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Steve Jobs hates amateurs - Elf M. Sternberg
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Steve Jobs hates amateurs
While Charlie Stross has posted his trenchant observations on why Steve Jobs hates flash, I have another idea on why Steve Jobs isn't opposed to much of what the iPad represents.

Jobs is famously design-oriented. One story goes that he even chose the bathroom tiles at One Infinite Loop. He has discussed book design and industrial design at his popular keynote addresses, and his tyrannical approach to the limiting capabilities of the iPad and iPhone in order to make them "perfect" is almost legendary.

I read an article the other day about a man who brought home his shiny new iPad to his family, and discovered that within a month he was having to buy a second one: everyone in his family of four had either a desktop or a laptop, but they all wanted to use the iPad. It was that seductive. And after a month, the other machines were going unused.

Omaha has an iPad and I've used it. It's nice, but it hasn't discouraged me from using my laptop. In fact, I don't quite see the point of having it. I can't open it; I can't hack it. Violet Blue cutely suggests that if you can't put porn on it you don't own it. My biggest frustration with it is just that: I can't make it mine. Everything digital thing I own-- the camera, the Razr, my Palms, the (3rd generation) iPod, every laptop, even my tiny Olympus digital voice recorder-- I can access down to the root bits and bytes.

One of the most important observations Palm ever had regarding its devices is that they are essentially output devices: they're meant to be read. You put very little data into them, and you use the repeating features far more often than you do the ad-hoc ones. Palm realized that putting data into the thing had to be possible; getting data out of the thing had to be immediate and satisfying.

As I read that article about the poor father doomed to buying his family iPads all around, I thought more about the neglected devices left gathering dust around his house. And the one thing they all have in common is that access to putting stuff into them was immediate and omnipresent; creation is on an equal footing with consumption.

That's not true of the current generation of tablets. And I don't think Steve Jobs cares; Stross is probably right that Jobs is trying to bootstrap a cloud-based economy with Apple in the center, but he's doing so in a way that seduces the amateur creatives in the audience to give up the tools with which amateur create. There are lots of chiptek musicians who first decided to try something after stumbling across the MIDI driver on their computer-- but soon there will be no chance of that happening. There are lots of good illustrators on Deviant Art who started out with a pirated copy of Photoshop-- but soon there will be no chance of that happening. There are thousands of amateur novelists out there hacking away at Word or Oowriter-- but if all you own is an iPad, writing long-form fiction is an exercise in masochism.

And for a lot of kids, the next computer-- the only computer-- they'll own will be an iPad. A read-only device. A device for culture consumers, not culture creators.

I might own a Wepad someday, but only if I can own it. The next music player I buy will be an Archos. I don't know what I'm going to do for a phone.

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dr_memory From: dr_memory Date: May 11th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are lots of chiptek musicians who first decided to try something after stumbling across the MIDI driver on their computer-- but soon there will be no chance of that happening.

This is, I think, a little overblown.

(Hell, I think that there's a strong argument to be made that things like MIDI were an impediment to budding musicians -- tool/game combos like Bloom and Elektroplankton are probably much more likely to spark a kid's imagination...)
jeriendhal From: jeriendhal Date: May 11th, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Apple's attitude towards content is what turned me off from ever buying an iPod as opposed to a Not As Shiny mp3 player. I hate, hate, hate trying to access content through the iPod store, and I've never been able to work around it to upload mp3s to my son's unit from other sources. Apple wants you to do it their way or not at all.
dr_memory From: dr_memory Date: May 11th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Er, both the Amazon MP3 store and eMusic will download non-DRMed mp3s directly into itunes. Putting existing mp3s onto it is drag-and-drop.

I mean, buy whichever player you like -- it's just that this is a really weird reason to avoid the ipod.

(Admittedly both of these methods involve touching iTunes, and I can sympathize if that's something you'd rather avoid entirely. There are a couple of workable alternatives these days though: Songbird is cross-platform, and on Windows there's the amazing MediaMonkey...)
jeriendhal From: jeriendhal Date: May 11th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never been able to navigate ITunes worth a damn. "Drag and drop" seems to be an impossibility for me using Apple tech.
dr_memory From: dr_memory Date: May 11th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Swear to god: drag the mp3 files onto... pretty much anywhere in the iTunes main window as long as you've got the music library in the display.

iTunes 9 and above also can set up a "watch folder" on your desktop that automatically imports any music files you drop into it.

