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Apple's iPad: Tool, toy or trap?

If you'd like to get people to talk to you at a crowded event, bring an iPad. You'll be holding forth before new friends in no time. And why not? The iPad is the closest thing I've ever seen to the Newspad of Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- or the tablet computer Jean-Luc Picard toted around in "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

If, however, you're just looking for a simpler, cheaper way to tackle your digital duties, the case for Apple's new device is not so clear.

ipad_full.jpg

As I write in today's column, the iPad isn't ready to take a laptop's or a netbook's place -- even if its touchscreen and speedy processor help it do some tasks better than those devices -- and it's also too hefty and bulky to wipe e-book readers off the map. Plus, it suffers from the sort of glitches I don't expect to see in an Apple product, such as the byzantine file-sharing routines required in Apple's iWork software or the datebook-style calendar application that doesn't let you swipe across the screen to flip to the next page.

In short, I don't get the "magical and revolutionary" vibe that Apple chief executive Steve Jobs touted at the iPad's January unveiling.

One co-worker, an iPhone user, even called the iPad a toy. (He didn't mean that in a non-complimentary way. But still.) I wouldn't go that far; if I didn't need to sign into our newsroom editing software, I could imagine using the 3G version of the iPad, coupled with a Bluetooth keyboard, as a reporting tool.

(If the iPad could download and install its own software updates, it might also function well as an Internet beginner's only computer -- a simple, safe and cheap Web and e-mail reader.)

But the most serious criticism of the iPad goes much further -- the argument that Apple's tight control of the App Store unforgivably infringes on your computing liberties. This gets its harshest expression in Cory Doctorow's denunciation of the device on the Boing Boing blog, but you can find many more moderate versions of it from the likes of Freedom to Tinker blogger Ed Felten and media critic Jeff Jarvis.

I appreciate simplicity and stability as much as the next tech writer, but I think Apple is way out of line in its stewardship of the App Store and have repeatedly said so here.

ipad_back.jpg

Last night, news surfaced about yet another move by Apple to limit what software you can install on the iPhone and the iPad: a new clause in its developer agreement that forbids programmers from rewriting converting an application first coded for another platform. This is an extraordinarily arrogant sort of control-freakery: First Apple has asserted the right to veto developers' iPhone software for any reason, and now it won't let them cover their bets by starting with a cross-platform code base.

This betrays a fair amount of contempt, and not just toward programmers. Does Apple not think iPhone users can discern the difference between a carefully crafted application and one sloppily recoded from some Adobe Flash widget?

Before you agree with Apple's position because it makes nice computers, replace "Apple" with "Microsoft" -- then try to imagine the howls that would have ensued if Microsoft had tried to prohibit developers from writing Windows programs in the wrong software toolkit. (Among other consequences, you'd have no iTunes or Safari in Windows.)

I don't know how you're supposed to feel great about buying into this closed vision of computing, but perhaps I'm mistaken. Tell me what you think -- in the comments below, or in my Web chat -- starting at noon today.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 9, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Next: Palm on the block; users in a lurch?

Comments

Apple has been successful by staying ahead of the curve with "new" and "cool" products. Added to the high level of quality they have generally maintained they have created a very successful high end market segment for themselves. These two things have keep the "proprietary" aspect of apples fanatics and fans at bay for quite some time. (longer than I ever thought they could)

However- eventually it will become harder and harder for them to maintain the cutting edge that they walk and when the entire planet is open standards and open source (at least in terms of apps and capabilities) this fine line will eventually become a gap.

That being said- they are amazing on the cutting edge and I would hesitate to bet against them. They have had an amazing run of products and have set the bar very, very, very high by their own doing.

Posted by: dcperspective | April 9, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

One seemingly minor correction, but it's a biggie... According to the write up on DaringFireball, Apple doesn't forbid developers from rewriting applications from other platforms. What they're forbidding is tools which translate code to something which runs natively. Applications instead must be written in one of three "approved" languages.

So if I have a killer app that runs on Android, I can certainly rewrite it to run on the iWhatever. But I'll have to rewrite it from scratch rather than use a tool which first translates my code into the approved code.

The DaringFireball analysis is worth a read. It's good for Apple, not so great for the rest of us, and one more reason to think carefully before rushing headlong into developing for that platform.

Posted by: dactyl | April 9, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, the iPad is not for Geeks. It is for all the rest of us.

Sorry, but all you people who keep predicting Apple Failure or dumb moves have been "False Prophets" so far.

I have been with Apple since 1984 and they have served me well, including as an investor.

Posted by: dbgriffith | April 9, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I am waiting for a more suitable open architecture alternative to the iPad with an Android OS (for example). There are a few models on the market already, some at extremely affordable prices, but feel for my time and money, I am willing to let the innovations bake a while longer.
Robert
Alexandria, VA

Posted by: Rebarob | April 9, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Toy for tools, trap for tomfools, or just another gadget for those with disposable income (emphasis on disposable). I will wait to see if the Courier Digital Journal is more than just vaporware or if not, an Android tablet.

Posted by: j3pr0x | April 9, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Good article.

