Friday, April 2, 2010

Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either) - Boing Boing


The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a "consumer," what William Gibson memorably described as "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote."


The way you improve your iPad isn't to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn't a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it's a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.




These two paragraphs sum up my opinions about the iPad (and Apple in general these days) better than I ever could. I did find it curious that Doctorow left "Or by voting in presidential elections." off the end of the Gibson quote, but it's amazingly appropriate despite the omission of what I see as the punchline.

There's another great reference in the post to the "Maker's Manifesto," which states that if you can't open it, you don't own it. "Screws not glue." I used to like Apple, but it's hard to ignore the fact that over the past 5 years or so they've locked down their products well beyond the point of ridiculousness. They want you to buy early and often, and spend spend spend on apps and content. Great business model for people who don't care or don't know any better, but definitely not for me.

19 comments:

Charlie Griefer said...

But... they're marketing the product -towards- "consumers". I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with being a consumer. If you're a doctor, lawyer, accountant, artist, civil servant, etc (essentially anything other than an IT professional), why would you ever want to figure out how your iPad works and make it better? You don't. You want a device that you can use while sitting on the couch or while on a trip, where you can browse the web, watch a video, read a book, etc.I don't personally have a major beef with Apple's business model. I think most people know about it and accept it. I've read enough blog entries and articles about how horribly Apple treats its developers (primarily those developing iPhone apps), yet the answer is, "if you think it's horrible... don't participate". If you don't like the rules, don't play the game. Apparently, enough people are still willing to play the game that there's no compelling reason for Apple to make any significant change. It seems to be working out pretty well for them. At least as far as the bottom line goes.As far as the iPad, I won't be buying one because I think it's a silly device (based on what I've read so far). I don't mind the lack of Flash on my iPhone, as my iPhone isn't primarily a web browsing device. But on a tablet, I'd expect that web browsing would be more of a main feature. I'm sorry, but if Apple's going to promote this as "the best way to experience the web... hands down", I don't expect to see lego blocks where there should be Flash content. All the talk of HTML5 -maybe- displacing Flash in the future is irrelevant. Today, Flash is pervasive on the Web. I'd have less of an issue with it had Apple not chosen to market it with that particular copy... but they did. And it's just not even a little bit true. Not today, at least.I also think the 4x3 resolution on movie playback is ridiculous. Again, for me one of the compelling features of such a device would be watching movies on trips. If my little iPhone can do widescreen resolution, I can't think of a single good reason why the jumbo iPhone shouldn't be able to.Lack of camera is also a deal killer for me. I'd think that the iPad would be competing with most lines of netbooks. Webcams are a pretty standard feature in just about every netbook. Given the price points of the iPad vs just about any standard netbook, feature-for-feature the iPad just doesn't seem to stand up, IMO. While netbooks might not be as slim/sleek or have the touch interface, the functionality of an average netbook seems to be twice the functionality offered in an iPad at around half the price.

bennadel said...

I agree with Charlie. It is a consumer product. I used to be conflicted about this as well, with regard to its keyboard. I figured, if I have to type, then I might as well just use a laptop or a desktop where I can work much more comfortably and faster. But then, after some conversation with people, I realized that devices like and the iPhone and the iPad are not built to be optimized for "producers". We (I like to think of myself as a producer) are such a tiny minority of the people out there that to make everything optimized for us might be a waste of time and energy on the company's standpoint?Will I use this to read articles while in bed watching Law & Order? Probably. Will I use this to perhaps send email while traveling? Maybe.... will I use it for much else? Probably not. ... But, at the end of the day, I think that's what it's for - consuming.

Matthew Woodward said...

