant or moot.  This device is a game-changer, but at this point I don't even know what the freakin' game *is*.  This is a door to a *completely* different future than I'd imagined --- and that despite being obsessively interested in tablets since back in the Newton days when, as an ISV and custom shop, my startup was getting asked by contract customers "when are they going to do a pad version of this" on a daily basis...  despite that, I *have no roadmap, right or wrong.*  Which is a novelty for me, particularly in the intersection of tech, business, consumer demand, and the future.  That's exactly where I live;  and it's as if I come home to find that somebody just *completely tore down and rebuilt my house* while I was out for the day, replacing it with something...  well, completely different.

I've got no idea what this device means.  I'm not even confident that my previous assertions about e.g. the relative undesirability of 3G in the device were correct.  I don't think this device is impersonal --- but maybe it should be, I don't know.  It's not the lay-around-the-house surfboard.  Maybe it should be.  It's not a laptop replacement --- but it does *really* beg the question of whether most folks even *need* "computers" per se, much less laptops. 

It's spooky.  It's truly an appliance.  Magical is about right --- and that's not necessarily a good thing.

It's the original Macintosh closed-world walled-garden vision writ large.  And that scares the shit out of me;  I already feel the same "must have own app" traction that applied to e.g. "must have own website" back in '97 or so... but at the same time, I wonder whether this isn't really the device "for the rest of them."  (I.e., the non-techies.)  And if so, what that means for "the rest of us" (I.e., the techies and geeks and nerds that, let's face it, computers have always been built for to date.)  Future of the Internet concerns, freedom to tinker concerns, etc.  First Apple product where the evil *truly* shows its face --- and is all too compelling, a kind, compassionate, wise face.  A benevolent face, one you can trust --- Jobs as Big Brother, how ironic.  It presents the familiar dilemma of the perfect dystopia.  Soma will cure all social ills;  you can only have a nice juicy steak in the Matrix.  Do we want it or not?  Red pill / blue pill?

Hate how flat the interface is;  how unmanageable it becomes with more than just a few apps;  and how silo'd it is, operating-system impoverished (i.e., in terms of OS generic services that are accessible to end-users, see the N (large N) from-app printing solutions, filing solutions / doc sharing apps, etc.) and impossibly tightly coupling your data in the app-jail that made it.  Fixed battery.  App switching.  No / limited inter-app communication.  Any of the desktop-like applet-dashboards / apps yanked from store immediately --- no desktop metaphor for you!  Navigationally intensive.  Etc. etc.  Everything that was wrong with personal computing and every gen-1 Apple product ever --- multiplied and pushed to the limit as a design principle.  "Neener neener." says Steve!  "I will define your future for you!  I control the vertical, never mind the horizonal!"


Love / hate, hope / fear / loathing, desire / revulsion, all mixed up in some uncomfortable but thrilling giant hairball.  Even more intense than expected.  It really is a new new thing.

One thing I'm reasonably confident of:  this really does change everything, forever.  It's like Napster, quiet revolution all over again, but nothing quite about this.  And, it seems increasingly likely to me --- even more consequential.


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