As a software developer myself I can say that 95% of existing applications that I've worked on demonstrate that developers are constantly taking the path of least resistance. I can't tell you how often I am surprised by ignorance. I'm relatively new to iPhone application development but I am already impressed with the design patterns that Objective-C / UI Kit promotes. I, for one, am glad to have a governing entity keeping developers honest so that the apps on my iPhone/iPad meet a respectably standard of performance and usability.

Posted by: seanjost | April 9, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Bottomline - this is Apple's economic moat - keeps the competition at bay and their investors happy.

AND for the iPhone users under the age of 21 and there are a lot out there - no they do not know the difference between a carefully crafted application and one sloppily recoded from some Adobe Flash widget - just my opinion...

Posted by: adonaldson | April 9, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

grammar typo: "He didn't meant.." -> "He didn't mean.."

The iPad is not as "too hefty or bulky" as most people would seem it to be. It's actually very portable, and my only worry is accidentally breaking it.

Anyway, if something is great, people will talk about it.. nevermind how they talk about it, but they will talk about it. It will go down in history like all other great icons.

Posted by: bluedes | April 9, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Human history is a struggle for freedom. When the suffragettes were marching, most people didn't take their issue seriously. Today, most people don't take software freedom seriously, think it's a "just for geeks" issue. A generation from now, we'll either be celebrating our rights and honoring the heroes of the movement in an open source world, or we'll be serfs of McMicrosoftdisneyapplenewscorp. Think of Omni Consumer Products in the _Robocop_ pictures, or the Newscorp-Microsoft entity in _Tomorrow Never Dies_. That's what software freedom and network neutrality are about.

Posted by: clsgis | April 9, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

not a Tool neither a toy nor trap.
its crap.

Posted by: sorlag | April 9, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

We have not been this excited about a device since the launch of the 128K Mac in back in 1984.

The discussions today around "Why an iPad" reminded us of trying to explain to all the IBM PC-DOS folks of what a GUI was and why it was better. They would keep saying..."why would anyone want a mouse? Our arrow keys work just fine for moving the cursor up and down lines of text."

A little more than 25 years later, we find the same type of folks asking, "Who would want to use their fingers? My mouse and keyboard work just fine."

Sometimes, all one can do is just smile and wait for everybody else to catch up.

While it is often quoted that Windows has 95% of the market. That is all fine. However, at this moment, AAPL's market cap is $215.09B and MSFT's is $257.24B. Hmmm....

The Apple iPad is here. It is going to be the most talked about gadget ever and the enthusiasm is completely justified.

The "sunsetting" of the mouse/pointer interface has started. The mouse/pointer paradigm is over twenty years old. Multi-touch for the masses has arrived and it is about time.

With the introduction of the iPad Apple has made accessible an entirely new way to interact with not only a computer but information itself.

For more of our "views"...go check out:
www.rainydaymagazine.com

Posted by: RainyDayIntern | April 9, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Apple "forbids programmers from rewriting an application first coded for another platform." !!!???

OMG! That means if a software was originally developed on the webOS, Android, Blackberry, PC, it cannot be accepted as a software for the iPad?! Wow, Apple has got a trap with really sharp blades at the bottom of the pit.

I can't wait 'til iPad fails as developers refuse to fall for Apple's traps and build apps in favor of HP Slate!


Posted by: washinfo | April 9, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I think, or is it iThink, that the iPad is a little like the paper pad -- only as good as what goes in/on it. The appeal to me is what it will become, especially in education. Take a look at The Elements app to see this specialized future. As for "infringing on one's computing liberties", Apple didn't amass tens of billions of dollars in cash on the balance sheet by being an open system provider. They have created an entire ecosystem out the idea of selling music from the cloud that has grown beyond anyones imagination. Add some clever touch devices and the rest of the technology world struggles to wake up, let alone catch up.

Posted by: OhioBoy1 | April 9, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Every new tool that has been created since the invention of the wheel has had it critics. The saying "If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all." comes to mind.
Or "If you can do better stop talking about it and do it

Posted by: mtmac | April 9, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

This is easy: if you can't follow or agree with Apple's level of control, don't buy one. Their heavy-handed tactics in controlling the App Store, their hardware and software might infuriate tech writers and hardcore geeks. But it has also ensured their products and services are top-rate and dependable. They simply work, and everything Apple-branded works very well together. As dbgriffith said above, these products are not for the person needing ultimate control or looking to "improve" the purchase with endless modifications.

The iPad will develop and mature; I'll pick one up as soon as the second generation is released. You don't need to be brainwashed to appreciate the fact that Apple's "closed vision of computing" allows me to think about the hundred other things in my day, instead of worrying about my computers or phones.

Posted by: jbgood | April 9, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

The iPad is certantly not a toy but it's not intended for the use of nerds.
I'm a graphic designer and the iPad just filled a gap in my workflow.

I have to illustrate a lot and it's kinda hard to do it on the go with a laptop and a separate tablet device with a stylus, but now with the iPad and the AMAZING Sketchbook Pro app I can not only sketch but illustrate the same way I do it on the Mac version but even better it's just AMAZING what the Autodesk people did with this one.

