The iPad: Second Coming of the Newton?

The just-released and much hyped iPad is Apple’s second foray into hawking a tablet computer. And all the reasons Steve Jobs would like us to forget that are, in fact, good reasons to remember the Newton and the fact that it never became more than an early-adopter status toy. It, too, was greeted with hosannahs by rapturous Apple fans and a bedazzled trade press back in 1992 – but who remembers it today?

The Newton was a fascinating technology demonstration, but it sank almost without trace because nobody ever found a real use for it. It was too large to fit in a pocket and underpowered for replacing a real computer…like the iPad. And the thing that has me scratching my head, two days after the iPad announcement and knowing it has sold 300K copies in that time on the strength of Apple’s brand, is that I can’t find a real use for it either.

It can’t replace even a netbook, much less a laptop or desktop computer: can’t multitask, no USB port, limited on-board storage. It can’t replace my cellphone or a conventional PDA, because it won’t fit in a pocket. It can’t replace a dedicated e-reader – battery life too short and the display type isn’t tuned for that use, not being reflective. If it’s designed as a browser appliance, the absence of Flash support is a pretty serious hole below that waterline.

What I’m seeing is a device that competes in four or five different product categories without having a compelling story for any of them – a perpetual second-best. It makes me wonder what Steve Jobs was thinking, really. This isn’t like the iPhone, which did one thing – even if that was just being a cellphone with a nifty color display – better than anything else that came before it.

Of course, the standard rejoinder to pointing out what a new technology can’t do is that people will invent their own unforeseen uses for it. But this is where the iPad software lockdown starts to become a serious drag, because it means any software application some third party comes up with has to pass through the eye of Apple’s needle. And there’s a serious problem with that…

The approval process for iPhone apps is already notoriously slow, arbitrary, and frustrating; the process for iPad apps will probably be as problematic or worse. The iPhone can survive that, because even without 1001 apps it’s got the being-a-phone thing to fall back on. But the iPad? Not so much. The fallback position, in the case that a large ecology of apps fails to proliferate because Apple is overcontrolling, isn’t obvious.

I’m not the only one to notice the odd lack of a value proposition here. A-list blogger Ann Althouse, just two days after buying one, asks what am I doing with an iPad?

Back in the early 1990s, that’s a question a lot of early adopters found themselves asking about the Newton when the initial euphoria wore off. They never found a good answer, either.

UPDATE: Good summary of the anti-iPad case at 13 Glaring iPad Shortcomings. It’s pretty damning.

136 thoughts on “The iPad: Second Coming of the Newton?

  1. I bought one. Its function as the perfect comic book reader completely justifies any shortcomings it may have, from my point of view.

    No offense, but until you’ve actually tried one for a bit you’ll look a bit silly comparing it to the Newton. Its audience, price and function are totally unlike the Newton. It’s essentially a luxury device. In other words, it’s not trying to be a computer, while Newton was. Also unlike the Newton, nearly anyone can write proprietary, commercial software for it (and thousands upon thousands already have). It’s the anti-Newton, in many ways. While Newton was completely limited to work-oriented tasks, iPad is nearly completely limited to entertainment tasks, primarily games, reading, and movies. I’d be very surprised if it flops like the Newton, but if it does, that will really be the only significant similarity between the two devices.

    There are good reasons for hoping that the iPad won’t significantly replace computers, which I’ll let others rehearse. I don’t expect you to buy one, Eric, but the reasons are mainly moral or political ones, rather than questions of utility.

  2. >Its function as the perfect comic book reader completely justifies any shortcomings it may have, from my point of view.

    OK, I’ll give you that it has an advantage for comic books that conventional e-readers don’t, having a color display. But that niche doesn’t seem like a lot to sustain long-term value on.

    You say games, I say “no Flash” (Flash, sadly, being the most popular medium of on-line games these days). You say movies, I say “no Flash” – other codecs may be gaining ground but Flash is still the 800-pound gorilla. You sat “reading”, but I think the ergonomics of a Nook or Kindle beats an iPad all hollow for any sort of text that isn’t color-intensive.

    >I don’t expect you to buy one, Eric, but the reasons are mainly moral or political ones,

    Oh, stop it. I just did a utility analysis, and I’m not interested in any other kind right now. Plenty of other people will scream about the moral and political issues, which is good because it means I don’t have to.

  3. Bennett, who’s just bought an iPad, said:

    It’s essentially a luxury device. In other words, it’s not trying to be a computer, while Newton was.

    Which is another way to make Eric’s point. The iPad isn’t going to have the sales pull of the iPhone, because it has a limited utility niche; only some people are going to want one.

  4. I bought one, and I’ve been using it a lot. Basically I’ve been using my laptop for work and the iPad for everything else.

    I’m reading Infinite Jest. It’s really a lovely experience, the endnotes in particular are a dream compared to the paper version (they’re hyperlinked). I haven’t noticed the battery life being a problem. I only read for an hour or so at a time, so I get nowhere near the 11hr battery life.

    I’ve also been playing a lot of Mirror’s Edge (the videogame) on it. It’s basically a big gameboy, but it’s much nicer to curl up with on the couch.

    And I’m using it for my casual web browsing. This is where it starts to break down. Mobile Safari is pretty bad compared to Chrome, which is the browser on my laptop. The multitasking definitely slows me down. And there are some scrolling issues and various bugs (no bookmarklets).

    I was hoping it would be a stupendous browser, and that the proprietariness of the App Store wouldn’t matter because, hey, all I really need anyway is the web. But that’s not really the case. Entire categories of apps, like music players, aren’t really usable. And it is not a good browser for queuing up lots of pages, and churning through them in a multitasky way.

    I’m hoping that will get better.

    All that said, it’s actually been a great device for me. It’s more social than my laptop (much easier to hand over to someone else), and more comfortable to use for long stretches of reading on the couch or in bed. It’s easier to find somewhere to prop/tuck it in the kitchen. I could imagine standing a recipe by the backsplash where it won’t take up any counter space while I cook.

    I think the Freedom issues posed by the device are very serious. My sense is that you WANT it to be useless so that you won’t have to worry about how F/OSS will compete with it. I am also worried about this. But I really think it’s a great, useful device, and we won’t get off that easy.

  5. >My sense is that you WANT it to be useless so that you won’t have to worry about how F/OSS will compete with it.

    Nah. I’ve been keeping an eye on Android’s sales and volume ramp-up since the Motorola Droid shipped, and I got to play with a Nexus One Saturday evening so I know what Android 2.1 looks like. Given the range of Android tablets coming out now, I’m confident open source will do just fine in that market. Especially since Android tablets will come in at a significantly lower price point.

    That is, providing there really is a sustained tablet market, as opposed to a bunch of technologists and designers wanking in the direction of an early-adopter cohort that’ll buy anything once. That’s the part I’m skeptical about.

    Significantly, the Nexus One I saw was a new purchase by a long-time Apple fan who actually nixed the iPhone in Android’s favor. Now, granted, this hasd a lot to do with her being a T-moble customer and allergic to Verizon. But still.

  6. It’s interesting – when I first read the stuff on the iPad my immediate impression was that it was way too big a form-factor. I have a Model 2 Kindle, and it would be a ton better device if it were about an inch narrower, with the same size screen, and extend the screen down and ditch the useless keyboard. It’s just barely too big to fit in a jacket pocket, any bigger and I’d have to carry a man purse, and I’m just not going there. The Kindle DX was a non-starter for me, because it’s a ton bigger, which actually makes it worse for me in general use.

    The iPad is basically double the size of the Kindle, so it’s just too big to carry around without the accoutrements of carrying around a laptop, and if I’m going to be carrying around the equivalent of a laptop case I might as well have the power and ease of use of a laptop.

    Having said that, there are things I could see using an iPad-form-factor device for – say I had one that I could hang on a mount in my kitchen, on the fridge or on the wall. It would be very useful for looking up recipes, etc., or watching TV/Videos while I’m cooking. But not at $500. I suspect the android versions will probably fill that niche much cheaper.

  7. I think you all have probably heard that magazines think the IPad is going to save them.

    Yeah, right. Like you are going to pay something to read Time and Newsweek on your IPad when you aren’t reading Time and Newsweek now. Those magazines are dead because they have no good writers or content. No way is Time worth $5 a month.

    The comic book thing sounds pretty good though.

  8. I don’t plan to buy one, but I feel that the iPad is a good thing. Why? Like the iPod and iPhone before it, it takes a piece of technology that already existed[1], made it pretty, and was backed up by loads of marketing dollars, which buys popular acceptance of it as a status item. Because of that, we’ll see a flood of knock-offs on the market, some built by manufacturers who just want to copy Apple, others built by manufacturers who manage to avoid some of Apple’s mistakes. The knockoffs will be bought by people who want to buy something that looks like what the cool kids are carrying, but don’t want to pay the Apple price.

    Some of those knock-offs will run Linux, and *those* are the ones I’m looking forward to. So I’m glad the iPad exists; I didn’t buy an iPhone (and my Omnia works fairly well), and I won’t buy an iPad, but I’m looking forward to tablet PCs made cheaper by the demand following the iPad.

    [1] I saw my first tablet PC over a decade ago; it ran Windows 3.1, had a 80486 processor, and even had rudimentary handwriting recognition.

  9. Some good points against the iPad in the original post but not really against tablets as a form factor. Comparing the Newton to current tablets is like comparing Altavista in the 90s to Google today, it’s a completely different experience. There’s a lot more computing punch packed in current devices, making them useful for a lot more software, and widespread 3G today really changes the utility equation significantly. Tablets will not replace all functions of a computer, but they’ll do enough of those tasks on the go to sell very well. As for the size, that’s a critical component, as nobody wants to surf the web or watch a movie on that tiny Nexus screen. I think there will be people who prefer their smartphones and those who prefer a tablet but the split will be closer to 50/50 than you seem to imply. People will find ways to carry tablets around, they don’t complain about the larger books they carry around now. ;) I agree that the iPad is a hopelessly constrained tablet that will still sell well based mostly on hype, but you’re going too far when you damn all tablets.

    Michael, many companies were betting big on tablets before Apple, as you acknowledge, so I don’t know why you call them knockoffs. If anything, people always wondered why Apple was taking so long to get into this market and it’s Apple that will have cheaper components because of the much larger volumes of non-iPhoneOS tablets sold, not the other way around.

  10. I recognize that I’m an unusual case, but the iPad seems made for me.

    I want a very small, very light machine that I can put in my book-bag and study with. I want to be able to switch between my texts and a Mathematica worksheet, which I can’t do on a Kindle (and anyway I want more screen space, and no refresh lag.) Or hop onto #mathematics on Freenode (a great resource, by the way). Then when I’m done working, I can kick back and read blogs on it.

    IRC, come to think of it, is a great use-case for multitasking. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get with the upcoming iPhone OS 4.0. (I’ve been predicting all along that Apple will enable third-party multitasking as soon as they have an abstraction-free UI for it, and some system by which it can never bork the machine.)

    Anyways, do not doubt that a new input modality can totally change even a familiar application. Consider the Reactable. I got to use one at SIGGRAPH a few years ago, and it is pure joy: not in any sense the same experience as using a modular synth with a mouse. (By the way, the software is open-source and the hardware is simple and cheap.)

    In the same way, I think that even something pedestrian like reading web pages could be way nicer with direct manipulation.

