Archive for January 28th, 2010

Creative bankruptcy from the Apple iPad

January 28th, 2010 by Ian

The recently unveiled iPad is a metaphor for how Apple has turned away from those who create, to those who consume. Not only is the focus now on consuming at the expense of creating, but the way in which one consumes is very limiting. Here is why:

Apple have always been different. Despite some solid hardware and software design over the past few years, the biggest advantage Apple has is that it’s not Microsoft Windows. Partially because of this, Apple has been the faux-official computer manufacturer for creative folk. Musicians need an OS that doesn’t get in the way of their creativity. Visual artists knew they could install Photoshop on Windows, but on a Mac it felt like it belonged there. Designers not only loved the way the machines looked, but also the way they handled their creations without fuss (or BSOD). Writers and bloggers loved their (usually) good keyboards and subtle UI. For their efforts, Apple have been rewarded with loyal fans amongst those who create.

Image by HappyToast @ b3ta

Image by HappyToast @ b3ta

For some people the internet is a one way thing. You sit back and it washes over you. Videos of cats falling off chairs, news articles, online radio, pornography… whatever. For many people, however, the web is a two way conversation. Whether it’s through IM, writing blogs, commenting on Reddit or even uploading shot film to Youtube, the web isn’t there to just be stared at. The people who demand this contributory attitude are often the creative folk I mentioned before. An on-screen keyboard isn’t the best way to go about all this. Neither is a 9″ screen, but that’s fair enough. We’re all pretty much in agreement that Apple didn’t make this device for creating monstrous Photoshop artworks or hours long Reason jams. No, they made it for the consumption of already created works. So why, Apple, limit so unnecessarily the ways in which we can consume such works?

The answer of course is control and money. You have to get everything through iTunes which means Apple cash-in, big time. What is puzzling is why creative types so readily favor such a creatively-limiting device. It’s understandable in a way: Apple rescued us all from a Windows hell. But don’t they understand that Apples “everything has to flow through us, it’s for your own sake, citizen” attitude stunts creativity? How can a design community be approving of Apple products when their applications are removed from the store, and their time wasted. Not only is this app-store only, no-multitasking world so bad for innovation, but Apple have the gaul to pretend that they’re doing something new. In yesterdays keynote we were told that all these cheap, 1.6GHz netbooks were too slow to be useful. That’s not true. Again, if you want to to some major Illustrator work then it’s probably not the best choice, but we’ve already decided that these machines are for consumption, which i think many netbooks (be they Linux or Windows7) excel at. I know hardware isn’t the only thing that effects performance, but I’m not entirely sure how the 1GHz iPad processor is going to be that much faster.

As a web developer I have to accept that the Apple app-store approach is bad for the web. When one creates an application for the web, be it using the latest HTML5 techniques or Flash, one can be sure that everyone can use it. As crap as Flash is for online video, it excels in some areas (like casual gaming). But that would mean that Apple loose out to free online alternatives to many (if not most) apps in their store. Apple is creating an elite version of the web, for only those who pay them directly, and because of this the iPhone and the iPad must be seen as poisonous to the internet, just as iTunes is poison to the music industry.

Some other ‘features’ of note include: The design looks like it’s a parody from the Onion. I need someone to explain how if a base model costs £388 and the same model with 16GB more memory costs £122 more, then where the hell do they buy their memory? Did they seriously call it an ‘iPad’? Finally, whatever I say, Hitler always has a much better grip on these things.