I have only one thing to say, the iPad is a wonderful tool and people should try not to compare it so much to a laptop or for that matter a netbook

Posted by: ObscureCirque | April 9, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Personally I will never own a product stamped with the Apple logo. I have watched very closely the progression of the iphone, for example. Apple nickel and dimes consumer's to death. And no one seems bothered by this. The first version of the iphone was a buggy, slow and expensive phone when it came out. Apple tweeks a few things with the operating system. And BAM! A year later they put out a new version of the phone. Just in time for all of at&t's customers, who are eligible for an upgrade, to impulsively and uncontrollably rush out and wait in line for the new version. Apple has continued this pattern yearly. And i-diots uncontrollably rush to buy.
What's frustrating is the technology in the 3g-s version of the iphone was available when the first version was made. Apple intentionally leaves out features to make more money in the future,knowing Apple fanatics will have to have the latest version.
The trend is going to be the same with the ipad. Limited features. I,ve already read about possible plans of a new ipad in the works for next year. And this is after the big release of ipad of coarse...

Posted by: Motoxer | April 9, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

As a user I see this device as providing me some fantastic freedom in how and where I work. You can tech talk any tool out there from screwdrivers to aircraft. It's all about finding the right tool for the job. Users will determine the future of these products. This is going to be a significant tool in the day-day operation of my business which WILL help improve the customer experience with Hunting-Headquarters.com. WIN-WIN the way I see it!

Posted by: Hunting-Headquarterscom | April 9, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

There are two perspectives to keep in mind. First, the approach Apple takes to its devices and platforms has to be considered in light of its unique position of creating the device, the operating system and, in the case of the iPod Touch, the iPhone and the iPad, the delivery mechanism of programs/apps. Having that work as well as it does, and it does work superbly for the most part, requires keeping reign on each of those areas and an assiduous attention to detail. Apple promises a high quality and relatively simple user experience. To deliver, it must protect the mechanism of use. I am glad to have devices that work so well, so enjoyably and so relatively simply and, therefore, glad that Apple does carefully plan and implement all aspects of the mechanism of delivery of the experience and use.

That leads me to the second perspective. The control of the mechanism of the experience/use is not the same as controlling the content available to the user. Apple generally does not control the content (as opposed to mechanism of delivery) available to me as a user of their devices. There are relatively few areas of content control (pornography for one) over which Apple does exercise control. On those, I agree with Apple's policies because of the widespread use of their devices by children. Apple is not the government, it is a corporate citizen intending to maintain standards it believes are appropriate. This is essentially the same as the standards applied to movie ratings by private industry. The government does exercise similar control in such areas as sale of alcohol, cigarettes, etc. The concept is the same....that children should be protected from their potential immaturity in making choices for themselves. It is not perfect, but, it is appropriate.

To me, the criticism in Rob's commentary, like a number of other commentaries about Apple's approach, mix up the concept of control of the mechanism of delivery from the content. I don't think I have a right to demand that the Washington Post, Disneyland, movie producers, book publishers and writers or other deliverers of content let me determine how they will deliver it. I lose no freedoms by "being stuck" with how they choose to deliver content and assure that I have a good user experience of their products/services. Above all else, I have the choice not to consume their products or services. But, if they are delivering the product or service so that the experience of receiving it is enjoyable, they have done their job. I can choose whether the content they are delivering is something I want or not.

Posted by: jhbeck | April 9, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I have an iPhone, iMac and Macbook Air so obviously I love Apple. However, I am about to return the iPad. It is gorgeous, but basically a large iPod Touch. It's not really a separate computer as it relies on having a mother Mac, yet it does not integrate seamlessly with the Mac. (E.G. Pages is not easy to use and does not sync seamlessly with its Mac counterpart.) Also, iPad is no Kindle Killer. I tried reading in bed. The iPad was heavy, put a crease in my palm, and with a backlit screen seemed like a headlight was shining into my eyes (even with brightness turned down). Kindle is not glamorous but it is lighter, cheaper and easier to read in e-link. On iPad, I could not use several websites I like. I could not edit my Google docs nor view mVelopes. This device is for consuming media you can already consume in other ways, but not really for creating anything as far as I can tell. So what, really, is it besides hype? I guess with all that said, I will probably keep it ... After all, did I tell you it was gorgeous? :)

Posted by: orangetoast | April 9, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

> First Apple has asserted the right to
> veto developers' iPhone software for any
> reason

It always has... and always will.

Don't like it? Don't sign the agreement.

Duh.

Write software for 100 other companies instead.

Posted by: alice12 | April 9, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The author makes the same mistaken assumptions I've seen many times in tech blogs re: the iPad.
1) He compares the iPhone/Touch/iPad App store to that of laptop or desktop computers. "imagine the howls that would have ensued if Microsoft had tried to prohibit developers from writing Windows programs in the wrong software toolkit." Apple and Microsoft do the same thing when it comes to laptop or desktop computers. Apple has chosen a different model for the iPhone/Touch/iPad App store. The success of this new model is irrefutable; both in numbers of apps created and numbers of apps downloaded. Apple's competitors are copying this success as fast as they can.
2) "- and it's also too hefty and bulky to wipe e-book readers off the map." Not true if you are currently carrying an e-book reader and a laptop (or netbook). The iPad will replace your reader, netbook/laptop for casual, fun and other non-work mobile experiences. There's enough of that kind of activity alone to make the iPad a success. Apps yet to come will make the iPad even more useful and soon actual workers will be carrying it instead of a laptop.
3) "I don't know how you're supposed to feel great about buying into this closed vision of computing" At first read, this sounds like a reasonable statement, but what does the author mean, really? Does your level of satisfaction arise from the process or the end product? Do you care, or even think if the cow that provided his skin had a good life before you put on your shoes in the morning? But if you shoes fall apart, or hurt because they don't fit, you care. Calling Apple's App Store 'closed' is like the FDA closed for only allowing inspected food into your local grocery store. After all food just wants to be free!