    Moreover, the iPhone OS is further along the vector from CLI to GUI. I have never, ever heard of something having technical problems with their iPhone, even people who can’t use Macs. This is good. This is getting us closer the holy grail of computing, Movie OS. (No, not the Movie OS where you pound on the keyboard. The other one.)

    Prediction: iPhone OS will move onto bigger computers, and eventually become self-hosting.

  11. For a while i’ve wondered why i* doesn’t come with flash.

    Adobe have been sitting firmly in Apples pocket now for at least 10 years, it’s easy to argue that the major killer app for the macintosh IS photoshop (and some form of marketing virus that seems to turn otherwise sensible people into raving fanatics that will forgive anything short of total genocide… but maybe thats just the people I know).

    So it boggles me why Apple seems to be railroading feature completeness on their device suite. I’m sure there’s some form of rational reason, I just can’t think what it might be.

    To be honest I thought for a little bit about getting an IPad after people have worked out how to put linux on it and use it as a seriously thin tablet. Ultimately i dismissed the idea because i really do like keyboards so my clamshell convertible is still probably better for me even if it is multiples of thickness.

  12. I’ve been keeping an eye on Android’s sales and volume ramp-up since the Motorola Droid shipped

    I’m so very sad about the global version of the droid (the milestone) and it’s signed code only firmware. Even sadder is the lack of response to the explosion thats caused. I’d have been mollified if they had posted that there was a sane reason for the signing requirement (e.g. the carrier has to specifically ok it for the handset to be standards compliant) but so far I haven’t seen anything.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the possibilities of bypassing that craziness and it looks like it’s a possibility. I believe someone managed to flash the droid bootloader onto the milestone and then the barn door was open. If thats the case, then happy days.

  13. I don’t have an iPad, but one of my current theories is that it may really hit a sweet spot by being (on some level) a large, color, smart Kindle.

    So for instance, Felicia Day tweeted about using one to carry around all the D&D rulebooks in a convenient format. Given the full color nature of the modern high end RPG sourcebook it would be clearly more appropriate than a Kindle for this purpose. And at the same time, it seems like the iPad would be more convenient than a laptop for it.

    Or consider electronic sheet music. An iPad would be clearly better than a laptop here, because you can easily set it on a music stand. And the additional smarts that an iPad has and a Kindle doesn’t would be a huge plus in this area. You could have the iPad transpose the music for you, or listen to the music and turn the page at the appropriate time automatically. There’s already an iPhone app which recognizes thousands of fiddle tunes when it hears them played and displays their sheet music — the iPad would make this a practical tool for playing music you don’t know, even if you don’t know the name of the tune! (Which is all too common when playing traditional dance music, I should add.)

  14. Not that I’ll be getting an iPad, or any other iPhone OS devices, but I’m very, very happy that Apple is waging a war against Flash. Flash completely sucks — it’s slow, buggy, memory intensive, and completely blows on non-Windows platforms. It’s also 100% proprietary, which is incredibly poor for the future of network-deliverable content.

    I say all this as a developer who writes a fair bit of Flash/Flex code at work. I hate it, but it pays well. All our executives just got iPads, and are pissed that our primary user-facing products don’t work on them, so they’re finally giving me a budget for re-architecting the system to decouple content from presentation, and have multiple front-ends. For this reason alone, I’m happy for the existence of the iPad — hopefully, it will push more HTML5 adoption.

  15. >You say games, I say “no Flash” (Flash, sadly, being the most popular medium of on-line games these days).

    But it has lots of popular games! No device plays all possible games, least of all a netbook. I write flash games, so I’m hardly a biased reporter here.

    > You say movies, I say “no Flash” – other codecs may be gaining ground but Flash is still the 800-pound gorilla.

    But it supports most of the popular movie services, both streaming and download! Including Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo, and very soon, Hulu.

    > You sat “reading”, but I think the ergonomics of a Nook or Kindle beats an iPad all hollow for any sort of text that isn’t color-intensive.

    Yeah, that’s true. I have used a kindle. I see more utility in the device that also plays games, reads comics and watches movies though.

  16. I think the iPad could be the only computer my mom or my wife need. If only Apple would get rid of the need to sync it to a computer to activate it, and provide a way to plug a USB key or hard drive into it for backup.

    For me, on the other hand, it’s just an expensive toy. Can’t carry it around easily, like my iPhone, and can’t create software on it. If Apple would open it up for interpreters and compilers, however, we’d likely port Clozure Common Lisp to it, and I COULD do my development work there, on the road (too small a screen for daily work). It’s a lot more powerful than the Mac Plus, or Mac II, and those were fine Lisp development environments. Of course, I’d also need access to the natural multi-processing qualities of the underlying OS, hopefully coming in iPhone OS 4.0.

  17. I’m surprised to hear you say that a device can’t succeed without supporting flash, by the way. Somehow Linux devices managed to survive this shortcoming.

  18. It may be that the target audience for the iPad isn’t people who have laptops or netbooks; rather, it’s people who don’t like computers and won’t buy one to take with them. The extreme non-technical user.

    Mom has a laptop, but doesn’t like it at all. The only reason that she has one is because she travels around to do genealogy research. Quite frankly, she might be really happy with an iPad, especially if the Mormon Church developed a genealogy app for it (if they haven’t already).

    There’s probably a pretty big market segment out there that’s not particularly interested in current laptop/netbook offerings. This is probably a bigger group of people than folks like Althouse, who already are decently computer savvy and would need to be moved away from laptops.

  19. The “killer app” of the iPad is that it’s not a computer.

    Normal people (probably nobody here reading this) don’t want a computer. They want to read a book, they want to read a web page, they want to see a map, they want to watch a movie, they want to play a game. They want to hold all those things in their hands. And preferably they don’t want to have to learn any computer skills, not even anything as complicated as using a two-button mouse.

    The iPad gives them all of those things without making them use a clunky computer or (yuck) a netbook. It’s beautiful. The iPad excels at the tasks that real users want to do.

    Flash is a non-issue and Apple could turn on support for Flash at any time they choose. But they don’t need Flash today, because everything that Flash can do, the iPad has a superior replacement for, as long as you ignore the question of backwards-compatibility with existing Flash sites. Most iPad users won’t give a hoot about backwards compatibility. Seriously, think about playing a Flash game in a little box on a web page vs playing a full-screen, touch-screen, designed-for-iPad app version of the same game. The latter will give a better experience, and if nobody has created that app yet, Jobs’ is betting that customers will do without until some third-party developer fills the gap. I think he may be right.

  20. What I’m seeing is a device that competes in four or five different product categories without having a compelling story for any of them – a perpetual second-best.

    LOL! This is a quote for the ages, alongside:

    The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things.

    –John C. Dvorak, on the original Mac

    No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

    –CmdrTaco, on the iPod

    What you’re seeing, Eric, is an entirely new product category, one much closer to “what people wanted” than current netbooks, PDAs, or e-readers. These classes of device offer some, but not all, of what a casual internet user is looking for, with lots of fiddly bits and inconveniences added to frustrate such a user. The iPad is the total package. It’s completely integrated, easy to use and gives end users a whole new way of interacting with e-books, web pages and data. So you can’t develop for the thing. BAWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Hackers who want to see their software used by non-hackers will ignore this thing at their own peril. Many of them will fall all over themselves to buy the devkit and start cranking out apps just like they did with the iPhone.

    As to Flash, Apple is in the process of single-handedly doing what the open-source community and the web-standards community couldn’t: getting that nasty, crufty, inefficient proprietary shit off my internets.

  21. I think it is misleading to even compare the Newton to the iPad. The screen size and input method totally don’t match and make the devices quite the opposite.

    In addition, multimedia the way we know it today wasn’t around when the Newton was and even if it were, the Newton wasn’t able to support it :)

  22. The obvious advantage of a tablet like device is that ability to draw on a surface the size of a legal pad. This is a killer app if you can make it work well (it always sucked on Windows tablets.) I don’t have an iPad, so perhaps someone who does can indicate if it is possible to draw on the iPad surface using a stylus or pen, or is it fat finger only?

    BTW, in regards to flash, nobody seems to be stating the obvious here (or anywhere else.) As far as I can see the reason that flash is not supported in extremely obvous — control. Jobs is an obsessive control freak and demands complete control of the iPhone and iPad ecosystem. Flash in the browser allows anyone to put any old nasty piece of crap on his beautiful computer, and he won’t allow it for that reason only. Jobs is obsessed by controlling all parts of the computer and experience, and that is the basis on which to interpret much of what he does.

    FWIW, the Newton was killed by lack of investment and by Jobs resentment to the guy who made the fizzy pop. It probably was a good business decision, but, from what I read, it was primarily killed out of Jobs’ resentment toward Scully (who pioneered the Newton.)

  23. Or consider electronic sheet music. An iPad would be clearly better than a laptop here, because you can easily set it on a music stand. And the additional smarts that an iPad has and a Kindle doesn’t would be a huge plus in this area. You could have the iPad transpose the music for you, or listen to the music and turn the page at the appropriate time automatically.

    I wonder if anyone who devotes a lot of breath to dissing the iPad has seen Star Trek: TNG or later and noted what Starfleet officers tend to carry around with them, in addition to their communicator and phaser? Similar devices were on display in Avatar.

    The iPad is pretty much a SF wet dream come true.

  24. >JonB: “For a while i’ve wondered why i* doesn’t come with flash.”

    Because Flash capability would allow users to play Flash games on websites and that would cut into Apple’s ability to control and profit from the AppStore. Believe me, if that was the case with their laptops I sure as hell wouldn’t be typing this on a MacBook!

    When Jobs designed the first Macintosh computer, his dream was a closed box that the user never modified and he covered it with expansion ports that were specific to Apple systems. While the system became very popular in niche areas (basically media and design), that concept led to Apple’s marketshare doing a huge nosedive over the next decade or so as many people moved to PC systems do to the wider availability of peripherals and more flexible configurations. The difference is that back then Apple made it’s money from the sale of the hardware, the iPad (like the iPhone) will continue to generate revenue via the AppStore…hence you NEED to limit other methods of content and application delivery. Flash is a deal killer as pretty much ANYTHING that you get via the AppStore could be delivered via Flash.

    The iPad is a complete non-starter for me. If I can’t simply use the software I use on my Macs, no matter how kludgy, I’m not interested. I already have a huge investment in software and acquiring the skills to use that software at a high level…I have no desire to duplicate that. I would rather spend a minimal amount of time learning to deal with eccentricities of a new platform (like my Hackintosh netbook) rather than having to relearn the structure, terminology and functions of many new pieces of software. The lack of a standard USB port also grinds me…the last thing I need is another shit ton of dongles and adapters laying around and why, why, WHY wouldn’t you add a built-in card reader?! I know, it would “spoil the aesthetics”…well, figure out how to NOT make it spoil them!

    No Flash support? Forget it. Not that I’m a huge fan of Flash but, well, it is what it is and like it or not surfing many sites is impossible with it. It may be a processor hog and it leads to people making craptastic interfaces but it is also somewhat ubiquitous and has no cost to the end user. I can’t see touting the iPad as a surfing device and then virtually crippling that experience as being a selling point when, other than a larger screen, it provides basically the same user experience as my Blackberry Storm using Opera Mini 5.

    That said, I’m sure it will do reasonably well as a big iPod Touch but it will not come anywhere near the popularity of the iPhone…unless Apple opens it up. Yeah…I’m sure it’ll get “jailbroken” but that’s yet another niche community and will not effect mass market sales. Right now it’s a chunk of shiny technobling for people to show off and little else.

