All the apple fanboys are in a tizzy because of the iPad. The idea of the iPhone OS running on a platform that is getting closer and closer to a "General Purpose Computer" is scaring them. For the best example see Alex Payne's essay.

They see the iPad as a scary, closed computer.    Alex sees it as a “Tinkerer’s Sunset”, Someone else bemoans the fact that he won’t be able to “peek” and “poke” his way to mastery of his device. 

Apparently, they were OK with this, as long as the form factor could fit in your pocket, and didn’t compete with Macs.  But the iPad is different, it’s an “actual computer.”  As opposed to an iphone I guess, which, in my opinion is also an actual computer, but all of the apple fanboys were OK with.

It is, in their opinion, a death of the Open, transparent computer.  They talk about it splitting the market into two distinct segments, one for people who just want to use their computer to consume stuff, and a general purpose computer market for “hobbyists and developers”.  There are two problems with this statement.

1. Non “hobbyists and developers” don’t create anything, they just consume.  This is just bullshit.  Most people use computers as a tool.  Writers, Musicians, they use computers without knowing how they work all the time.  My wife knows nothing about MIDI, or Objective-C, but when presented with just GarageBand and the samples that came with the computer, she was able to use it to create a piece of music that I, a professional computer developer, couldn’t dream of matching.  Even worse, she said it was easy.  Creative people use Macs every day, it’s the OS that is preferred by creative people, and I hate to say this, but it has nothing to do with how “Open” Macs are.  It has to do with the better interface, and the ease of use of the Mac. 

For those who aren’t hobbyists or developers, a computer is a tool.  Nothing more.  The best kind of tool is the one that gets out of your way and lets you do your job without having to think about the tool.  Macs have always been famous for this ability to get out of the way, and just let you create, which leads me into my next point…

2.  There has always been two target audiences, Apple is just the first company who has been able to create distinct products for both.  People who want to write, or compose, or design don’t want to have to worry about filesystem minutiae, or memory management, or pre-emptive multitasking.  They want to be able to open their toolbox, pick out the appropriate tool for what their doing, be it a web browser, word processor, music editor, or whatever.  For everyone who wondered “How does it do that? (the hobbyist or developer)”, there are 10 or 100 people who don’t care, but just want to sit down and write, or design.

For the past 30 years, We (and I definitely count myself amongst the developer crowd), have had a fantastic advantage in that the same machine we used to create the tools was the same machine that people used to just use the tools.  We could compile code, and just give it to someone else, and they would be able to run it.   This makes computer programming so much easier.  Programmer’s can just write software.  Making sure someone else can use the software, or making sure the software doesn’t screw up the user’s machine?  That’s someone else’s problem.  Usually Tech Support’s, or MIS’s problem.

This is long enough, and I’ve got other stuff to do.  Next time:  Why this is changing, and the nature of Open Vs. Closed computing.


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30 January 2010