Posted by: waynemckz | April 9, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Personally I think the iPad is awesome and have never had an issue with Apples handling of the iTunes gateway. It's their product, their platform, their rules.. end of story. If you don't like it, get a different product. I actually really like the fact that Apple has created a platform that protects my device and my information. I have yet to hear of malware affecting an iPod Touch, iPhone, and don't expect to see it on the iPad either. So what if I can't download any application or file from any website out there; I also can't accidentally download malware.
As far as the AppStore approval process goes, I think its a good thing they don't allow just anything in. For the most part, the apps I've downloaded on my iPhone have been paid apps. There have been a few free ones but in my experience the vast majority of the free apps are more like "crapps" and in my opinion should be removed from the AppStore all together. If its not good enough to charge at least $1 for then why bother?
As far as all the things that Apple didn't do just the way you wanted it to on the iPad doesn't mean that it's overpriced and underdeveloped. How many pieces of hardware/software came out of the gate 100% perfect on the first version?
Not everyone will like or want the iPad, but just look at all the new touch tablets are in development right now just because of Apple's vision. In fact, many of these companies starting working on touch tablets just off the shear rumor of Apple's development of one. Apple has always been an innovator while everyone else attempts to imitate.
Apple is forging a new path for technology users with a great formula.. Keep it simple, keep it sexy. I only hope that Apple can continue with this visionary path after Steve Jobs is gone (he is looking very thin and kinda frail).

Posted by: CBnFWB | April 9, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why people keep trying to make iPad something that it's not. It's not a netbook or a laptop. I keep hearing what it does not have. But when tablet PCs came out...you didn't run out and buy them. People who make these comparison are just not CREATIVE thinkers when it comes to tasks.

Here are my uses for iPad:
1. A study tool along with my books when I'm sitting on the couch. iPhone to small laptop to big.

2. Carrying it to a meeting and scheduling on the calender and some notes, and others can see the screen. iPhone to small laptop to big.

3. Sitting in a Cafe' consuming NEWS while having tea! iPhone small, Laptop Heavy.

4. Note taking and document writing on a plane in coach. laptop to big and awkward!.

5. Playing Scrabble! Fun, on a bigger screen.

6. Reading a book on Vacation (Cruise Ship) in a lounge chair and switching to surf and email also.

7. Doing a presentation with my material on the iPad instead of sheets of paper.

8. Lying in bed surfing or reading a book on a big screen and not squinting at my iPhone or holding a Laptop.

9. Next to the stove in the Kitchen, reading Recipes and cooking. I do this with iPhone but the big screen would be great!

10. YOU FILL IN THIS ONE!

Posted by: itsgary2 | April 9, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I second dactyl's recommendation to read the piece in Daring Fireball regarding Apple's decision to lock out apps cross-plaform development tools.

http://daringfireball.net/2010/04/why_apple_changed_section_331

There's no doubt this is a shot across Adobe's bow, and that Apple is aggressively acting in its self-interest.

It is not accurate to say, however, that the move disadvantages software developers as a general class. Instead, it represents a great benefit to Apple "core" developers, those who have followed Apple's longstanding advice to use the Xcode software development platform. These ranks of these developers include many long-time Mac developers, and the overall number of these core developers has grown significantly in recent years.

The move does, on the other hand, restrict those who want to compile essentially the same program for multiple platforms. For example, those hoping to use Adobe's Creative Suite to compile for the iPhone OS are now out of luck.

As a consumer, I can imagine that this will mean slightly fewer apps in the App Store, but I don't think it will affect the number of high-quality apps, and there is not exactly a shortage to begin with. Apps not exclusively written for the iPhone OS, as a general matter, will not take advantage of its features. Their absence will not bother me.

Finally, as Gruber notes, Apple's control over what software development tools are used means that it will not be stuck waiting for Adobe or some other company to update their development tools when Apple is ready to release an operating system update.

Thus, while I acknowledge that Apple is really flexing its muscles here, I think consumers come out just fine. Those bothered by the tactics can go elsewhere.

Posted by: jkh1970 | April 9, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

In light of Apple's ever tightening restrictions on applications it is high irony indeed that it's most famous TV ad was "1984". Steve "Winston Smith" Jobs has morphed into Big Brother.

Posted by: mojo6 | April 9, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse


The iPod is intended for metrosexuals and homoesexuals to carry around in a man-purse.

Posted by: screwjob11 | April 9, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse


The iPod is designed for use by men who like to carry a man-purse.

Posted by: screwjob11 | April 9, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

High end crap.

Posted by: docchari | April 9, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Another irrelevancy from the control freaks at Apple, who make even Sony look positively libertarian in comparison. It seems to mainly serve as a one way road to their store, like the Kindle. No thank you. I can do more and get a lot more for less with a net book.