  25. techtech was a bit quicker than me, but I’m going to reiterate it. You’re wrong from the very first sentence.

    The just-released and much hyped iPad is Apple’s second foray into hawking a tablet computer.

    The iPad isn’t a computer; the whole point of it is that it’s not a computer. The iPad is the beginning of the end of general purpose computing for most people; it’s not for you, which is why it’s absolutely uninteresting to you. You don’t fear and loathe your interactions with computers, so there’s no reason for you to look for a crippled replacement, to trade in your calligraphy set for a safety pencil and circle of paper.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, all those geeky dreams about general adoption of computing have come to nothing. People don’t send PGP-encrypted email; people aren’t competent sysadmins of their home networks. The world’s largest supercomputer is made of rooted desktop boxes, and a significant portion of web users have an understanding of the interface they’re using (never mind the underlying technology) that is magical at best.

    If anything, this move is later than one would expect. General-purpose computing will be for geeks and paranoids, and everyone else will look back on a time when regular people were supposed to administer their own machines as analogous with a time when people hand-cranked their cars.

  26. @Jessica

    There are stylii for the iPhone. I’m sure they’ll work on the iPad.

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ipad+stylus

    The Newton had the same audience as the PalmPilot, only it was bigger and didn’t have Graffiti.

    Silly me, I ordered the 3g version of the iPad without consulting anyone. My daughter asked my why. I said it’s a large format color Kindle. It’s an instant-on web browser.

    It has GPS, and you can get 3g access without a contract, so it’s just the thing for trips. It’s not The Hitchhiker’s Guide, http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/kindle.png, but on a car trip $30.00 will save a lot of frustration.

    The iPad has all this free content created by somebody else.

    You say there will be Android tablets at a lower price. All the Android tablets *I’ve* seen have been much more expensive.

    I too would be glad to see the death of Flash. Adobe may live in Apple’s house, but they’re a nasty roommate.

  27. grendelkhan Says:
    > The iPad is the beginning of the end of general purpose computing for most people; it’s not for you, which is why it’s absolutely uninteresting to you.

    Bingo!

  28. While I would find the iPad fun to play with, I’m waiting for the HP Slate. I have three specific needs for such a device:

    1. Personal Gaming

    This form factor and interface is *PERFECT* for one of my hobbies: turn-based wargaming. I can see immense potential into breathing some life and interest into this gaming genre. The 8-10″ form factor and touch interface would let me do some interesting things with old genre. It would give me one reason to code for it.

    2. Kneeboard Web Surfing

    Enough said.

    3. DIY GPS Chartplotter

    Here’s where the iPad fails me. I have been desperately waiting, searching for a device in exactly this form factor with a touch screen to serve as the basis for a DIY Marine GPS Chartplotter. If any of you are familiar with marine systems, chartplotters are seriously expensive pieces of hardware. Especially in this size and with touch interface ($2500 and up). That’s a significant fraction of the total value of my sailboat!

    Garmin and like can charge for this because of their add-ons and because they own this space. The hardware and software are custom to their devices but it turns out every single piece save for the all-in-one touchscreen is available separately and for free.

    It turns out the actual electronic charts are freely available from NOAA. FOSS programs exist to display them. And those programs can hook into off-the-shelf GPS receivers via serial and USB to provide position information. So with a laptop and supported hardware today, you can do a onboard computer driven chart already.

    What I want is the ability to mount a 8-10″ color screen in my cockpit without the need for exterior connections beyond power and with a touch interface to keep my real estate used to the maximum. Bigger screen means more detail and more accurate position plotting. Place it in a watertight enclosure. Voila! Portable, high resolution chartplotter at a fraction of the cost of an equivalent Garmin, Lowrance, etc.

    Yes, Garmin and the other enhance the basic chart data with their own supplements. But I am willing to sacrifice some of that with prudent navigation in order to save a bundle and simply depend on the basic NOAA charts. I do already in printed form.

    For me, that is the type of “killer app” a touch-enabled tablet device fits into. A specialized niche where the device can be expanded and adapted as needed for a very specific task. I would take the off-the-self FOSS code and a Linux distro and tune it for touch usage in a dedicated role. Done right, I could easy see that being a viable competitor to high-priced Garmin units for budget minded sailors. Then offer the distro to anyone to DIY themselves or on a service basis to build and fit the distro to their own tablet machines and fit them into their boats.

    Since the iPad lacks 1) openness 2) external USB and 3) SD card ports, it cannot help me. The Slate has all of those things and assuming that the touch interface has available drivers for Linux or documented hardware interfaces, I may finally be able to get my dream device without emptying my bank account.

  29. I should amend my original remark.

    I originally said “only some people are going to want one.” On its face, that’s an asinine remark, because it’s true of every product.

    What I meant is more like is “it’s not a type of product that will fill a significant need for most people.” Some of the other commenters have suggested reasons why that is the case.

    This is not quite the same as saying it’s a luxury product (though I think an argument could be made that that is the case). A luxury product may nonetheless be *desired* by everyone, whether or not they could ever afford it. What I’m seeing are significant questions as to whether everyone could find a place in their lives for an iPad, even if they thought the iPad was “cool.”

  30. I’ve said to my colleagues since the unveiling that the iPad is too much iPhone and not enough MacBook.

    I see the iPad as being useful to someone like my mother. Configure it once, provide a quick and easy way to get more content, surf the web (a little), do email, and provide a place to put photos of the grandkids. This way she can extend the life of her desktop (which would then be really just used as a back up mechanism for her iPad) and not have a more bulky laptop to carry around.

    I’m withholding any further judgment about the iPad until I can play with one a little. My initial impression though is that I just don’t exist in the space between my smartphone and my laptop to really justify purchasing one.

    Lack of support for Flash on iPhone/iPad Safari seems to make sense when you view Apple’s ready for iPad page (http://www.apple.com/ipad/ready-for-ipad/). Notice how many times “HTML5″ is used in reference to video. I’m thinking that Apple is betting heavily on HTML5′s video features to bypass the need for Flash.

    If Apple doesn’t figure out how to improve the time to market for independent iPhone/iPad developers (ideally by removing themselves as gatekeeper all together), they’ll have succeeded in creating a market only to lose it to Android powered devices.

    To me, one encouraging aspect in this space is the fact that the two companies poised to dominate these markets seem to be companies that do make more than a passing attempt at web standards compliance.

  31. OK, Matt. Color me ignorant, but is the iPad AGPS worthless without cell towers nearby?

    Otherwise it’s still programmable. Won’t 64GB hold your charts?

    On land that’s not a terrible problem. It would still have a map, and I don’t think I’ve forgotten how to read one of those. iPad GPS would be most useful to me when I have no clue what’s nearby, in a strange city.

  32. …Color me ignorant, but is the iPad AGPS worthless without cell towers nearby?…

    Pardon me for jumping in….but if the iTampon AGPS hardware is anything like my N900 AGPS, then no, you don’t need cell towers.

    It works just like regular GPS, but if cell towers providing a cellular data connection are available, it can use this to contact an AGPS server to do a faster crude location fix.

  33. > A-list blogger Ann Althouse, just two days after buying one, asks what am I doing with an iPad?

    Am I the only one who’s noticing a trend there? (she also voted for Obama and later started wondering what she’s going to do with an Obama the president vs Obama the Wonder Candidate)

  34. FWIW, I don’t agree with you Eric. My thinking is that the iPad actually has a pretty nice niche to work in. Basically it is an entertainment system. You can use it to watch movies, surf the web, check your email (and reply to it), read a book, play games and on and on. However, and this is the killer feature of the iPad, you can do all these things while sitting in your Lazy Boy, or lying in bed, or sitting in coach on an airplane. Laptops are not conducive for that, they really need you to sit at a table.

    There are undoubtedly many killer apps that could be implemented using some of the unique features, and they will be developed because of the developer reality distortion field, and the fact that there exists a category of people called “iPhone millionaires”. But, as it sits it serves the lazy boy function quite effectively.

    There are some serious shortcomings to the device, but the cool factor will buy Apple enough time to fix them in the next rev (just as the many shortcomings of the original iPhone were covered by cool, and fixed in the 3G.)

    However, there is nothing in there that prevents Android from coming and nipping at the tail, just as it is doing for iPhone. Android has not hit critical mass yet, and when it does (which I am pretty sure it will), it will force Apple to change some of its more restrictive policies to compete. I imagine Jobs knows this, but he is setting a gestalt for how people think of these systems, closed, virus free, easy to work with, consistent, that will last beyond any loosening of restrictions.

    Flash is about control, and that is why Jobs will always keep a tight reign on it. However, isn’t there a youtube video viewer in the iPhone? That is what I remember, though i am not an iPerson so I don’t really know.

  35. (she also voted for Obama and later started wondering what she’s going to do with an Obama the president vs Obama the Wonder Candidate)

    Now that the video of American soldiers gunning down unarmed Iraqi civilians has been leaked, she can take solace in what she (and the nation) didn’t vote for (more of).

  36. esr: “No flash”?

    Yeah, and look how that killed the iPhone? Look how YouTube, the “800 pound gorilla” of online video… doesn’t require Flash and already works with the iPad.

    Real video isn’t flash. It’s h264/Mpeg-4. And that works fine.

    As the others have said, the iPad’s an entertainment appliance (that also lets you do a little “work” with iWork). It’s just nothing like a Newton in any meaningful sense, and while I don’t think it’s “magic”, contra Apple’s description, I think it’ll sell like hotcakes, especially after the inevitable price-drop.

    (And so will the inevitable “me-toos” running Palm’s OS or Android.)

  37. Bob:

    Not ignorant. The problem is there is already a ton of code available to render charts and hook into GPS position data. I don’t want to have to port it just to get it to run on the iPad. Furthermore, I am completely dependent on their GPS receiver and I don’t need wi-fi for this application.

    The lack of USB locks me into their receiver and prevents me from extending the system on my own. For example, adding in AIS receiver data. GPS+AIS is a big deal to me. With an open system, I would (theoretically) plug in a compatible AIS receiver via USB, configure the daemon, modify the app to read the AIS data stream and overlay the external ship positions and tracks onto my plot.

    Right now, that feature using existing plotter and receivers even in a 5 inch screen size, no touch with a combination VHF/AIS receiver is pushing $1000. To do it on a 8-10″ screen, not even with touch ability is well north of $3000. With the right touch screen tablet, an off-the-shelf GPS receiver and serial interface to the AIS receiver, I’d get the $3000 ($4000-$5000 with touch) capability for the 5 inch price and have more options to boot.

    To me, the iPad is merely the hardware that enables me to mix-and-match feature sets. I don’t want to be locked in. I want to be able to use the hardware as I see fit and right now they are preventing me. I’d have to build my charting app using their tools, their rules and be subject to their approval. If I want AIS or integration into other instruments, I need to build hardware interfaces to use the iPad info port and go through the same process as the application and hope for approval. Plus obtain the hardware development license beforehand.

    And I’m PAYING for this privilege. To use my own hardware that I’ve already paid for.

    I like the touch interface on the iPhone/iPad (I own an iPod Touch) but it is the restrictions on what I can do with my own property that grate on me. I want to be able to write my own software, grab the bits that already exist, put my own OS on the device and just play and tweak until I’m happy. Apple’s development model doesn’t work for me.

    HP’s Slate does because HP doesn’t care what you do with the hardware once you’ve bought it. Same goes for most commodity PC hardware vendors like Asus, MSI and so on.