Sure, and my point is that the sort of rampant consumerism they're driving is problematic for a host of reasons. Sounds like you and I differ in our opinions pretty radically on that point. It's great for Apple and it makes them a lot of money so you're right, they have no reason to change. There's plenty of "consumers" out there in the vein that William Gibson described. But this model isn't good for society as a whole, and it's certainly not good for the progress of technology. As for Flash, I REALLY don't get why people care so much about Flash, and I suspect outside the Adobe world they don't. I couldn't care less if my phone has Flash; in fact, I'd prefer it didn't. The only thing I ever *need* Flash for is YouTube (and need is stretching it there), but YouTube works just fine on my Android phone without Flash. I just don't understand the "Flash is ubiquitous on the web" argument, because I see Flash very little in what I do online. Maybe I just don't go to all the sites people are whining about not being able to access on their phones due to the lack of Flash. Not to mention that I'm on Linux full time and Flash sucks on Linux, so I just run FlashBlock most of the time and honestly I don't miss whatever it is I'm theoretically missing. Ultimately you're right. If you don't like the rules, don't play the game. And I'm not. But that doesn't mean I have to give up my right to point out how stupid the game is from my perspective. In my opinion people should think about these issues a lot more than they do. Do I think my little blog post, or even the Boing Boing post, will sway the masses? Of course not. But it at least puts a contrary argument out there for people who do think a bit more about what they're signing up for when they buy something like the iPad.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Matt for this writeup. As you said it is good to have these viewpoints available for people to look at it differently. However, you say consumerism is bad but you don't say why.

Matthew Woodward said...

@Kyle--if you're really interested in why consumerism is bad there are TONS of resources out there. Maybe start by reading "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman, then look into where all our discarded electronic doo-dads wind up (hint: China) and the impact they have on the environment (hint: they kill people, just not here), check out any number of PBS Frontline documentaries (the classic "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" comes to mind), check out "The Story of Stuff" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8) ... the list goes on. I just don't think people think about this stuff NEARLY enough.

Matthew Woodward said...

@Charlie--read my comment to Kyle and you'll get a better idea where I'm coming from. Having access to the things we buy (your car analogy) is only a small piece of the overall problem.As for watching Law & Order in bed, this gets back to the whole consumerism thing for me. Don't get me wrong, I like gadgets as much as the next person. But I don't think people ask "Do I really NEED to be able to do that?" enough. So while I like gadgets, and I think a lot of them are very cool in the abstract, I can't help but thinking that we as a society have much bigger problems to solve than giving me the ability to watch TV shows anywhere, any time. It's just too much, which gets back to my "Amusing Ourselves to Death" book reference in my comment to Kyle. Also, watch the movie "Idiocracy" and see what you think. If you look at it as a parable instead of as a comedy it's a bit frightening, and ultimately I think that's what Mike Judge intended with that movie.

bennadel said...

@Matt,I caught a few minutes of Idiocracy on TV a few months ago. It was painful, I couldn't watch it. When you love things like King of the Hill and Office Space, Idiocracy just felt like a "miss". As far as Law & Order, I think maybe you misunderstood me. I didn't say that I wanted to watch L&O on the iPad. I already watch L&O on tv. I was saying that one of the few places I might use the iPad is *while* watching L&O in bed. In most other cases, I am already at a computer and don't really see the point. At the end of the day though, I do think there is value in relaxing and zoning out a bit (what i use L&O for). My brain is going bananas all day between work and blogging and audio books and NPR that at the end of the day, I like to have a way to kind of "turn off" a bit before I go to sleep; in fact, it helps me sleep. If I keep thinking too much right before bed, I can't shut down and have horrible sleep because of it.It's all about balance.

Matthew Woodward said...

@Ben -- Idiocracy was a miss? WOW. Just wow. I like King of the Hill and Office Space too, but to me Idiocracy was the pinnacle of what Mike Judge is all about. I think it took the underlying points of Beavis & Butthead (and to me King of the Hill, while good, is a disappointment because it's WAY watered down compared to Beavis & Butthead) and made them a lot more profound.

Charlie Griefer said...

