Reader Post: The Disturbing Course of Mobile Technology

Posted on 17 May 2010, Last updated on 17 May 2010 by

One of the best things about the iPad is that it is seeding great discussions, thought and experimentation. Dr. Juan Luis Chulilla Cano, Director www.onlineandoffline.net [personal blog] , Spain, sent us this article which I’m sure is going to start another good discussion. Thanks Juan.

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I am not surprised at all by of the extraordinary reception given to the iPad. The exaggerated and raptured descriptions are explainable keeping in mind the huge expectations that media groups have about the iPad: if the iPad is the wonder-device which can make pay-per-content solutions acceptable for the first time in the Internet Age, then Media is forced to bomb the population with out of control hype. What I cannot totally understand is how and why the disappointment of late January, when we met the real characteristics of the device and all its shortcomings, has been magically transformed into renewed infatuation and fascination for a lot of tech bloggers, as if this disappointment has gone through a process of double-thinking.

Of course, a good number of bloggers have maintained their critical approach about iPad and what it means for the public. Indeed, the first wave of hype and uber-criticism has calmed down, and it has no sense to repeat the main criticism. Instead of it, I would rather prefer to focus on two linked topics: format variety and PC software model.

I am still amazed about how many people are, well, raptured by the SAME device. Technologically speaking, it is as if one day I get up, get out of my house and I find that most of the people I meet on the street are wearing the Mao suit. Actually, distinction is one of the most important engines of consumption, whether we talk about clothes or cars and people need to buy and use different formats of computers and Internet browsing devices, MID and the like, because they have different requirements and usage environments.

iPad nowadays is very efficient in helping their users to feel themselves different, comparing with the sheer majority of have-nots. BUT all of them are happy with ALL its characteristics and size? I just cannot accept that on the long term.

The second topic (which disturbs me a lot) is the PC software model. The astronomical PC revolution wouldn’t have been possible if all the main vendors would not accept an OS which has no limitations on what can be installed on it besides the development of the application. For sure, Windows is far from perfect (mainly because of its vulnerabilities against malware), but its unlimited software paradigm has been essential for the PC revolution. Linux shares this model, but Apple not totally: although MacOS X has no limits on what you can install on it, you cannot legally install that OS on a non-produced Apple PC. That was not bad as apple sales have been anecdotal in the last fifteen years

I do believe that all this freedom of operation has been essential for the PC revolution. A PC is much more that a browsing and text processing device, and the lack of software limitations have made possible the adaptation of the PC to a huge variety of environments and user requirements.

There, my main concern about the iPad is its tyrannical and obsessive control about what the customer may or may not do with the product they purchased, its theoretical property. As it is well known, the only legal software source for the iPad is the AppleStore, and Apple has full powers to decide what is permissible or not. Besides, recently Apple has reduced drastically the programming languages and environments that can be used for iPad development.

Some people say that this is a clear benefit for the users, because users need just “devices that work” carefree. This is connected with the prior topic (different formats for different requirements): maybe “mums” can be satisfied with such a lack of options (Cory Doctorow has a smart insight about it in his post Why I won’t buy an iPad), but a lot of users cannot be satisfied with such a proposal. The comparison with Meego is very illustrative: you can install an application in a Meego-powered device (ANY compatible device) from their future “market” (repository is an old-fashioned term these days), or from any other source. It is not going to be any restriction of language or programming environment within the capabilities of a Meego-powered device.

The amazing success of iPhone has affected Apple in a wrong and harmful way. I also find insulting that it is acceptable to treat people as minors with their rights stripped away. PCs have had a fundamental role in the process of Internet adoption for the population, with all its revolutionary consequences. But don’t forget that PC were successful before Internet adoption, and its success is totally linked with their software model.

Nowadays PCs are not the only way of accessing Internet anymore, and they aren’t going to be the main way to do that for much longer. Mobile devices are the protagonist of the next evolutionary wave of Internet, since they link Online and Offline reality in a double way; allowing Internet access anywhere, anytime, and being the basis for generating augmented reality experiences. However, if PC software model is abandoned, if we happily give up the control of our devices to the vendors, it will have negative consequences to the evolution of Internet

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Thanks again Juan. Over to you, readers.

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