    It’s coming. $500 is the golden number. Once a Linux compatible tablet device is available, I will be buying it and start building my system.

  38. Matt,

    I can’t remember if I read about it here or on the 9fans ML, but either way… you might be interested in this neat little device: http://www.alwaysinnovating.com/

    It’s a slightly-bulkier-than-iPad tablet with removable keyboard and built to specifically support Linux. Demand for the little beastie has it at a 2 month backlog, unfortunately.

    HP’s device looks nice too, whatever it ends up being. I’d rather not pay the MS tax though…

  39. Flash is a deal killer as pretty much ANYTHING that you get via the AppStore could be delivered via Flash.

    Since you clearly know nothing about this, let me inform you: Adobe has a Flash-to-machine-code compiler that can make native-looking, App-Store-compliant binaries. Nobody uses it. It’s lousy technology, and the user experience, at current CPU speeds, is third-rate. (Where native Cocoa apps are first-rate and Javascript apps in WebKit are second-rate.)

    But go on ranting, don’t let me stop you. Here, have a sandwich-board.

    You can explain the absence of Flash for various technical and political reasons without invoking pure eeeeeevil:

    1) Flash is, according to Apple (from crash reporter stats, presumably), the #1 cause of crashes on Mac OS.

    2) Unlike with Mac OS, Apple controls the entire software stack on the iPhone OS. Thus, no external company can keep them from meeting their fastidious quality standards.

    3) Flash is just too slow for current mobile devices.

    And so on. (There’s an essay about this on daringfireball.net, but I can’t be bothered to find it.)

    Think back to 1998. Now think about floppy drives. Good riddance, Flash.

    If Apple really just wanted to stretch their tentacles of control to wrap around your device, they wouldn’t be putting so much money into making WebKit an increasingly capable application runtime. (Speaking of which, thanks for funding a kickass open-source web renderer, Apple.)

    One last thing about Flash: You really don’t want to play existing Flash games on an iPhone or iPad. They’re designed for a completely different input device. They won’t work well. Games more than anything are deeply linked to input devices.

    The Slate has all of those things and assuming that the touch interface has available drivers for Linux or documented hardware interfaces, I may finally be able to get my dream device without emptying my bank account.

    Cool!

  40. Matt:

    Thanks for the benefit of the doubt.

    I didn’t realize making the GPS chart plotter a product was quite so important to you.

    The iPad will be *my* first Apple product. I’m a PC programmer since the Compaq Portable. I’ve been a Windows programmer since the Petzold book.

    My wife is on her second iPhone. She loves it. The rumors of a 4G iPhone this summer have me thinking “oops!” *again*.

    I suppose I could have waited for a Slate.

    I’m trying to decide if I should should tool up for a jump to a new platform. I have this funny feeling .NET development tools will soon be available for Nexus1, iPad/iPhone/iTouch, and WinPhone7.

    Dan:

    Thanks for the info. I looked up AGPS but it wasn’t clear to me if the iPhone/iPad had AGPS or cell tower based pseudo GPS.

    Catherine Raymond:

    The WiFi connection problem is software. My wife had trouble with her iPhone after the latest OS update. We finally got it working. I still don’t know if what I did fixed it. She doesn’t normally let me play with her iPhone. They probably changed a low level data structure.

  41. I think many people are underestimating how much of a relief, for most people, it is for computer administrative debris to be removed. Even if the tablet form-factor is a bust, the iPhone OS is going to expand into more and more roles, because unlike Android, Mac OS, or anything else out there, it takes the next step toward being a hassle-free, concept-free OS.

    It is said that the iPad doesn’t replace either a smartphone or a laptop. However, I think that for many, the combination of desktop+iPad can replace their laptop. Personally, I get most serious computer work done at a desk. At a desk, a desktop is better ergonomically and economically than a laptop. You can get an iMac and an iPad for less than I payed for my 15″ MBP a few years ago.

  42. Matt Says:
    > Since the iPad lacks … 2) external USB

    I’m not sure if you and ESR already know this, but the iPad (and iPhone) come with a USB cable that plugs into the proprietary port and is used for both data and for charging. You can access a secure directory in the OS/X filesystem from any computer just as you would with any USB storage device such as a digital camera.

    Does anyone here know if iPad or iPhone apps can communicate over the USB cable with arbitrary software on other computers?

  43. The “whole iPad is not a computer” attitude is exactly why the iPad will fail.

    The iPad is a computer, no matter what smoke-and-mirrors tricks exist to make it appear to be not so. And as such, no matter how tight Apple keeps its walled garden, unless it is prepared to close off all third-party hardware and software, it will have the same problems as any other computer. Only, even better, the consumer won’t have any way of fixing it at all.

    Furthermore, it won’t do well with the computer illiterate techno-angst crowd (those who “dread every action they take with a computer” as someone else said) because the iPad will do nothing to soothe those people. Those people aren’t buying iPhones, either, for the same reasons: anything with a screen scares the living bejeezes out of them. Just watching some of those people at the self-checkout at the supermarket is good for hours of entertainment. Much of that crowd can’t even figure out how to turn on their TV. I know one woman who’s so bad off, she just has her son turn on the TV because the remote control stumps her. (I couldn’t even make this stuff up if I tried.)

  44. techtech:

    I’m not sure if you and ESR already know this, but the iPad (and iPhone) come with a USB cable that plugs into the proprietary port and is used for both data and for charging. You can access a secure directory in the OS/X filesystem from any computer just as you would with any USB storage device such as a digital camera.

    Does anyone here know if iPad or iPhone apps can communicate over the USB cable with arbitrary software on other computers?

    Yup, I know. And the answer to your second question is: No. I cannot plug an arbitrary USB device into it and be able to talk to the way I can with a PC. And since I can’t write drivers to talk to the device even if the iPad sees something there because Apple controls the stack, I’m out of luck.

    The only way I can connect such devices to the iPad/iPhone is via the info port for which I need a hardware development license and sign an NDA. And then submit the hardware for evaluation and approval by Apple before I can offer it for sale. So yes, I could build a generic USB port but I wouldn’t be able to hook anything up to it other than the devices Apple approves because the hardware license also licenses the ability to write driver code and Apple gets the final say on what can go into it.

    Same goes for interpreted languages. Even if I had an application that already did what I wanted but it was written in Lisp, Python, Ruby, etc, I wouldn’t be able to load those applications because Apple (so far) has refused to approve bytecode and code interpreters as applications. It’s native Objective C (or straight C) using their Dev Tools and that’s it.

  45. it will have the same problems as any other computer

    I have *never* heard of somebody having technical problems with an iPhone. (Besides busted hardware, obviously.)

    Those people aren’t buying iPhones, either, for the same reasons

    Yes they are. My technophobe grandfather hates his PC but loves his iPhone. Just look at the sales numbers.

    Just watching some of those people at the self-checkout at the supermarket is good for hours of entertainment.

    Those self-checkout machines are the epitome of rage-inducing UI antidesign. I have seen good checkout machines at a public library, which were a breeze to use. But that’s a simpler problem. Now, if Apple–or even Microsoft!–made a self-checkout machine, we’d have less checkout rage.

    I know one woman who’s so bad off, she just has her son turn on the TV because the remote control stumps her.

    That’s my mother, literally. I don’t know how she manages now that the kids are moved out. But she gets by on a Mac and loves her iPhone. This is because the UIs are not, again, rage-inducing.

  46. > Good summary of the anti-iPad case at 13 Glaring iPad Shortcomings.

    Come on. The iPad is “awkward”? How can any tablet, which is essentially a featureless rectangular shape, be “awkward”? A laptop is surely no less awkward when closed and will often be more awkward when open, say when you are sitting in a car or on an airplane.

    It’s heavy at 1.5 lbs? My copy of “The Art of UNIX Programming” (which is not a large book) weighs over a pound, and I’ve read that book more than once and have never thought of it’s weight until this link made me start wondering what a typical book would weigh.

    No multitasking? True, but Apple is also in the news this week for announcing the 4.0 version of their OS which will enable iPhone and iPad multitasking.

    “Forget reading in the sun?” True, but also true of any laptop or LCD screen viewed in the sun. The only product out there that will benefit from this shortcoming of the iPad is the Kindle, and the Kindle is a one-trick pony whereas the iPad can run a wide selection of software and is in full color.

    I could go on but you get the point.

    I do see how fingerprints could be a problem. That’s going to be a general drawback of all touchscreen devices, not limited to the iPad and iPhone. I do prefer matte finishes to glossy finishes (which have glare problems). Apple offers a matte option for a price on their MacBooks. Maybe they will do the same for the iPad. For some reason the vast majority of people like glossy finishes and Apple caters to that market. The glossy finish and the matching glare is actually a plus from most people’s point of view and will contribute to the device’s success. (It makes the colors look more vibrant.)

    I do see how the slipperiness could be a problem. I have a nice rubber cover for my iPhone and so have totally avoided the issue with that device. I could see some people like me buying stick-on rubber strips for the iPad. A real issue, but not a big one and easily corrected.

  47. One more.

    Furthermore, it won’t do well with the computer illiterate techno-angst crowd (those who “dread every action they take with a computer” as someone else said) because the iPad will do nothing to soothe those people.

    It’s not about soothing; the problem isn’t phobia. It’s real, genuine usability problems that haunt every existing computing system.

  48. Jeff Read : Dan, how is that good?

    Oh don’t be so coy, Jeff. I’m pretty damned sure that you know full well why people like myself view such a decision as a victory for liberty.

    The correct manner to object to restrictions is to pursue the legal implications of the lawful Terms & Conditions of your service.

    You’ll probably lose. Rightfully so.

    You have no right to unfettered TCP/IP access to the Internet via others’ infrastructure.

  49. My Line6 Pod (Guitar Effects Processor, Digital Amplifier Simulator, in short Swiss Army Knife for the guitar player) connects to PCs via USB. Line6 has software for Windows and MacOS to remotely control/configure the device, download sound configurations (“tones”) from the internet and load them into the device, make backups and so on.

    Something like the iPad could be the perfect on-stage companion, being much smaller than a notebook.

    But not at 500$. Probably at 150$. Probably.
    And only with working SW, which I don’t see at the moment. Companies like Line6 will see no reason to port their SW to a niche system. An iPad with MacOS would make infinitely more sense for me.

  50. An iPad with MacOS would make infinitely more sense for me.

    And, presumably, an Intel CPU since you’re probably not interested in source, nor is Line6 interested in supplying it.

    In other words, you want one of these. Which is okay. Horses for courses and that.

  51. I see several excellent opportunities for the iPad, particularly in vertical markets. If you compare it to any of the single-board computers sold for embedded control applications, it’s shockingly cheap for the power and capacity it provides. The economies of scale for a device built in the millions versus devices built in hundred-lots is a great advantage.

    For consumer applications, I’m expecting a wave of apps that span the Mac, the iPad and the iPhone. Apple has just barely scratched the surface of this with their iPhone remote control apps for Keynote and iTunes.

    Something I’d like to do with the iPad right now, is pair it with a really good mic, and use it as an audio waveform monitor for adjusting concert-hall acoustics.

  52. Morgan Greywolf: The iPad is a computer, no matter what smoke-and-mirrors tricks exist to make it appear to be not so. And as such, no matter how tight Apple keeps its walled garden, unless it is prepared to close off all third-party hardware and software, it will have the same problems as any other computer. Only, even better, the consumer won’t have any way of fixing it at all.