@Matt - yup... saw your reply to Kyle after I posted my initial response. I'll probably need to check out the book (or any of the other materials you cite) before you and I can debate the topic on truly even ground.As to the "Do I really NEED to be able to do that...", I suppose it depends. My mother and stepfather were out visiting recently, and we took a trip to Yosemite. I had a GPS in our car, he had printed up some directions from Google maps in his. He and my mother own the same GPS unit that I do, but they didn't bring it with them.When I asked him why not, he said he fears that becoming reliant on a GPS would (and I'm paraphrasing here, because I don't remember his exact words) make him lazy, and that he'd prefer to think and figure things out for himself.I do understand that... but then my question would be, "why print the Google Maps directions?" Why not try and navigate from our house to Yosemite using nothing but the position of the sun in the sky while taking into consideration the time of day and the rotation of the earth and...I suppose the line at which we feel that the acceptable level of "work smarter not harder" becomes "I don't want to rely _entirely_ on technology" is subjective for each of us.Saw Idiocracy. Didn't care much for it. Don't actually think I saw it all the way through. I felt it would have made a good SNL skit, but stretching the message over a ~2 hour movie was stretching it a bit thin. I get your point, though and see where it can be frightening. Just the part about the TV show (if memory serves, it was called, "Ow My Balls"). I've seen shows that I personally felt were well written and intelligent shows cancelled in favor of a revival of American Gladiators (I'm still pissed off at NBC for that) :\

Matthew Woodward said...

@Charlie--when we get into things like GPS, from my perspective we're talking about something completely different than a pure entertainment device like the iPad. (OK, fine, maybe someone will build a GPS app for it, but bear with me for the purposes of discussion.)To me GPS is a tool, and a very valuable one. It's a living map. It's a modern sextant. I don't think anyone would fault people for using a map (and you'd get major props for using a sextant), so while it's an argument I've heard before, I don't quite understand when people refuse to use the tools available to them because they don't want to become to reliant up on them. I suppose there were people who fought the calculator at first too.So I think we agree on that point. If you're going to print Google Maps directions and you have a GPS, use the GPS. You're "cheating" just as much by using Google Maps. We're all becoming cyborgs at some level (Google as an extension of our brains, GPS handling navigation for us ...), and while yes, technology can fail, GPS is one of those things that just doesn't. Maybe I'm giving GPS a pass because I have a horrendously bad sense of direction so for me it's an absolute necessity. ;-)I guess my rambling point is I see a distinction between "tools" and "entertainment devices." I personally need GPS. Can't survive without it. My girlfriend is a GPS naysayer (doesn't like technology much in general, actually) and prefers to get around without it.As for the iPad, there is nothing I personally do that will be made better in any way by the iPad, and I suspect that's also true for a lot of people that will be buying one. But buy they will.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I agree 100% with you about Apple. I've never been an Apple user, and this used to be because I had so much investment in Windows land that it would be expensive to switch. But lately it's because of Apple's obscene insistence on controlling all aspects of their devices. This directly goes against the reasons I buy such devices.As far as consumerism...I watched that youtube video you linked to up until she started trashing the "extraction" industry. Admittedly, there are companies out there that "destroy" the planet with their industrial practices. But she said that "extraction" means "destroy the planet". This kind of broad brush painting really irritates me. Especially because I work for an electric utility that routinely gets painted as anti-planet by the local press and luminaries, yet of those people were to spend a few minutes researching how our company operates, they'd find that we spend millions of dollars every year protecting the environment.Do I think consumerism is a problem? Mostly yes. But at the same time, I think we need to be smart when we debate such issues, and to say that all extraction companies are destroying the planet is flat out wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I hope you guys don't mind my late entry to the fray...it seems to me that we have a confusion of terms. The scenario Charlie describes is not consumerism, but, rather, pure capitalism. Consumerism is a subset of materialism: buying "stuff" just to have "stuff."Capitalism is a moral neutral: it can be good; it can be bad; it can be neither. Consumerism, like materialism, would be considered bad by the vast majority of people. Most people see the value of themselves and others as something wholly different than their possessions. Or, at least, we hope so.The issue you all are getting at here is what happens when capitalism caters to people's consumerism, and pretty much blatantly promotes it. That's where criticism of Wal-Mart comes into play. I love Wal-Mart. I pretty much feed and clothe a family of 4 on one income thanks to Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. Frontline can go jump in a lake. Is it consumerism? Not for me: it's economic neccessity.Where does that leave Apple? I'm not sure. I choose not to buy Apple for the same reason I don't buy Tesla Roadsters: "Wow, that's a cool car! What?! A million bucks?! Kthxby!" It is just an over-priced electronic gizmo that, if I want to use it the way I want to, I either can't or I have to buy even more over-priced electronic gizmo's to make it work. I would rather invest $350 in an hp laptop on Black Friday and be able to do what I want with it.Which means, that while I have nothing at all to do with consumerism, I am a "consumerist." --- Power to the People, baby! =)

Anonymous said...

