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Why geeks should ignore the iPad

April 18, 2010

I mean proper geeks. Not gadgetophiles, not Stephen Fry. I mean Cory Doctorow, Jonathan Zittrain, Richard Stallman and me.

The first of these men have been quoted on Nick Carr’s post The iPad Luddites, and Nick suggests that we should all just shut up about the fact that the iPad may usher in an era of locked-down “generativity”-free Internet use. He compares computers to the loom, which ushered in an era of reduced-generativity weaving.

Nick’s right that progress usually delivers us stripped down, sleek versions of things which used to be a lot more useful (in that they had more uses). It is a trade-off between usability, cost and function. The iPad will appeal to those who only use a computer to surf the net, check emails, and look at pretty pictures (although there will no doubt be add-ons to help those who want to run their business via one).

Us geeks should not worry about those people. As long as we are customers for the full Internet, the full Internet will be there. Generativity will only decrease to the level at which it is acceptable to the masses, and therefore, what ya gonna do?

It’s why Linux does not experience the hordes rushing towards it from Windows. Yes, it lets you do whatever you want with your PC, but the masses don’t miss these things in Windows. GIMP, OpenOffice and Firefox may all be on Linux, along with more programming tools and administrative functions than you can shake a Torvalds at, but Windows has GIMP, OpenOffice and Firefox, and Photoshop, and Office, and a place for the drivers on the CD for this obscure MP3 player I got off eBay.

So leave the masses to their iPads. Buy an Android phone (I will) even though the app selection is not as good. We may not like it, but the masses will get the Internet they want.

We just need to make sure we keep the one we want too (even if it’s just in our own garage).