(This advice only tested on OSX iTunes -- if the Windows version sucks a lot more, I guess I would not be surprised.)
taerin From: taerin Date: May 11th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I completely hate iTunes, so I sympathize.

My experience has been that drag and drop is limited, but doable. For example, I don't use iTunes-style playlists because all my music has long been organized by author and album and I like it that way.

I handle all music on my iPhone by setting it to be manually managed. When you plug the device in and click on it in iTunes, that option is a checkbox on the Summary tab.

Once that's checked (and you confirm that the Sync options under Music, Movies and TV Shows are unchecked in their tabs) you can drag files from your music or video libraries to your device. It basically syncs as it goes, rather than syncing everything all at once.

Unfortunately, you can't do that with everything, but some is better than none.
lucky_otter From: lucky_otter Date: May 11th, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sadly, Songbird just dropped support for Linux. No idea how good the "unofficial" support is - hopefully someone will maintain a decent branch, as it looked like a good project last I checked.
From: technoshaman Date: May 11th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not *quite* as cranky about input vs. output as you are, but I do agree in principle. Going forward, if putting data in isn't at least as easy as getting data out, I'm not gonna get one. I have an el cheapo Sansa music player I got off Woot. Loading it is drag'n'drop in $FILEMANAGER. I finally upgraded phones to a Virgin Mobile Rumor2. Not as hackable as a 'Droid or an iPaq, but still, at least it has something resembling a real keyboard. And Virgin supposedly has a Studio thingy on their website where you can dish your own content. Haven't got there yet.

Still want a phone I can shell into, and shell out of. And my wee Samsung netbook does just fine... having a full-sized, full-feel keyboard rocks. (Haven't put Ubuntu Remix on it yet, but someday.)

(For some reason I find myself not quite the purist I once was..... but I'm still all about the creation vs. the mere consumption. If it don't have easy input? Fuggeddabowdit.)
dr_memory From: dr_memory Date: May 11th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Still want a phone I can shell into, and shell out of. And my wee Samsung netbook does just fine... having a full-sized, full-feel keyboard rocks. (Haven't put Ubuntu Remix on it yet, but someday.)

Now that the HP acquisition has solved their cashflow issues, the Palm Pre Plus is probably worth a look if it's available on any reasonable carrier in your location. It runs honest-to-god linux, and Palm's taken a very laissez-faire attitude toward homebrew app development -- there's even a copy of the GPL on the phone itself...
mouser From: mouser Date: May 11th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
...I don't quite see the point of having it. I can't open it; I can't hack it...My biggest frustration with it is just that: I can't make it mine. Everything digital thing I own-- the camera, the Razr, my Palms, the (3rd generation) iPod, every laptop, even my tiny Olympus digital voice recorder-- I can access down to the root bits and bytes.

You are the exception not the rule, and therefore not a target audience. 99.99% of the population just won't care. They are not developers, they are not geeks, they are not are not US. They are plug and go and they like NOT opening it.

Violet Blue cutely suggests that if you can't put porn on it you don't own it.

THIS is what will eventually break the revenue stream. It will allow some competitor to become VHS and run Apple back to the 10% market as it seems to prefer.


The WePad looks neat - wonder what the development API (and agreement) looks like...
dr_memory From: dr_memory Date: May 11th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
THIS is what will eventually break the revenue stream. It will allow some competitor to become VHS and run Apple back to the 10% market as it seems to prefer.

You think? Apple has certainly taken a stand against porn apps (for now, anyway -- there have been signs of an "explicit" rating under testing in the app store, although lord knows if anything will ever come of it), but they're pretty wide-open as far as content goes through the existing music/video subsystem. I'd say there's a nice little chunk of money waiting to be made by the first person to implement something like amazon's mp3 store/downloader (which has first-class itunes/ipod/iphone integration) for a major porn site...
mouser From: mouser Date: May 11th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I could be wrong - it happens often enough. If they allow "Explicit" and be serious about it (they don't seem to be serious about "17 or older" or consistent) there will still be a negative momentum on their outside development cycle. It might depend on who has the best development platform.



Who knows?
autopope From: autopope Date: May 11th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are thousands of amateur novelists out there hacking away at Word or Oowriter-- but if all you own is an iPad, writing long-form fiction is an exercise in masochism.

A note of caution -- writing long-form fiction on a 128K Mac (the original, with one or two floppy disk drives) was also a fruitless exercise in masochism.