Posted by: robert17 | April 9, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Lots of great points, and in principle, I agree with many of them... However, with regards to using code converted from platform's code, could this have more to do with stability than with iron fisted control or profit?

Using Microsoft as an example, could this be a way of Apple preventing what happened to windows, happening to the iPhone/iPad platforms? I've been speaking to a several hardcore IT/computer pro friends, who have repeating said that the problem with Microsoft Vista and compatibility had less to do with the system itself and more to do with Vista being a lot less forgiving on sloppy programming by software companies, 3rd party equipment, etc. To them many of Window's issues started with the platform running anything, and that eventually it caught up with them, and compromised the Windows Platform.

And this wasn't just Microsoft. How many people downloaded and installed apps on the their palms, only to find that they drained the battery or made the device unstable? How many of those were paid apps?

As for the content of rejected apps, Apple is in a now win situation. They can make a ton of money from more adult apps, and can separate the app store, but none of that means a thing if parents refuse to monitor the children's access on iTunes and what they purchase. We are led to believe this is mostly from more conservative areas of the country, but just as many so-called liberals are just as bad.

Posted by: dmlworx | April 9, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm hoping when my Mac Book is old (when is a Mac Book old?), I can switch to an Ipad or whatever incarnation it may be in 3 years or so. I would hope some of the drawbacks I've been reading about are problems in the past and that Apple gets its act together and quits being so arrogant as Rob so aptly put it.

Posted by: MrsKirby | April 9, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Over at Appleinsider, there is some speculation that seems reasonable: the new restrictions are related to the implementation of multi-tasking coming in iPhone OS 4.0.

Why? Because the implementation of multi-tasking requires apps to behave in certain ways, like saving themselves to a particular state. Additionally, the operating system needs to be able to selectively pause open threads. There is no way that Apple can properly test compliance with these multi-tasking protocols if the app was compiled on another platform.

Given the battery and processing limitations of phones, I think Apple's implementation of multi-tasking makes a lot of sense.

Posted by: jkh1970 | April 9, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

An iPhone on steroids. A useless piece of Chinese junk that has a closed architecture. For $500-800 I can buy a REAL computer that has normalacy not for playing game Apps, which are the most downloaded apps on the apple app store.

Apple computer makes all their plastic junk in China, and misleads American's they are buying American technology, when in relaity they are paying for more overseas jobs.

Apple and Microsoft employee more imported immigrants than any other entity or business in America and have all their junk manufactured in China now.

I will stick with my American made computer that is not so quick to Big Brother me with their Plan.

Apples investors are quite happy I am sure. Cheap labor, high sale prices, make for great profits for an unAmerican company that tries to look American, Apple Computers of Cupertino CA.

Google and find out for yourselves. Look on the back and see "made in China" along with YOUR iPhone.

Cheap foreign junk!

Posted by: patmatthews | April 9, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

@ patmatthews

Um, which "American-made" computer would that be?

Posted by: jkh1970 | April 9, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I was ready to buy one, but I'm really concerned about the ads. I'm starting to hate Steve Jobs and sold my Apple stock.

Posted by: DGSPAMMAIL | April 9, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I think that once you add an physical keyboard to the iPad it becomes a clunky and unwieldy portable device with little or no advantage over a laptop. On its own, however, it does have a certain appeal as a couch reader/surfing device. It's still way too expensive and way too limited for its advantages to outweigh its disadvantages for me.

I also agree with you 100%, Rob, with the rest of your piece. It's nice to see you writing fairly about Apple.

Posted by: scarper86 | April 9, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Can I say I'm a little disappointed not to see anybody reply with a variation of "It's a trap!"? OK, moving right along...

@dactyl: I didn't mean "rewriting" in the sense of "recoding from scratch," but it's too easy to read it that way. Note my change above.

@Rebarob: I think Android has the best potential for making an iPad-worthy tablet. I don't see Windows working for that--not if it's going to be like the awful Slate PC prototype I saw at CES.

@adonaldson: Breaking the screen is a real risk--I worry about that too.

@jhbeck: Thanks for the reasoned dissent. But you didn't address a situation like Google Voice, where a Web application can't deliver a service as effectively as an installed application.

@waynemckz: Competitors have app stores, but both Android and Palm's webOS let the user install applications from other sources too. (That isn't enabled by default on Android, but you can change that anytime you want.) As for your question "Does your level of satisfaction arise from the process or the end product?", I would answer "both." I don't want to feel like I'm rewarding corporate conduct I don't approve of; do you?

@screwjob11: What are you, 14 years old?

@dmlworx: Not so. The problems with Windows date to an excessively permissive development model--applications can write all over the system. That's not an issue in the iPhone OS or in most other smartphone platforms.

Let me close with a general question to those of you who say you're fine with Apple's stewardship of the App Store: Would you be as happy if Apple exerted the same control over what programs you could install on a Mac?

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | April 9, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Rob,

Thanks for taking the time to consider my comments.