    No; you’re wrong. The iPad, much like a video game console, trades restricted functionality and a lack of extensibility for a predictable user experience. The iPad is a computer in much the same way that a SNES is. Sure, you’ll be able to void your warranty and break it, but if you do, it will be your fault. For users who don’t tinker (which is to say, pretty much nobody here), the device can be made to run almost flawlessly, which is what people want. It’s that whole “Just Works” thing.

    A general-purpose computer isn’t just a pile of hardware; it’s a pile of hardware without a restraining bolt on it. The iPad isn’t a general-purpose computer.

  53. @grendelkhan and David McCabe:

    Nope, no problems with the iPhone here… o_O

    Interesting how you pick SNES and not Xbox, Xbox 360 or PS3, all of which would immediately invalidate your point.

    The difference between an iPad and an SNES is that the SNES is not intended to behave like a computer, at least not in a way meaningful to common end-users. It doesn’t connect to the Internet (like the aforementioned other game consoles), it doesn’t support any sort of useful networking at all. But the iPad does connect and that’s the game changer right there. Are you really willing to bet that iPad’s OS and mobile browser aren’t exploitable somehow?

    And, of course, all bets are off if Microsoft ports Office to the iPad. (Not happening RSN, but Microsoft won’t officially rule it out altogether either. Which usually means they’re thinking about it, but don’t have a strategy yet.)

    BTW–have any of you Apple fanboys (Jeff Read, I’m looking at you) taken a closer look at desktop Linux distros recently? Apple’s pretty good at inventing user interfaces, but they aren’t the only ones. I’m seeing good things in usability these days from the open source community, and I don’t just mean Compiz and Cairo Dock. Many projects, particularly GNOME and Freedesktop.org, are paying much closer attention to usability and things really are whipping into shape nicely.

  54. BTW–have any of you Apple fanboys (Jeff Read, I’m looking at you) taken a closer look at desktop Linux distros recently?

    I use Linux all the time, so yeah. I don’t even use a Mac now, though I used to. Still, Apple is the only company out there who consistently produces the right thing from a UI/UX perspective; much like Microsoft, inasmuch as the Linux community got shit together, UI-wise, it did so by copying Apple. In addition, Linux interfaces have become vastly more polished, but there are still plenty of holes and fiddly bits that make basic shit (like getting sound or wifi working) a krelboyne-only affair. And even krelboynes don’t want to spend a lot of time configuring or maintaining their boxes; hence the giant sucking sound of scientists and even developers abandoning their trusty Unix machines for Macs, which are still Unix machines, just much nicer.

    The biggest UI news I heard recently was Ubuntu’s controversial decision to move the window titlebar buttons.

    To the left.

    Where they’d been on Mac OS X since 10 years ago. Way to break new ground in UI design, guys. At least the horrid “Windows XP got pissed and shit on” theme is gone.

  55. Ars Technica seems to agree with me.

    But for today: can the iPad replace a netbook or a laptop? For some of you hardcore users, probably not. For those who use netbooks as a lightweight way to browse the Web, chat a bit, and do some light work: yes, it can. Does the iPad make a good weekending/vacationing computer? Sure. The way the iPad is designed, you are less likely to get sucked into doing work or accidentally wasting away hours of your life online than you would on a “normal” computer, but it’s mostly capable enough so that you can do some work when necessary. Is the iPad easy and foolproof enough for your technologically challenged family member? Yes, if that person has at least $500 to burn. Does it make a good e-book reader? Depends on your definition of “good.” Readers that use e-ink (such as the Kindle) may still be better in some situations, but for gadget consolidation’s sake, the iPad as an e-reader is decent enough, even for those of us with sensitive eyes.

    The phrase “those who use netbooks as a lightweight way to browse the Web, chat a bit, and do some light work” … is the whole world! Except for those rare few of us who are interested in computer innards.

    I’m amazed by the anti-iPad rage circulating in the blogosphere right now. What is it about otherwise smart people that makes them love to jump on a bandwagon and vilify something popular? Sure, a lot of average and below-average people just ran out and foolishly overpaid for an iPad that will sell at half of the launch price in six months or a year. (The original iPhone was $599, IIRC, and today a superior model is available for about $100).

    What about the quality of the device itself? The “smart” people on the ‘net are reacting with a negativity that is equally foolish. In a year we will look back and calmly realize that the iPad is a pretty good laptop replacement for most people. Touchscreens are the future, and I hope Google hurries up and releases an iPad competitor, or we all will be wearing Apple uniforms a few decades from now.

  56. @jsk. Jesus… at first blush thats pretty darn sweet looking and the price point had me forcing myself to click away to avoid buying.

    Thanks for linking.

  57. One other thing: I’m not really an Apple fanboy. I don’t like the closed approach. But I acknowledge that it’s the way things will be done in the future. Apple is pretty much the sole determiner of how we interact with computing devices day-to-day. Not even Microsoft, and certainly not the OSS community.

    And before you respond with “but we invented the Web!!!1″ remember: WorldWideWeb was originally developed on, inspired by, and designed to integrate with Steve Jobs’s NeXT workstation.

  58. > Now that the video of American soldiers gunning down unarmed Iraqi civilians has been leaked, she can take solace in what she (and the nation) didn’t vote for (more of).

    It is important to avoid reflexively believing all the bigotted anti-military ignorance that hits the intertubes. Especially since electing Obama caused no change to the military policies in question. In fact, it caused those military policies to be more rigourously applied in the Afghanistan/Pakistan military theater.

    In addition electing Obama seems to have caused a particularly stupid estrangement with our Afghan allies.

    Yours,
    Tom

  59. Wouldn’t the iPad benefit from an app that works like ‘GoToMyPC.com’? That way it could run PC software. How about an app that works like ‘GoToMyMac.com’? And while we are at it, an app that browses Flash websites – but where the Flash actually runs on another machine and the iPad is only used for screen and input.

    Yours,
    Tom

  60. I’ve actually run Flash through remote display before.

    It sucks.

    Really, really sucks.

  61. techtech, grendelkhan, and Jeff Read get the iPad.

    To elaborate on what David McCabe said, many (most?) existing Flash games wouldn’t work on an iPhone or iPad anyway. In a multitouch interface, there is no hover state, and touching the screen means a click (mousedown) or a dragging action.

    In any case, open source folks should be cheering Apple’s war on Flash, because it benefits HTML5.

    Apple can always open up the iPad later on. Recall that at first third-party iPhone developers were restricted to web apps.

    Morgan Greywolf, you’ve made insightful comments on other topics, but I think you’re way off when it comes to Apple. I was too busy to comment at the time, but in a thread last month you described the App Store as an “epic fail.” Really? It’s only the most success online-only software store ever, with 150,000 apps (including free and shareware) and billions of downloads. I’d enjoy an “epic fail” like that on my resume.

    In sum: the iPad will be a success, similar to the iPhone or even more so. Future versions will address many of the current complaints. The iBookstore will give publishers a purely digital revenue stream they don’t have now. It may not be the micropayment system I want, but I wouldn’t be surprised if independent writers will be selling articles or stories for $.99 or less. People will use iPads in many unexpected ways. It will do for tablets what the iPod did for MP3 players. In a few years you will see them or their descendants (Apple or not) everywhere.

  62. Ajay, because while other vendors may make the object, Apple makes it popular, and then more companies dive in to ride on that popularity. Usually, that involves copying some of the things that made Apple’s product different, such as form factor and interface.

    I wouldn’t say that products existing before the iPad’s reveal are knockoffs, and I wouldn’t say that products existing after the reveal, but with different form factors and interfaces, are knockoffs. That still leaves the products that do copy the interface and form factor; the ‘knockoff’ wave I was mentioning seeks to get in on the market by imitation, and that can’t include products that existed prior to the iPad, or which don’t imitate its interface.

  63. >>>[The Newton] was greeted with hosannahs by rapturous Apple fans and a bedazzled trade press back in 1992 – but who remembers it today?<<<

    Eat up Martha. ;-)

  64. Nope, no problems with the iPhone here… o_O

    That’s a prank app running on a jailbroken iPhone.

  65. Eat up Martha. ;-)

    The only word early Newtons could reliably recognize was, in fact, “Newton”. The handwriting recognition improved drastically with later releases, but the damage was done.

    But that was Sculley’s Apple. Under Steve’s Apple, the policy is, it works 100% or it’s not there. For example, multitasking on the iPhone/iPad: it was missing in early releases and rightly so; having many apps running at the same time would tax the CPU and drain the battery. “Multitasking” in iPhone OS 4.0 is limited to performing certain tasks in the background, like getting GPS or playing back audio; coupled with a “fast switch” procedure that still only lets one app be fully active at a time. It’s precisely The Right Thing for this kind of platform.

  66. @Jeff Read:

    Line6 don’t have a problem supporting non-Intel Hardware. They rather have a problem supporting other systems.
    At the moment, I run their SW on an old PowerMac G4.

    Sidenote:
    Judging from the forums, there are more problems with Line6 SW when a new Windows version comes out; new versions of MacOs usually don’t cause that much grief.

  67. “Those magazines are dead because they have no good writers or content. No way is Time worth $5 a month.”

    I sure hope so. I’d hate to think that Time and Newsweek would grow in popularity by taking advantage of moving to the web and specialized web devices.

  68. I don’t know if the iPad will succeed or not. If it doesn’t I hope some Surface/touch interface does.

    Okay… I visited Althouse (not something I’d normally do — makes we wonder who composes lists of “A-list” bloggers).

    Althouse finds the iPad isn’t useful because she writes all the time; even in bed. Okay. It’s not for her. No touch interface could be (IMHO) useful for her, because no touch interface can substitute for the improved typewriter called a “computer.”

    I’m in a similar situation. I type a lot every day for programming and writing. Unlike Althouse, after hours and hours of typing, I need a break. I’d like to read the events of the day. The last thing I need to be sitting in front of my computer in the same position in which I’ve spent hours working.

    I don’t see your parallel to the Newton, either. The Newton tried to use a technology that’s impossible (then and now): handwriting recognition. Which part of the iPad uses an impossible technology?

    “It can’t replace even a netbook” Already has, for me.

    “can’t multitask” Not that much of a drawback for me, but I think a little patience will fix that.

    “no USB port” Why would I need one again?

    “limited on-board storage” Like everything else. I see way too many alleged portable computers sold with hard drives less than 1TB in size. I’ve had to upgrade every single one of these useless devices. (Yes, I can’t upgrade the iPad — but I’m one of the few people I know who will operate on his laptop.)

    “It can’t replace my cellphone or a conventional PDA” Yup. Not sure it’s supposed to replace a cellphone. I’ve never found PDAs useful.

    “It can’t replace a dedicated e-reader” Already has, for me.

    “battery life too short” Ten hours is too short? It’s like that useless netbook Dell Inspirion Mini 10; which is noted for its long-lived battery.

    “If it’s designed as a browser appliance, the absence of Flash support is a pretty serious hole below that waterline.” Perhaps. I say it’s an okay design decision (I use a Flash blocker when I’m using Firefox on my desktop computer), but then I don’t play Farmville. I wouldn’t give an iPad to a heavy Facebook user.

    * * *

    “taken a closer look at desktop Linux distros recently? ”

    I build my own Linux boxes. I’ve read every year for 10 years about Linux on the desktop. Wasn’t true then; isn’t true now; won’t be true in the near future. I’ve seen astrology columns with better predictions. (Ok, that last bit was probably over the top–Linux is actually useful.)

