Cory Doctorow has a great rant on Boing Boing about why he won’t buy an iPad and why he thinks you shouldn’t buy one either. It’s a great article, full of passion and well thought through arguments. Problem is it’s mostly bunkum.
He makes a number of points in the article that are worth looking at one by one.
Incumbents made bad revolutionaries
His argument here seems to be that Apple is more interested in using the great technical features of the iPad to either restrict its use or find a way to make people pay for it.
The example he uses is the Marvel iPad comic app. The argument is the app – and by extension the iPad – is bad because, for example, you can’t lend someone else your comic. Put aside the fact that it’s really an anti-DRM rant (which I mostly agree with) he forgets one simple thing. The device actually makes it extraordinarily easy to lend someone your comic – hand them your iPad. It is in this way exactly as easy to lend someone a comic on your iPad as it is with a physical comic book.
And if Apple gets this right, they’ll help craft – or at least speed up – the development of a whole new computing and media model - tablet computing.
That leads nicely into the next argument…
Tonight I had leftover pizza for tea. I heated it in the microwave and then put it under the grill for a minute to crisp it up. I punched some buttons on the microwave and it did what it needed to do – help me consume my dinner. I don’t need to be able to take it apart, repait it and install Linux on it. I just need it to work – like my television, my bed and my table.
But Cory’s argument here seems to suggest that if I’m only using a device to consume something I’m somewhat less likely to survive in the brave new world of the 21st century than someone who can take a device apart and put it back together.
I can enjoy consuming a book even if I don’t know how to pull the spine off, reorder the pages and put it back together again. It should be okay that not everyone wants to take everything apart all the time.
Boing Boing is a site supported by ad revenue. I bet there’s a strong correlation between the rates for those adverts and the number of people simply consuming the site – page hits or unique visitors. I hope the number of people actively interacting with the site by adding comments also factors in there but I doubt simple consumers of the site take a back seat when it’s time to crunch the numbers.
Wal-Martization of the software channel
According to Wikipedia there are around 150,000 third-party applications in the App Store. If Apple was the only computer maker in a regulated market I’d be more likely to accept the claim that “the iStore lock-in doesn’t make life better for Apple’s customers or Apple’s developers.”
But again this is an anti-DRM argument, that’s not (or shouldn’t be) restricted to the iPad. Clearly developers and customers aren’t stupid. That’s why more than three billion downloads have been made from the App Store.
The Wal-Mart analogy is a bad one too – at least on one level. The development of the iPod Touch, the iPhone and now the iPad has not seen a massive takeover of an existing market, it’s fostering a massive expansion of a new, previously small market.
Journalism is looking for a daddy figure
It’s not the device’s fault if journalists and bloggers get sucked into the spin from Apple’s marketing team. Indeed, arguing that Rupert Murdoch is silly because he thinks putting up a pay-wall will save his newspaper empire in the long-run should not be confined to discussion about the iPad.
Gadgets come and gadgets go
I’ve got some sympathy for the argument that “the real issue isn’t the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.” But that’s the real crux of the whole post. Until he gets to here, Cory seems to be arguing that the iPad can’t won’t and shouldn’t change things. But here, he pretty much gives up the ghost and you almost get the sense that he knows it will.