On the Google Voice App, Apple was asked to respond to an FCC inquiry and did so. A copy is here: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/apple-answers-fcc-questions/. From my perspective, Apple's reasons are legitimate and in keeping with my belief that Apple can and should control the mechanism for delivery of content to assure the quality of user experience. Apple is not dictating with whom you share calls, texts or voicemails or what the content of those calls should be. Apple is controlling the means by which you send or receive such content. Further, Apple makes an "iPhone" not an "iDevice". To wholesale surrender the core functionality of the device as a phone, text and voicemail vehicle to Google would make it a Google Phone. If someone wants that, they can buy the Nexus One (or another Android OS device). Finally, I am concerned about the how Google gathers and uses its database culled from users of its "free" services. In reading the details of the extent to which the Google Voice app would involve Google servers in receipt and storage of new and distinct personal user data, I see the validity of the concerns expressed by Apple in its response to the FCC about that issue.

I am not IT savvy enough to know how Apple could control what programs run on a Mac. Except for jail broken iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, Apple has the means to control apps to be installed. I don't know how they could do that with a Mac. Assuming that is possible, I would draw a similar line as to what would seem appropriate. Apple attempts to assure a user experience and quality by the combination of controlling and combining the manufacturing of the device and creation of the operating system. To the extent that a program might attempt to modify or interfere the operating system or the basic usability of the hardware, Apple should have the right to control that program. An example of a legitimate exercise of Apple's prerogative to assure user experience is their successful action to prevent the production for general sale of computers using Apple's operating system not licensed for such sale. To the extent that a program does not affect either the operating system or hardware user functionality, ie, the content and functions of program routines, games, etc., Apple should not attempt to control the program. I am not aware of Apple attempting to control content or functions of programs on Macs.

Posted by: jhbeck | April 10, 2010 1:39 AM | Report abuse

At some point in the not too distant future Apple is going to find themselves in a position they've never been in before: A monopoly. Before long, they will be the owner of the overwhelming mobile browsing OS and will no longer be able to say, "Don't like our rules? Go somewhere else." It's an appalling position even now, but eventually it will not be legal.

Imagine if Windows had created an NDA specifically designed to keep Apple out of the Windows OS altogether? Government intervention, that's what.

Posted by: evietoo | April 10, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

You need to actually hold one in your hand and use it. Every day I discover something new. The fact that I am discovering new things in a computing environment is in itself "revolutionary". The IPAD is a jack of all trades, but not a full Netbook, nor is it a full replacement for a desktop computer. I do believe desktop computers at home are a dinosaur race heading for extinction. The IPAD provides a new species. This is only the beginning. Apple has opened up new territory for the masses. The success is going to be achieved by the ingenuity of software and hardware engineers that take this new platform to the next limits. It is difficult for most analysts to figure out how to review the IPAD. That is because there is nothing like it to compare it to. That is what makes it a market altering device. Especially after the price comes down on later versions and improvements are made. But for a debut, it is amazing.

Posted by: MacRon | April 10, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

"Would you be as happy if Apple exerted the same control over what programs you could install on a Mac?" strikes me as the wrong question. The question should be what's best for Apple's business as they see it today? Apple has a few options for running its app store business, and they certainly consider what's best for their business as opposed to what will win the favor of certain tech heads. Let's consider just two options.

Option 1: A customer buys the iPhone, and can install any software that they wish, including Flash, compilers for Java, C++, etc., and developers can port code developed for those platforms. Or maybe a nice developer just writes in Objective C. In any case, what happens when an app crashes the phone, and the developer is inept or unresponsive? Then Apple's customer service is called in to solve problems that are possibly way out of the range of technical resources usually available in customer service. A few percent of the apps being malware could give Apple's iPhone a reputation of being a product of uncertain value, then sales are depressed. And companies like Electronic Arts, or Starbucks don't want to be associated with a product of dubious reputation. Meanwhile, the developers who sell malware have almost nothing to lose. In fact, they could rake in quite a few dollars before they become bored enough with customer support to take a long vacation. By the way, this is what the world was like from the late to mid 1990's when the software "Conflict Catcher" was needed to sort out the offensive app.

Option 2: Apple itself does a minimal amount of screening (no guarantees) to avoid having obvious malware downloaded to the phone, and to avoid having other software downloaded that could tarnish the product's image. But developers actually gain something in this process: a marketing and distribution service. So Apple's business model for the app store is not that of the software business, circa 1998, but that of a book publisher who dispenses very generous royalties. When a book is published by Knopf, or Farrar, Straus and Giroux, readers expect a high level of quality. We can't all meet high-level criteria; that's why there are other publishing houses, and other smart phones with apps.

Posted by: scsmits | April 10, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

The iPad and the iPhone both showcase the "Apple Garden." You can enjoy the Apps Apple wants you to enjoy, in the way Apple wants you to enjoy them. And Developers must write these Apps to do what Apple wants them to, and they must be written the way Apple wants them to.

Apple is the dictator of the iPhone/iPad world. Take Android vs iPhone OS. Google has proven that an open source approach can be effective and produce some great Apps. I say this only to prove my point that Apple isn't being dictatorial for the end-user experience. They are being dictatorial because they want to control every single corner of the of the iPhone/iPad universe.

Posted by: ldsfutbolplayer | April 10, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The iPad may be great for people that don't have a laptop and need a portable multimedia device that's bigger than an iPhone/iPod Touch but for people like me that already have a MacBook, iMac, and iPod Touch, there is no need for the iPad. Furthermore, for less money they could get a netbook that does much more but without the Apple 'coolness' factor.