    * * *

    This comment at Althouse I thought was amusing:

    “I will use a 2lb netbook running all the windows apps I have used for years”

    Good for him. My 2+lb AMD 64 that’s five years old won’t run all the windows apps I’ve used for years. Not any speed I’d find useful.

    * * *

    ” what a typical book would weigh.”

    I weighed a bunch of books in my house. Results:
    paperbacks, one-sixth to one-fourth the iPad’s weight;
    softbounds, one-half to almost equal to the iPad’s weight;
    hardbacks, equal up to three times the iPad’s weight;*
    dictionaries… LOL, don’t even try to read the one I own in bed…

    * Lord of the Rings, the Houghton single-volume edition, if you’re curious.

  69. Hard drive less than 1 TB is useless? What are they, editing Avatar on those laptops?

  70. Jeff Read says:

    >>> I wonder if anyone who devotes a lot of breath to dissing the iPad has seen Star Trek: TNG or later and noted what Starfleet officers tend to carry around with them, in addition to their communicator and phaser? Similar devices were on display in Avatar.

    The iPad is pretty much a SF wet dream come true.

    Good point there Jeff. When I saw the IPad I immediately thought of Captain Kirk’s datapad that the yeoman would hand him to sign.
    God, how much stuff is dreamed of and designed because someone wanted a gadget they saw on Star Trek? It’s funny and endearing when you think about it.

  71. So, pretty big news from Apple yesterday.

    1) Upcoming iPhone OS 4 includes, as predicted, limited multitasking designed to avoid the need for fiddling. Also an advertising network, and some kind of leaderboard and hookup system for games.

    2) The license agreement for the new SDK bans non-C compilers like the aforementioned Flash compiler. While one could make an argument about quality control, this is most clearly a move to control the platform and lock in developers.

  72. This just in: Apple specifies that only C, C++, and Objective-C programs are allowable, and no compiling down to C either. Also, you must link directly against the Cocoa touch libraries and cannot abstract them to another layer which may have other back ends. This denies James Long his capability to write iPhone games in Scheme, as well as my capability to write iPhone games with my own SpriteCore library. (It’s Objective-C, but it may count as middleware since it wraps the display and input capabilities of different devices and window systems in a hardware abstraction layer).

    It’s pissing off a lot of developers. Let’s see if it has any real impact on the number of high-quality apps that come out from good people.

  73. Here is a question for all you prognosticators out there. From what I have read, Android sales are fast approaching iPhone sales. See Here I understand that is sales rate, not installed base, but cell phones turn over in about 12 months, so that distinction disappears pretty quickly.

    Assuming then that Android numbers are in the same ballpark as iPhone why is it that lots of people are making lots of money off iPhone Apps, and almost nobody is making anything off Android apps? What is the difference, and will it change?

  74. >why is it that lots of people are making lots of money off iPhone Apps, and almost nobody is making anything off Android apps?

    I don’t know.

    I do know that when Android sales overtake iPhone sales, I’m going to laugh my ass off and quote their juiciest, stupidest bits of idolatry right back at the Apple fanboys.

  75. > why is it that lots of people are making lots of money off iPhone Apps, and almost nobody is making anything off Android apps

    Are we sure this is true?

    Yours,
    Tom

  76. > >why is it that lots of people are making lots of money off iPhone Apps, and almost nobody is making anything off Android apps?

    I don’t know.

    I don’t really know either but I bet I can hazard a guess.

    People buying the Android are a bunch of freetards who hate to spend money compared to the more free spending Iphone users.

    And I bet there is a larger installed base of IPhone users.

  77. Jessica, that article talks about “units shipped,” which sounds different from a “sales rate.” Shipped units don’t necessarily sell, or stay sold.

  78. Darrencardinal Says:
    > People buying the Android are a bunch of freetards

    I think this is an interesting theory Darren, however, although Android is free (as in beer), that is not readily apparent to the end user who, AFAIK, spends pretty much the same on the original handset and service as an iPhone user (give or take.) I think if you were comparing the Mac software market to the Linux market that would be a fair comment (which is to say, Linux users are used to not paying for software), but it doesn’t seem applicable in this market.

    Ajay Says:
    > Almost 99% of app downloads on Android are estimated to be free,

    I think this is an interesting point. According to this only about 20-30% of iPhone apps are free. That is a significant difference. Why? One might wonder what the direction of cause and effect is? Is it the lack of sales of Android Apps that means that only free apps for self satisfaction are viable? Is there something about Android (such as the attraction to OSS people for example) that is more encouraging to free applications? Is the fact that the Android store is so far inferior to the iPhone store, and so limited geographically something to do with it? Or is there something else causing this?

    In terms of the OSS connection, correct me if I am wrong but OSS is not about giving work away for free, but it is rather about making work open, so that people can see, modify, enhance and so forth applications. So this seems out of step. Android apps are free as in beer, not free as in speech, to the best of my understanding. Or are many of these apps actually open source and I just don’t know about it?

    In regards to comparing the size: I don’t think the size of the installed base is the same, probably iPhone is at least 2x as large. However, people change their phones rapidly, I think the average life is less than 12 months. So sales rate quickly overwhelms established base. The fact that Android is going on more and more handsets suggests that more a of a Windows type model is in play. And I wonder if Steve remembers the lessons of Windows 3.0?

  79. >In terms of the OSS connection, correct me if I am wrong but OSS is not about giving work away for free, but it is rather about making work open, so that people can see, modify, enhance and so forth applications.

    That is correct.

    >Or are many of these apps actually open source and I just don’t know about it?

    Oddly enough, I don’t know how many Android apps are open-source either. This article, App Explosion Challenges Apple, has some interesting figures: about 27K Android apps vs. about 160K iPhone apps, and 57% of Android apps are free. Doesn’t say hw many are open source.

    It also says that Android app submissions are skyrocketing. Might be that developers are starting to bail on the iPhone to where they think the device volume is going to be in the future. I think we can expect Apple’s latest spasm of control-freakiness about development tools to accelerate this.

    It’s facinating to watch. Android is executing what looks in some ways like a classic disruption-from-below on the iPhone. Successfully.

  80. esr Says:
    > 27K Android apps vs. about 160K iPhone apps,

    Just one comment on this. There is some strange math here. In this case 27,000 == 160,000. The extra gazillion apps are the far end of the long tail, and are to all intents and purposes completely irrelevant. There are probably less that 1,000 or so apps that are actually significant (and that make any money), and they are probably available on both platforms. Having 50,000 extra apps that nobody uses isn’t important at all. Except of course, for bragging rights. I also wonder how many of those 1,000 significant apps are free apps? The question I guess I have is this: is the android environment sufficiently attractive to developers that they are willing to invest? Or alternatively, is an OSS reward system in place to reward app developers there?

    From what I have heard, one of the frustrations with Android is the Google doesn’t quite seem to know what they want to do with it, and so they don’t seem to have the same aggressive developer support that Apple provides. However, that is just hearsay, and also, before someone complains, I picked the number 1,000 as a SWAG — with more emphasis on the WA than the S.

    FWIW, I don’t develop apps for either platform, but I am curious to know if Android can beat out Apple in this sense. My concern is more that the future platform for a lot of computing seems to be ending up in even more restrictive walls that is presently the case. Who would ever have called Bill Gates the paragon of openness.

    (BTW, as an aside, who the heck does MS have doing their advertising these days? I am curious if anyone is aware of a more lame set of advertising than the ridiculous twaddle they are using to push Windows 7. I keep expecting Balmer to jump up and shout “April Fool!!!”)

  81. Assuming then that Android numbers are in the same ballpark as iPhone why is it that lots of people are making lots of money off iPhone Apps, and almost nobody is making anything off Android apps?

    Why is it commonplace to make decent money developing and selling a small Macintosh app that fulfills an unexpected, never-before-thought-of need yet this is virtually unheard of under Linux? Because Apple platforms have a functioning software economy around them. Darrencardinal is right: the freetards have debased the economic expectations surrounding Linux to the point where everybody expects everything to be free.

  82. Jess, you are comparing apples to oranges when you compare the percentage of apps downloads that were free on Android to the percentage of apps available for free on iPhone. I looked for the former number on iPhone but the best I was available to find was this 2008 estimate that 91% of iPhone downloads were free. Looks like the platforms aren’t that different after all, ;) everybody loves free. As for the relative revenue numbers, I don’t know that there is good public data but AdMob estimated the iPhone app revenue to be 40 times bigger than Android last year. This android app developer hasn’t sold too well and he provides some guesses as to why.

  83. # Jeff Read Says:
    > Darrencardinal is right: the freetards have debased
    > the economic expectations surrounding Linux to the
    > point where everybody expects everything to be free.

    But from the POV of the user Android is no more Linux than TiVo is Linux. Android is de novo, so how come it got those sorts of expectations attached, if such a sentiment is even true?

  84. The only word early Newtons could reliably recognize was, in fact, “Newton”.

    That’s not remotely true. What is true is that the very first Newton sold shipped with a bug, an accidental software misconfiguration, such that it didn’t recognize non-dictionary words. At all. If you wrote something that wasn’t in its dictionary such as, say, your own last name…it was likely to return the nearest match that actually was in the dictionary which might be something quite different than what you wrote. This problem could be fixed by going into preferences and unchecking the “only allow dictionary words” checkbox, if you knew to do that.

    Unfortunately, the product had been overhyped and got the same ridiculous flurry of publicity on introduction that many Apple products do. Since the recognition was a flashy feature that bug gave the product a black eye while it was in the media spotlight, even if it the main issue did get fixed in the very next minor software upgrade and all later versions.

    The handwriting recognition improved drastically with later releases, but the damage was done.

    This is true. I could buy an iPad in a heartbeat if it had a stylus and something resembling the Newton Notepad application in the form it shipped on the MessagePad 2000. Between the new printed recognizer, the editing gestures, and the ability to mix recognized with ink text, that is still the best thing I’ve ever seen for general notetaking.

    Honestly, my biggest complaint about the iPhone/iPad is that it is *much harder to program for* than the Newton was. NewtonScript was elegant; the Newton Toolkit was discoverable. Objective C is ugly and wordy and the Interface Builder is a mess. Developing for the iPhone was so unpleasant that I stopped after shipping one application – it’s just not *fun*. I had high hopes for Corona, the Lua-based development environment. What really sucks about Apple banning alternative development environments is that they’ll feel less competitive pressure to improve their toolchain.

  85. If you have an iPad, check out The Guardian’s Eyewitness app. Elegant full-screen photojournalism gallery, looks stunning on iPad’s screen.

  86. But from the POV of the user Android is no more Linux than TiVo is Linux. Android is de novo, so how come it got those sorts of expectations attached, if such a sentiment is even true?

    I don’t know. Maybe these expectations will change when/if more “average users” buy Android phones. But for the past year or so they’ve been mainly toys for techies. Part of that is the UX on Android is not quite “there” like it is on the iPhone. It’s yet another in a long series of “close, but no cigar” open-source UIs (which include KDE and GNOME).

    If you have a user base with disposable income, no technical sophistication, no interest in technical sophistication, that’s the sweet spot from a marketing perspective. You can sell them ease and continuity which the techie user base just doesn’t care about.

  87. Jeff Read Says:
    > But for the past year or so they’ve been mainly toys for techies.

    They are shipping 5-6 million a quarter. That is a lot of techies, don’t you think?