After thinking about it for a while, I think the problem with Apple is not that they are pro-consumerism so much as it is that they are anti-consumerist: they want to make all our choices for us.

Matthew Woodward said...

@Paul--sounds like you didn't actually watch that Frontline episode. ;-) It's actually not overtly critical of Wal-Mart; it just asks a lot of very valid questions about what it means to be a consumerist society and the impact it has in a bunch of different areas.

Jose Galdamez said...

@Charlie @PaulI feel like we are all long lost brothers or something. I see eye to eye with most of what you guys said.@MattI'll be the first to admit that I've been an Apple fanboy since '96. Does that mean I'm getting an iPad? Not right away. I don't have the need for it at this stage in my life. I think the potential it has to bring information into the hands of older and younger generations is why I'm so thrilled with it, though. If I were to ever to get it for me it would be primarily to be able to watch movies without having to carry a single disc on the road. Most of the other use cases it provides would require Internet connectivity, and I don't think I'll ever be ready to cough up dough to AT&T for their 3G plan. Maybe, just maybe, I could dig working on that Keynote presentation or writing up that awesome autobiography while on my plane ride to Mauritius. There's only one problem. I don't know where Mauritius is.All those things aside, I'm curious to see where this will go for elementary education and accessibility for senior citizens. I don't care how much you love your FLOSS OS, tools, software. There ain't no way I'm showing my uncle how to rip CDs and sync to an iPod on a Linux system. Uh uh. No way dude. Can't pay me enough to put up with that dude for that long.I noticed some talk about environmental issues in this thread. It's worth mentioning that Al Gore (Mr. Inconvenient Truth) is on the board of directors at Apple. It is of no coincidence that Apple goes to great lengths to be environmentally friendly with their choice of materials and production methods. There will obviously be waste to deal with regardless of what Apple does, but as long as they are doing their part to mitigate the problem I don't think there's much more we can ask of them.Threadjack alert. We need to be talking more about how to provide energy-efficient ways of maintaining and setting up all the server farms that are going to continue handling all these services over the wire. Let's be real for a minute. Server farms are the real threat to the environment, not trashed iPads and iPods. I know it's easy to sit here and hate on Apple, but this problem is inherent to anything that currently relies on this "everything needs to be in the cloud" mentality (which Steve Jobs is ironically in favor of). Bill Gates gave a good talk on TED about ways in which current research is moving to make energy production more efficient and environmentally-friendly. Let's hope this new technology comes sooner than later.As for me and my food, I shop at Costco cause their bagels are to die for. That's right. I said it. Bagels = deal killer.

Matthew Woodward said...

@Jose--you have a rather antiquated notion of how difficult it is to rip music on Linux. It's not. Stick the CD in, click "open with music player," click "import to library." I daresay that's as easy if not easier than it is with iTunes.As for getting it on an iPod specifically (and here I mean an Apple iPod, not iPod in the generic "digital music player" sense), you have Apple to thank that it's been sketchy in the past. They go out of their way to ensure that you HAVE to use iTunes to talk to your iPod, while other players work just fine with LInux. With the latest version of Ubuntu, however, if you plug your iPod in it'll see it fine.I COMPLETELY disagree that Apple's doing their part to mitigate any environmental impact they have. They talk a big game, sure. They have nice "green" marketing crap on their site. Great.Steve Jobs also expects people will buy new iPods every six months, and with how locked down they have their laptops these days, he'd LOVE to see the laptop buyers do the same thing. Sure no one's making people buy anything that often, but Apple does a fantastic job of brainwashing people into buying the latest and greatest the second it's available. Maybe each device has a bit less environmental impact than it used to, but they want people to buy new ones ridiculously often so their profits can keep going up, and the old ones wind up in a landfill eventually.I understand that Apple's job is to make heaps of cash. And they're good at it. But I'm not going to give them a pass on the environmental side of things simply because it's not specifically in their job description to be kind to the environment.So all I really wish is that people would think about all of these angles before they blindly buy a new iPod or iPad or what have you when the stuff they already have is working fine. The longer we keep our gadgets the less environmental impact there is as a whole and it becomes a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious one, but of course if people only buy a new iPod every three years instead of every six months, Apple's shareholders won't be happy.

