The Macalope Weekly: Down with the iPad!

For many of us, the past week has been like the lead-up to our own personal Super Bowl, and the excitement has only mounted as the kick-off nears. A slew of positive reviews came out and one media company after another announced the cool stuff they’d be bringing to the platform. It sure seems like if you’re not on board with the iPad, you might want to get out of the way. But far be it from the Macalope to not provide equal time to the critics!

Conspiracy!

Pat Kiernan (motto: “I’m wearing a suit so you know my Apple analysis will be top notch!”) smells a rat! Did you know that the iPad doesn’t have Flash?! It’s true! And the big media reviewers don’t want you to know it!

But when the lucky group of [pre-release] reviewers is as small as it is, which of them wants to write a negative review that might prompt Apple to choose someone else next time? This seemed all the more obvious when I tried to find some objective criticism about the Flash issue in the many iPad reviews I read.

For “objective criticism” read “people who want to moan on and on and rend their garments about it.” All but one of the reviewers Kiernan links to mentioned the issue, which seems like less of a big deal every day as more and more content providers switch to HTML5.

Kiernan’s got a “conflict of interest” itch to scratch, but he hasn’t really thought out his metaphors yet.

To draw a comparison, suppose Owen Gleiberman and Joe Morgenstern decided to be nasty in their reviews of every movie ever released. The studios couldn’t cut them off. They could make it harder for their tough critics to get into advance screenings, but it would be almost impossible to shut them out. The Apple situation seems much clearer: a handful of writers get to play while the others wait.

Does he really not see that this is exactly the same situation? Movie reviewers get to see the movies in advance so they can write the review before it comes out. They get to do that because the studios let them. Anyone who wants can write an iPad review now that’s it’s been released.

But, more importantly, did you know that the iPad doesn’t have Flash?!

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He’s a man of few words

Don Tennant (motto: “I am also wearing a suit!”) says With All the iDol Worship, I’m Already Sick of the iPad (tip o’ the antlers to Rob Enderle, who actually has a fairly reasonable iPad post up).

Oh, boo-fricking-hoo, Don!

Sorry! Sorry. Knee-jerk reaction. Let’s let the man speak.

After linking to numerous people who believe the iPad will have a transformative effect on and may even “save” certain industries, Don gets to the crux of his counter-argument:

The iPad will save no industry and no profession.

And that’s it. Hmm. Well, you make an…interesting point, Don.

Tennant’s either too lazy or too bitter about people’s excitement to explain his position. Which is too bad, because he’s right. And, as anyone who’s taken eighth grade algebra knows, you get exactly zero credit for getting the answer right if you fail to show your work.

The iPad on its own can’t save an industry or profession. Just like Dorothy, the media companies are the only ones who can save themselves—and they’ve had the power to do it all along.

They’ve simply chosen not to.

TL;DR

Cory Doctorow (motto: “What’s a ‘suit’?”) is significantly more up to the task of pointing out the drawbacks of the iPad than Tennant or Kiernan.

Doctorow’s piece is as preachy and pedantic as you’d expect (ugh, God, I’ll compile some open source software this afternooooooon, dad, OK?!), but he makes any number of solid points.

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of “content” isn’t just that they can get it for free, though: it’s that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too. The open platform has allowed for an explosion of new material, some of it rough-hewn, some of it slick as the pros, most of it targetted more narrowly than the old media ever managed

The Macalope doesn’t think Docotorow is completely right, though. The iPod and iTunes proved that most people don’t care whether or not the ecosystem is closed if it’s sexy and easy to use. Life is short and not that many people want to waste their time using stuff that looks like crap and is harder to use just because they can have the thrill of reading the source code.

Doctorow derides the “stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother,” but that frankly just serves to show how his perspective is solely that of the technological elite. Lots of people find systems that we think simple to be intimidating and hard to use. Maybe Doctorow’s mother is SSH-ing and chmod-ing all over the place, but the Macalope’s dear ma has only just learned how to e-mail a picture, thanks to her iPhone.

It’s true that there is a terrible loss of control with the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ecosystem which the Macalope has railed against in the past. He spoke with Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis (disclosure: former advertiser on the Macalope’s web site) who noted that these closed ecosystems make it increasingly difficult for his company to bring their cool stuff to those platforms. Kafasis indicated that if Apple continues to keep things locked down, Rogue Amoeba may slowly be forced to other, more open platforms, such as Google’s Android. The Macalope snarkily told him to enjoy the SDK and the fragmented market.

The point is, while Doctorow likes to pretend anything open-source is automatic fairy princess goldenflower time and anything closed is worse than Hitler, all of these platforms have drawbacks.

As annoying as his penchant for extremism is, that’s not the most grating part. No, the most grating part is this:

Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either)

(Emphasis the Macalope’s.)

Doctorow’s the annoying, overly-skinny aunt who judges every bite of food you put in your mouth. Buy an iPad, don’t buy an iPad. Buy Windows, don’t buy Windows. Use your own Mandrake fork on a homebrew steampunk tower, don’t use your own Mandrake fork on a homebrew steampunk tower. It’s no fur off the Macalope’s hide.

Just make conscious, informed decisions about what you get. And don’t let anyone spoil your fun.

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