  88. >[Android is] shipping 5-6 million a quarter. That is a lot of techies, don’t you think?

    Quite. Jeff Read is dead wrong about this. Not for the first time, nor for the last.

    The fact that the two most dedicated Apple fans I know face to face are now carrying Nexus Ones is, I think, a harbinger. The fall of the iPhone has already begun.

  89. I had high hopes for Corona, the Lua-based development environment. What really sucks about Apple banning alternative development environments is that they’ll feel less competitive pressure to improve their toolchain.

    And, Gods willing, wind up in the same ghetto that Symbian is soon to occupy.

    One of the great advantages of developing Cocoa on the Mac is that it is quick, easy, and — yes — fun to produce an application that looks and works great. If Apple engages in massive self-foot-shooting by taking this away from the iPhone/iPad then these applications deserve to be beleaguered by the developer community.

  90. And even krelboynes don’t want to spend a lot of time configuring or maintaining their boxes; hence the giant sucking sound of scientists and even developers abandoning their trusty Unix machines for Macs, which are still Unix machines, just much nicer.

    That article was dated in 2005. Here is a more recent article from the same site.

    For more lulz, read this article.

  91. Wow, what is this I read, Jeff Read damning Apple? :) Wonder of wonders, or did he just get Corona mixed up with Cocoa? Phil, that gamehaxe link is hilarious. :D I have to wonder with this recent move, that has become almost a parody of typical Apple overreaching, has Jobs become deranged by his illness? I read people remarking that he’s gone too far this time and that many others inside Apple also likely disagree with this move. At what point do they cut him off, as happens to all founders, and move on?

  92. esr says:
    >>[Android is] shipping 5-6 million a quarter. That is a lot of techies, don’t you think?
    >Quite. Jeff Read is dead wrong about this. Not for the first time, nor for the last.
    >
    >The fact that the two most dedicated Apple fans I know face to face are now carrying Nexus Ones is, I think, a >harbinger. The fall of the iPhone has already begun.

    I have to disagree. I just don't think Google is as interested in phones as Apple is. Apple cares about phones the way Google cares about search.
    Once again, we see a pattern here where the closed source world innovates something, and now an open source alternative is going to surpass it. Maybe.
    And two people switching to the Nexus is an extremely small sample size to base any kind of conclusion on, don't you think?
    BTW, what is the difference between an Android phone and a Nexus One? I and I am sure a lot of people are a little foggy on that.

    And Jeebus Christ I hope they don't try to show Steve the door. We need a guy with a reality distortion field, like some kind of supervillain. A guy like him is of incalculable value and impossible to replace. If they do, I'm dumping my stock.
    It did not work out too well when they fired him the first time.

  93. >For more lulz, read this article.

    I’m now going to be obnoxious by pointing out that I predicted recently that Apple would shoot itself in the foot in this sort of way. Go reread this with particular attention to my remarks about the control game vs. the ubiquity game.

  94. >I just don’t think Google is as interested in phones as Apple is.

    I think you’re mistaken. I’ve written before about why Android is central to Google’s bid to shape the future in ways that boost the revenue it can collect from Internet advertising. Go reread – and notice where I said “Now, combine these two visions and you’ll understand why Google is doing Android. Their goal is to create the business conditions that will maximize their ad revenue not just two years out but ten years out.”

    One of the advantages of Google’s strategy is that Android phones don’t have to make licensing revenue for them in order to advance that strategy. So they can low-ball the iPhone on price, let telcomms outfits capture most of the profits from it, and not have to play the app store game for money and market control. They’re playing what I’ve elsewhere called a ubiquity game, instead.

    And the sales trends numbers say they’re going to win.

  95. I think Android is certainly better than iPhone but it’s far too early in the game to start calling winners. I’m sure that’s what people said about Wang or WordPerfect back in the day and people today don’t even know those products existed. Windows Phone 7 might spark a resurgence and there are always new entrants coming out of left field. I certainly hope so, as Android’s Java/XML stack is almost as bad as the iPhone. I realize internet advertising is the buzzword now but nobody, including google, has made much money off of anything other than search advertising. Micropayments is where it’s at: all the money that the big G and MS pump into advertising, while Apple and others at least edge close to micropayments, will be money down the drain when micropayments finally breaks out.

  96. esr: I do know that when Android sales overtake iPhone sales, I’m going to laugh my ass off and quote their juiciest, stupidest bits of idolatry right back at the Apple fanboys.

    I don’t have an opinion on this (I don’t use smartphones myself), but would you care to make a concrete prediction on this, e.g., Android sales will overtake iPhone sales by such-and-such a date?

  97. Wow, what is this I read, Jeff Read damning Apple? :)

    Not damning Apple. But Jobs knew how to strike the right balance between appeasing the techs while not compromising on the end user experience. He could make the techs want to play in their walled garden. (The iPhone App Store was soon followed by a dramatic spike in the number of Objective-C programmers.) But if his control freakery overrides his common sense and he boils that frog too quickly, he will lose the developer base he relies on. Maybe he doesn’t care. He certainly didn’t seem to mind alienating Adobe by not supporting Flash…

  98. >I don’t have an opinion on this (I don’t use smartphones myself), but would you care to make a concrete prediction on this, e.g., Android sales will overtake iPhone sales by such-and-such a date?

    What, and make myself a target for assholes like you if I’m off by more than a quarter? No, not playing.

  99. # esr Says:
    > What, and make myself a target for assholes like you if I’m off by more than a quarter? No, not playing.

    I predict November 13th, at about 11:46am PST. (Not sure which year though.)

  100. esr: What, and make myself a target for assholes like you if I’m off by more than a quarter? No, not playing.

    I’m a bit disappointed that you see this as mere assholery. I think pundits and prognosticators would think a lot more thoroughly about their forecasts if making them actually carried some weight. I don’t see what you’re worried about; WrongTomorrow hasn’t been updated in about a year, so it’s not like your predictions would be posted there. I’m just curious as to what you really think, not just what you’d like to be optimistic about projecting. Attaching consequences (if only the consequence of embarrassment) to a wrong guess is a good way to get a better estimate.

  101. >I’m a bit disappointed that you see this as mere assholery.

    Blame your own previous behavior for that.

  102. The app store was a very good idea, it drastically reduces the transaction costs involved in purchasing most apps. On the other hand, I don’t like how locked down it is.

  103. esr: Blame your own previous behavior for that.

    I don’t expect you to like me. (I suppose I’d care if my “whole cognitive apparatus [were] organized around getting and keeping social approval”.) If you think the prediction I suggested is unfair, feel free to make another one. I’m interested in this because you’re a much better read when you’re thinking critically rather than making grandiose, unfalsifiable statements. If you think that the proposed prediction is a trap, fine, but the entire idea of making concrete predictions is itself not worthless.

  104. I think what Eric’s getting at is that concrete predictions often don’t get one much- are you offering to bet on this prediction? that would be different- and critics will often quibble and discount the prediction even if you’re only off by a quarter. A larger problem is that other forces are at work too: suppose some NetBSD and Contiki-based mobile OS’s come out of nowhere and take a big chunk of the market. Then he might be narrowly wrong about Android passing the iPhone, only to be right on the larger point of largely open source OS’s killing off iPhoneOS. Someone might have predicted in 1990 that unix would win out decades on, picking 20 years as a good number. They would have been wrong today, but they might turn out to be right in 10 years. He has done some analysis and made some predictions, picking a date is not that important unless you’re putting money on it, so pay up if you want that. ;)

  105. Ajay, I’m not offering to bet on this because I honestly have no good idea what’s going to happen. The reason I’m interested in Eric’s prediction is that it’s moderately contrarian, and it aligns well with his ideology. Your disagreements are quibbles. The point is about open mobile devices in general rather than Android in particular? Say that. You think that it might happen on some fuzzy time horizon? Build in a safety margin to the prediction. Sure, some jerk is likely to nitpick. But it’s really a nit, then it’s easy enough to rebut–”he was wrong by one month on a scale of five years, you blowhard!”, for instance. How is any of this an excuse for avoiding accountability for one’s bold predictions?

  106. Who’s avoiding accountability? What does he gain by precision? If I throw a ball up in the air, I can confidently say it will fall and land someplace. I don’t need to say precisely where and when it will land. If you want him to do the math and tell you the specifics, pay up for the time it takes to do that, either in the form of a bet or just a payment for time spent. Also, you are incorrectly using language of precision, like safety margin, to talk about social phenomena that are more chaotic. I could have predicted in the 50s that someday a black man would be President. However, there’s no way I could know if that would happen in 1980, 2008, or 2030. Market phenomena are similarly complex, so while one can talk about broad forces that will inevitably lead to certain results in the long-run (like gravity acts on the ball), pinning exactly when such complex phenomena will crest is a fool’s game. He is still accountable for predicting that iPhoneOS will lose and that open source OS’s will win out someday and that is easy enough to test. Trust me, by then we’ll all have long forgotten such predictions ;) and they will be considered obvious or idiotic in hindsight. :)

  107. ISTR some Imminent Death of Microsoft Predicted type predictions made by Eric from 2003. Needless to say, Microsoft is still around, Windows 7 is rockin’, and the biggest threat to Wintel desktop dominance is not grandmas and little sisters running You-bun-too on a spare throwaway PC, but (wait for it) smartphones and iPads.

    As for Android market share, it may well overtake iPhone’s in the foreseeable. But Apple never has and never will play a ubiquity game. They play an elegance and standard-setting game. Five years out, Android may well be Dunkin Donuts against Apple’s Starbucks.

  108. >Trust me, by then we’ll all have long forgotten such predictions ;) and they will be considered obvious or idiotic in hindsight. :)

    I have already reached the point at which many people severely underestimate my predictive accuracy because several of my most important ones have become conventional wisdom so long-established that nobody remembers when it was weird and brave to say such things.

    Here’s an early example. I predicted, in 1986 before the 386 was in general release (the book was the Waite anthology “Tricks of the Unix Masters”), that its descendants would become the most important class of Unix machine, and utterly destroy the then-flourishing workstation and minicomputer markets. and eventually dominate computing. For this I was, at the time, dismissed as a loon by people who thought they knew better. But my argument was based on fundamental economics and was sound.

    Now try to find anyone who’ll give me credit for calling that one right and years in advance of anyone else. Go on. I’ll wait.

    I’m not always right by any means. But betting against my predictions would be a losing game.

  109. grendelkhan Says:
    >The iPad is the beginning of the end of general purpose computing for most people;

    I agree. And I think this is dangerous.

    A computer is not like a car; being ignorant about one is not like a non-mechanic
    driving (unless something breaks in the middle of nowhere!).

    A computer is like a book, but dynamic, interactive, and yes even programmable.

    Illiteracy is crippling; it makes a society into slaves and masters, or sheep and wolves.

    And ease of use makes that more pervasive, easier to ignore.

    I have no problem with a DVR or a microwave not requiring at least awareness of
    programming, if not actual ability. Those are not general purpose devices.
    But when it comes down to a generic information appliance, I think that computer
    illiteracy will be as enslaving as illiteracy with the printed word, yet far more subtle.

    What would prove that point…an enticing game with a subliminal message
    to support Big Brother…

    Nevertheless, I would like the idea of an information appliance, if one didn’t
    have to pay $99/year (individual) or $299/year (enterprise) for the developer
    program, and didn’t have to go for the more expensive of those to do internal
    distribution. Internal distribution of internally created apps should cost no more
    than a more modest one-time (or infrequently expiring) fee for a digital certificate
    plus a tool to get the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad to accept apps signed with that
    alternate certificate. I would prefer, but don’t demand, that it be usable
    not just for internal distribution, but for alternative apps stores with a much
    smaller slice to Apple (since they wouldn’t be paying for the infrastructure or
    the man-hours for playing gatekeeper).