Anonymous said...

I right there with you Matt on using our stuff for as long as possible before replacing it, but I do it for different reasons: sheer economics. The only thing I do replace regularly are my cell phones, and even then it's every 15-18 months, and then I either recycle them (where Sprint will give me a service credit for it) or I give it to charity (there's a troubled mom's house here in Denton that needs lots of them.) But, my only tv is a 27" Sony crt; my minivan and truck are both 90's models, my lawn mower and weed whacker are both 10 years old, etc., etc. I wonder what the difference in environmental impact is between building a Prius and a cell phone?Either way, the real issue is what are we doing as comsumers, and that fits on either side of the issue. Fortunately, I think most people fall on the side of reason over consumerism (which is not really synonymous with being a consumerist.)

Peter J. Farrell said...

Getting farther from the original iPad thread...Citing that Mr. Gore is on the board of directors as evidence that Apple is environmentally conscience is a bit a stretch. Not that I don't think Mr. Gore has done some good things for the environment, but a single person cannot change the world not does Gore control how Apple treats the environment. Up until recently, Green Peace listed Apple as the worst of the 10 biggest computer / electronic manufactures for using toxic materials in their products. Only after launching "A Greener Apple", did Apple respond to the grassroots campaign:http://www.greenpeace.org/apple/It wasn't until the end of 2007 that Apple started taking its products back. You can read the whole history here:http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/greening-of-apple-310507Green Peace, as of 2010, is still pressing Apple to make commitments "to reducing greenhouse gases and be more open in general about its stances on the use of certain chemical compounds in products, and about its supply chain. And, of course, so is As You Sow."http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-10459404-260.html?tag=mncol;txthttp://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/apple-guide-to-greener-...Apple does state "No waste from Apple’s U.S. recycling program is shipped outside North America. All recovered materials are processed domestically, with the exception of some commodity materials that can be recycled for future use." However there is no transparency in their recycling program and their is a loophole "with the exception of..." part. This loophole basically allows any manufacture to classify a material as "commodity." The Basel Action Network has been trying to get information on Apple's recycling partners and how e-waste is actually handled, but Apple refuses to discuss this issue and "counters that it audits its recycling partners closely and that it does not export hazardous tech trash."http://www.macworld.com/article/140122/2009/04/greenapple3.htmlAt the last shareholders meeting (Feb. 2010), two different proposals on environmental concerns were rejected by shareholders. One proposal was by As You Sow which for a "second straight year asked Apple to publicly commit to specific greenhouse gas reduction goals and publish a formal sustainability report." The second proposal from "Herrington Investments, which proposed that Apple's board establish a sustainability committee, just like a compensation or personnel committee."http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-10459872-260.htmlBoth proposals were *rejected* by shareholders.Personally, I believe that Apple is about a transparent about things (from iPhone/iPad/iTunes app development to the environment) as my 100 year old recycled solid wood oak desk.Matt is right that most e-waste ends up in third-world countries. If people don't see it, they don't care and maybe that is part of the whole consumerism idea that being discussed here. If the e-waste ended up in the Hudson River near Manhattan, then I believe people would be asking questions. I believe the phrase is "out of sight, out of mind."For those interested, you might be interested in: What Should We Fight to Save? Fighting to Preserve Our Humanity — But What Is Humanity?http://questioneverything.typepad.com/question_everything/2010/03/what-should...

Anonymous said...

@PeterI found a comic today that you might find somewhat amusing (and related to this thread).http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyimages/1402.gifI'll have to get back to you regarding the other stuff later :-)