Posted by: NJAnalyst | April 10, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Rob, I think you are becoming obsessed with Apple considering you an also-ran technology journalist, unlike the favored, including Walt Mossberg, David Pogue and Ed Baig. A major result of not being among the hallowed few is Apple sends you products to review late. By the time people read your reviews the die has already been cast. That must hurt. But, your reflexive assaults on Apple are becoming tiresome in addition to being unprofessional.

Furthermore, the claim you are making about the revision of the iPhone OS developers' agreement to clarify precompiled third-party code cannot be used in apps, is false. Apple is doing this because it wants to keep second-rate or worse user experiences off its mobile devices. Adobe is among the biggest developers impacted, but far from alone. Any developer wanting to be welcomed to the App Store with open arms just needs to follow the rules. That is not an onerous burden.

Posted by: query0 | April 10, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Check out the new iPad's App,
http://www.200linx.com/
It also works on regular PC - Firefox, Explorer and Safari browsers.
200Linx.com will make your surfing experience a whole lot easier...
it's simply the best site for the new iPad
try it...

Posted by: aragoran | April 11, 2010 2:50 AM | Report abuse

Check out the new iPad's App,
http://www.200linx.com/
It also works on regular PC - Firefox, Explorer and Safari browsers.
200Linx.com will make your surfing experience a whole lot easier...
it's simply the best site for the new iPad
try it...

Posted by: aragoran | April 11, 2010 3:21 AM | Report abuse

Check out the new iPad's App,
http://www.200linx.com/
It also works on regular PC - Firefox, Explorer and Safari browsers.
200Linx.com will make your surfing experience a whole lot easier...
it's simply the best site for the new iPad
try it...

Posted by: aragoran | April 11, 2010 3:52 AM | Report abuse

Rob - I have been reading your reviews and comments for several years now and have always enjoyed and respected them; but, I have recently detected a shift in your observations that I believe may be the result of what "query0" has rather curtly and not too gently stated in his comments. You may be right in assuming that Apple has indeed fired a shot across Adobe's bow (someone should!) But, the primary reason Apple has had to restrict certain types of cross-development for the iPhone is the unique, and I think, rather brilliant manner in which they have implemented multitasking. The traditional way drains batteries and produces crashes on many products, including full fledged computers. There is nothing stopping a developer from recoding their iPhone product for another device or recode an already developed product for use on the iPhone. This way the developer can take full advantage of each supported device's unique features. This is a win-win all the way around and can produce a more stable and enjoyable experience for the consumer. It may be a little more work for the developer, but, it is the consumer's experience that is, or should be, the important issue -- not extra work for the developer.

I don't always like the decisions that Apple makes, but, more often than not, they turn out to be good for the consumer and Apple. I wish they had put iChat and a camera in the iPad, but, I feel certain that will come. And even if they left it out of version 1 so they could have something really spectacular to put in versions 2 or 3, that is their prerogative. When it does show up it will probably be far better than the current implementation on the desktop computers.

The iPad is an extraordinary product of great potential. Once it proves to be successful, if it does, it will certainly change the computing landscape. If it fails, Apple or some other far-seeing company will come up with another device to take its place and we will start this rah-rahing and neigh-saying all over again.

Isn't life fun?

Posted by: john_in_dallas | April 11, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Apple is turning computing and software into basic cable television. It doesn't matter how shiny and new your t.v. is, if you don't give choice and freedom to software and content creators the programs are boring, generic, and full or reruns.

I program in many many languages and recently found Flex and Adobe to be great cross platform medium to build and deliver rich content. The IPad could being this functionality to a whole new level for the doctors and other professionals I write for, but now it is restricting one of the only way a small business like mine can provide new innovative content!

Posted by: joshbwhite | April 11, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

At least one comment shows that Apple is concerned enough to do forum spam, er pardon me, viral marketing. They're leaving no stone unturned, including the big one they hide under before 'unveiling' ceremonies.

Posted by: featheredge99 | April 12, 2010 2:59 AM | Report abuse

Well I would expect that most tech people will hate the iPad. In most of the reviews by tech people hold that statement true. I find the the iPad for what it is a reader is a course changer. This is a reader folks not a laptop, desktop, netbook..... As a reader it changes everything, unlike readers before it reads everything, books, mag. newspapers, webpages (yeah, no flash but who cares its a reader...) it does a heck of a job with streaming netflix, pandora, any iPad application and does ok with iTouch apps. For a reader this thing is just amazing and it's a game changer...

Posted by: PoppaBear | April 12, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The control that Apple is providing is the thing that should make regular people love it even more. By controlling the access to the operating system, we keep from getting exposed to viruses and security leaks. The reason Apple products work so well and so consistently is for this very reason. It is the polar opposite of the Microsoft world view. Not surprising that techies don't like it. They never have liked Apple's approach. The other 95% of us like it just the way it is. It is a game changer just like the iPhone is a game changer. Get over it!!

Posted by: Stephenawood | April 12, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the attempts to peer into my tortured psyche, but...