    Internal apps can be pretty cool; I recall the Apple stores having some gizmo
    that hooked to an iPhone that could read barcodes and/or credit cards, doing
    pretty much an entire transaction. Imagine a computer service person; he
    could carry an iPad loaded with all the product and service documentation,
    plus a barcode scanner (inventory control). A USB interface via the dock
    port should be quite possible, perhaps with a modest bit of external hardware;
    and even an RS232 shouldn’t be out of the question. Heck, given the dock
    port specs and internal apps, one could make e.g. a car tuner gadget that
    works with an iPod touch or iPad rather than a laptop; much easier to carry
    around.

    I wonder if Apple hasn’t worked harder to shut down jailbreaks because at some
    level they realize that an expanded ecosystem benefits them too, even if they
    don’t want their name attached to the distribution of an app that delivers rude
    jokes about rural persons and their sheep.

    Given that iPhone OS 4.0 should address multitasking, and someone will
    doubtless come up with a VOIP app that will address traditional phone
    functionality, my only other beef with what I’ve heard about the iPad is that
    it lacks a camera, or better yet two (forward and backward facing). If that
    is remedied in the next update of the hardware, I just might get one.

  110. esr, yeah, that was my point: if you’re right, people will look back and say it was obvious, as all your points have now been baked into their brains as fundamental assumptions. If you’re wrong, they’ll say “What was he thinking?” The only way to get anything out of such predictions is to bet on them, either with silly wagers or more importantly by investing in a company to take advantage of your analysis. For example, all those trumpeting the iPhone could put their money where their mouth is and invest in developers or companies doing iPhone apps. That’s the only prediction that will matter, when you gain or lose money based on your analysis.

  111. >>> For example, all those trumpeting the iPhone could put their money where their mouth is and invest in developers or companies doing iPhone apps.

    Better yet, just buy some stock in Apple.

    Have you been watching what is has been doing lately?

    And the call options are even better.

  112. >esr, yeah, that was my point: if you’re right, people will look back and say it was obvious, as all your points have now been baked into their brains as fundamental assumptions.

    And on some topics I’ve actually engineered for this outcome. Open source is a big one; my ideas about it, widely regarded as “crazy” in 1997, are now wisdom so conventional that Fortune 200 companies routinely make strategic bets on them. Outside the hacker community it is being forgotten that they were my crazy ideas, and this is good. This is victory. This is me getting to smile inside as suits accept them as conventional wisdom.

  113. Darren, I’ve been telling people that AAPL is overvalued ever since it hit $90/share 3 years ago. They’ve finally justified that $90 price somewhat with their subsequent growth, only problem is that the share price has since tripled. The retail investor has completely unrealistic expectations about where Apple can go with their limited high-end model, these silly price surges will not end well. The Apple boosterism reminds me of the ridiculous share price Amazon now commands, despite their razor-thin margins and numerous competitors.

    esr, I was in high school or college when you were trying to advance the idea of open source in the ’90s, so I’m not too aware of what you had to go through at the time. Perhaps you might consider writing up a blog post on it, as a historical document of what the thinking was at the time and how you tried to change it (if this exists elsewhere, I’d appreciate a link). I always find it fascinating, when I read the history of science, how practically every major idea that we take for granted today was fought bitterly by the large majority of “experts” at the time, whether Boltzmann with his atomic/statistical theories or the initial opposition to Einstein’s hypothesis that light was quantized. I’ve even read that the new ideas often only took over once the older generation had all died out, and the opposition died with them. It might be interesting to read your own experience in trying to argue your ideas and what kind of opposition you received a century later, in a modern environment that is supposedly much more receptive to ideas.

  114. >I’ve even read that the new ideas often only took over once the older generation had all died out, and the opposition died with them.

    This is a false myth popularized by Thomas Kuhn. See Brother, Can You Paradigm?.

  115. I wonder if Apple hasn’t worked harder to shut down jailbreaks because at some
    level they realize that an expanded ecosystem benefits them too, even if they
    don’t want their name attached to the distribution of an app that delivers rude
    jokes about rural persons and their sheep.

    I think their engineering department realizes this but management, all the way up to the Steve-level officers, wants total control.

  116. Ajay says: Darren, I’ve been telling people that AAPL is overvalued ever since it hit $90/share 3 years ago.

    I have to disagree. Given the blistering growth that Apple has been showing the past few years, Apple is in no way overvalued.
    They have over $40/share in cash, and no long term debt. They have consistently posted upside earnings surprises for a long time.

    Think of it this way: if Ford is trading at 21.x earnings, Apple at 24x earnings is quite reasonable, given the way the company is growing.

    Mark my words: these shares have more upside.
    Anyone who shorts it is going to get their ass burned.

  117. esr, I haven’t examined all the evidence for Kuhn’s claim but it strikes me that your counter-examples are more recent, as science started moving and changing faster. Boltzmann died before his ideas became prevalent, I wonder if that was more the case in the past. On the other hand, perhaps Kuhn is simply skewing the evidence by including the social “sciences” as you say. I’d have to examine the evidence before deciding, I’ve never read Kuhn.

    Darren, such superficial analysis is precisely why AAPL is currently overvalued. How do you figure $40/share in cash? I see $25 billion on their balance sheet and 900 million common shares, which comes out to almost $28/share. How does Apple sustain its growth when so much of it is based on selling mp3 players? Now that there’s no DRM on music, why would I buy an overpriced iPod, when I can buy any mp3 player, or smartphone even, and load music onto it from any music store, including iTunes? Apple’s temporary upsurge is intimately tied to their long-standing connection to the entertainment market, which is now moving online. However, the way they’ve approached these new markets, from their paranoiac control of the iPhone and App Store to how they exclude smaller artists from iTunes while focusing on making deals with the bigger players, tells me they don’t have clue one on how to sustain their growth. The Apple boosters see explosive growth and extrapolate it endlessly into the future. I see the same growth, look at the fundamentals, and see a collapse looming.

  118. Ajay,

    That $28/share figure is as of Dec, 2009. It does not include results from the most recent quarter.

    And people will use iTunes and will pay it, because it is easy and neat, and does not cost that much. Not everyone is a freetard. Most people do not even know what DRM is and don’t care. People will continue to use the iPhone, perhaps not the iPod so much.

    I think people are a little blind here. There is an unwillingness to give Apple the credit it is due because they just don’t like Apple’s closed approach. But there is no sign as yet that apple’s growth is slowing a bit. But hey if you see a collapse coming, short it. And good luck with that.

    They report earnings Tuesday. We will see.

  119. I think people are a little blind here. There is an unwillingness to give Apple the credit it is due because they just don’t like Apple’s closed approach.

    That’s because Apple’s closedness is an essential part of their success. They are dedicated to the idea that computing devices should Just Work, be easy and fun to use, and impose minimum cognitive load on the user, blending into the background of their daily lives. This can only happen if the software and hardware on the platform is controlled for consistency and functionality.

    Apple isn’t playing a ubiquity game, they don’t have to, and they never meant to. They are showing the world a vision of what personal computing should be, not grabbing for the biggest share of the personal-computing status quo. “Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes that everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.”

  120. I just read that Steve Jobs deliberately left arrow keys off the original Mac keyboard in order to force developers to write Mac-specific software. And — it was a success! People developed great applications under a Mac-centric paradigm focused on the GUI, rather than diluting the platform with shitty PC ports.

    This is the real reasoning behind the strategy of forcing developers to use Objective-C on the iPhone. It’ll backfire if it pisses off enough devs, but we don’t know that it will. The iPhone/iPad/iWhatever is just too compelling a platform.

  121. Yeah Jeff Read I had heard that somewhere too: that the original Macs had no arrow keys because Steve wanted you to use the mouse. I had not realized the part about forcing devs to write Mac specific software, although in the early days I do remember some shitty ported stuff.

    Now maybe that is going a bit far, not letting people have arrow keys. (Apple soon started adding them.) But it is a very telling and somehow entertaining insight into the mind of Steve Jobs.

  122. @Borepatch There is a genealogy application available for the iPad (and iPhone / iPod) that might do the job. It is called GedView and works with GEDCOM files rather than any specific desktop application.

  123. Okay — I bought a WiFi only version right out of the door in April with the maxxed out memory. I did this for two reasons: I am impatient, and I think it might be particularly dangerous if I have TOO much ubiquity in my network connectivity – plus the lack of choices in that selection (binary off/on is not a real choice). I am responding here now to share my experience after the wow factor had time to give way to practicalities. Here are my 8 key uses for the iPad – aside from all the normal stuff (http client, calendar, email etc):

    1. Portable Library. I think I’ve downloaded just about every free book you can get from the iPad book store. I also uploaded ‘GoodReader’ – an application that allows you to upload all manner of documents (PDF, HTML, Text etc) – which I have also done for a plethora of works I’ve created or collected over the years. My wife is also urging me to actually buy the books I use the most in my home library, ostensibly to save space by selling/donating the paper versions. I use it all the time for reference and entertainment when waiting for the bus.

    2. SSH Client. I can login to my other (real) computers anywhere in my house and do whatever I want on the command line (a bit of python coding in emacs while watching a chick flick perhaps….okay I didn’t really do that – but I could).

    3. Fun with code. You can buy several apps that allow you to write and run application code in their own sandbox — Java and PHP I am aware of now….still searching for a Python version (would love it to be free).

    4. Mind Mapping. I use Free Mind to organize various hierarchies and to do brainstorming sessions; I am running a program on the iPad that I can export the maps into and out of my workstation – so now I have that functionality on the go.

    5. Various checklist and task management programs. I’m terrible at keeping track of all the cruft swirling around that actually needs my attention. I have an idea for a good one that will do exactly what I need – but haven’t figured out how I want to build it yet (not really interested in paying Apple $100 to do native development…if a programming tool like mentioned above would work for this – I would implement it in that … need to do more research on this subject).

    6. Music Library. When my Sansa runs out of juice I can use my iPad as a backup.

    7. Drawing. I have several applications for doing various types of drawings – with different organizational schemes (artistic, whiteboard, storyboard etc). Replaces a pencil and pad.

    8. Ergonomics. Experience with the iPad has shown me that I can use it in places and ways that I can not do on a laptop. It is lighter – so I carry it around the office with me and actually use it – while my company issued laptop sits tethered to the network (running Windows XP — so not really stable when you start undocking etc). Also – with the default power management settings I usually am able to go two weeks between power-ups. Initially I thought the keyboard would be a problem – but I am used to it now and tend to write quite a bit without thinking about it.

    I agree – it doesn’t completely replace the functionality of a computer – but it comes very close, and is ‘close enough’ for my purposes. With the right accessories (USB adapter and bluetooth keyboard), applications, and IOS upgrade to allow multitasking (soon(tm)) – I could see disposing of my work laptop in favor of this for what I do on the job (email, note taking, calendar, diagramming and presentations, and command line access of Linux/Unix machines). YMMV.

    Would another similar touchpad with similar dimensions and different operating system (Android, Linux) perform the same functions just as well if not a better user experience? Probably. (I can see where having a more open architecture could be more advantageous – e.g. the file synchronization on the iPad via iTunes is least optimal).

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