@query0: I--along with most tech journalists--have been in that second-tier status for years. That's just how Apple PR works. (Sometimes other companies do the same thing; notice how my Palm Pre review ran a week after other writeups of the phone?) Setting aside the conduct of people with whom readers never interact is just part of the job as a tech critic. That said, it's true that I'm no fan of the closed, restrictive manner in which Apple has been running the App Store. But if you haven't noticed after a decade of me writing this column that I appreciate openness as well as elegance, you must not have been paying attention.

As for your contention that "Apple is doing this because it wants to keep second-rate or worse user experiences off its mobile devices, " I can only answer: Oh really? I was not aware that programming in Xcode magically ensures first-rate experiences. Maybe you can explain why Mac users hate Intuit's Quicken Essentials, despite it being rewritten from scratch as a Cocoa app? Will you change your stance if we discover that the Post's disappointing iPhone app is an Xcode product?

@john_in_dallas: If you look at how other smartphone platforms implement multitasking, you'll see that Apple's approach isn't that unique at all. I suggest you start with this post by Android developer Robert Love comparing iPhone OS 4 with Android. You should also read Mac developer Greg Slepak's critical take.

I don't know that I've convinced any of you with this comment, though. I get the sense that you either don't think Apple can do any wrong, or will give it the benefit of the doubt every time. Am I wrong? You're welcome to argue from those perspectives, but that's not how any journalist should work.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | April 12, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

From your picture you look young; young enough perhaps to not yet have experienced a major hardware/software integration effort. It is the integration problem which, in my experience (50 years and counting), is the primary driver in Apple's app rules.

Microsoft's business model has always been that somebody else is the system integrator. This goes back to the day when you got DOS on one floppy and your printer driver on another.

Apple has, on the other hand, always done the hardware/software integration themselves, which is a big reason why their stuff "just works."

Successful systems integration is all about discipline, especially in the control of the interfaces between components. If you are going to integrate third-party components into a device as tightly bound as an iPad, you need some mechanism to enforce interface discipline. One method is to produce interface specifications and review and test modules against them. This is an expensive, error-prone PITA. The other is to say "use this development tool" and let the tool enforce the standards. That appears to be what Apple has done.

Every management approach has its costs, both monetary and otherwise, and Apple's is no exception. I'll tell you one thing, though: I've never been on an integration effort that failed because we were *too* draconian in controlling module interfaces.

Posted by: janker1 | April 15, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I've not taken a computer course in over 20 years, but I think I may be right that reverse compiling software in order to examine it isn't very easy to do. Apple examines all software submitted to the AppStore to ensure that it doesn't conflict with the basic operating system, or that it can't hijack the system in anyway. When software isn't submitted in a form that is understandable by the examiners, then that basic oversight function can't be provided. Adobe Flash is a full programming language. It can be made to do just about anything on any computer. If a jerk wanted to write viruses or other things into a program and then compile before converting it into Apple's very popular approved languages, how could you figure it out until things began to go haywire unless you could de-compile easily to see exactly what the thing was trying to do? That is asking Apple to do a lot of work in order to accept a program into the store, and it may simply not be possible to do anyway.
I may be completely wrong about this, but it sounds logical to me.
The iPad was never intended for Apple-haters or geeks who want a full-function but slow, difficult to use and heavy device based on Windows. It was intended to be a media/content consumption device. It does that better than anything out there. Other devices may come within a year such as the rumored Android devices, but they won't be better. Just bad, heavy imitations with fewer touch gestures than iPhones have had for two years. Don't forget...Apple has patents on multi-touch and its not going to let them be stolen by Android or other copycats. About the only patents they don't have are multi-toe operation - or maybe they have them sewed up, too! Unless Google or somebody comes out with total voice operation, multi-touch is the best way to operate tablet computers. Good luck without infringing on Apple's patents!

Posted by: tillery_garland | April 15, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Yet another response from your overworked blogger...

@janker1: The picture is seriously out of date--I don't think I even own that tie anymore. (I'm told we're finally taking a new one that will properly show my gray hairs next week.) For those new to my work, I've been writing this blog since 2007 and I've been writing my column since 1999. I've been at the Post even longer. And in that time, I've seen a few catastrophic hardware-vs.-software meltdowns happen just with newsroom software. As for the argument that Apple has to prevent that sort of thing from happening on the iPhone, why is that the only app I've seen hung up the iPhones I've reviewed has been Apple's own iPod software?

@tillery_garland: Before you put too much faith in those vaunted multi-touch patents, you might want to look at the post I wrote about them last month.

Oh, and one other thing...

@query0: I checked with PointAbout, the company that developed the Post's iPhone app, and COO Daniel Odio confirmed that they wrote it in Xcode.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | April 16, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, you should update your picture :-)

A couple of quick points: watching is not like participating. The iPad is not the iPhone.

Look, this thing is not a computing platform, it's an appliance. The fact that it admits third-party software at all is somewhat surprising.

Whether you like what it does or not is irrelevant to the development problems it poses by its ambitious form factor, power, and speed requirements. This means its a very tightly integrated little package, more like an advanced real-time control system than a laptop.

Maintaining interface discipline across multiple developers in such an environment, particularly with the limited support given by the ARM architecture in areas like memory management and process multiplexing, is hard. Restricting the tool set is sensible approach.

So my point is that the principal motive in the language policy is both technical and legitimate. The other stuff about market shaping and killing off diversity and so forth is side effect.

Posted by: janker1 | April 16, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

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