I think this is what the iPad is: the 128K Mac, revisited 25 years on. Same closed single-box all-in-one idea, same revolution in the user interface, same Jobsian fanaticism about design.

I give it five years, max, before we see the iPad II, the equivalent of the much-more-open Mac II. If we don't? The iPad ecosystem will die.
voidrandom From: voidrandom Date: May 11th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
This makes what, the fourth time Steve Jobs has invented the 128K Mac? I make them to be the 128K Mac, the NeXT slab, the iMac and the iPad. Have I missed any?
mg4h From: mg4h Date: May 11th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
My friends have had this very argument in the console vs pc war, both talking about the hardware and it's closedness, as well as what it may represent about the people who use them.

Me, I have a PC for things that I use the PC for, and the console (TV) for things that work better there. Sometimes the twain meets, like when I want to watch something on my laptop larger, but that's about it. And I certainly get enough bit hacking at work - I fix UNIX machines all day - so it's nice to have something at home that works. However, when my desktop machines go blooey, I *want* to be able to fix them, down to fiddling with the various settings and boot blocks. But only if I have to.

Otherwise it feels too much like work ;)
pixel39 From: pixel39 Date: May 11th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Spouse has an iPad. He drank the kool-aid years ago, and he loves his iPad for the same things that one loves a netbook for, except that in the context of the SCA it is much much less obtrusive than a netbook. Most real work gets done on his MacBook, but he informs me that the on-screen keyboard of the iPad is actually nicer than the keyboard of his netbook.

Myself, I have a Dell v10 for surfing and occasional e-mail whilst sitting on the couch (or in hotel rooms, etc.), but the real work of writing, photo processing, layout, etc., gets done on the tower in the office. If I didn't have the Dell, an iPad would serve the same purpose. I personally do not need to hack my electronics because that's not what I have them for. I want them to run my apps and peripherals, and I want them to do so in a useful manner. I spend my entire day dealing with people who are having problems with technology--I do not want to spend my spare time fussing with my own.

Edited at 2010-05-11 05:54 pm (UTC)
danlyke From: danlyke Date: May 11th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm guessing the "guy on the hook for more iPads" story was planted by Apple PR. I have one for development. I keep trying to use it for "hang out on the couch and read web stuff". That lasts 20 or 30 minutes before I go get a laptop or switch to the iPhone (same limited web browser, lighter weight, easier to scroll one-handed).

My partner played with it for fifteen minutes or so, said "I don't get it", and handed it back to me. And the application I really wanted it for, as a better digital picture frame, it's really not all that good for.

So I've gone from "this is gonna change everything" to "it's a media consumption device for people who like iTunes, and I'm one of those people who can't stand iTunes".

I keep looking at various tablets, but the more I play with the iPad the more I'm thinking that netbooks or some of the e-readers with better screens (ie: readable outdoors) are where its at.
radven From: radven Date: May 11th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't be so quick to discount the iPad as a content creation tool. There is something so wonderfully tangible about being able to touch and interact with your creative tools that a screen and mouse just lacks.

I've seen some amazing music & art making tools on the iPad already, and I've seen kids and adults who would never "create" on a PC spend hours sketching and drawing and playing.

And the DJ tools I have seen.... I think the iPad has the potential to revolutionize the very creative art of DJ mixing.

Just my two cents....
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: May 12th, 2010 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Never mind about that.

The fact that Apple sells literally thousands of content-creation apps for the iPhone and iPad doesn't contribute to his argument, so it might as well not even be true.

The many compatible keyboards that exist in the real world simply aren't part of his universe.

Apple's incredibly well-supported iPhone developer program? All the third-party books and training to make developing for the iPhone and iPad easier than on any other mobile platform in the world? All that stuff is right in the middle of his blind spot.

Don't waste your time talking to Elf about these things. He won't be able to hear you.

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mikstera From: mikstera Date: May 12th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Never mind about that.

Pro Tip: Don't drop onto another person's blog just to tell everyone how much of a dick you think they are.

kthxbye
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: May 12th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Never mind about that.

And one for you: don't speak from ignorance.

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voidrandom From: voidrandom Date: May 11th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
For a phone? Look for a Window Mobile 6.x device until Android gets really good (probably take another year or so). For various reasons, I have to use Verizon for my phone service and I wanted a device I could tether with easily and stumbled into getting a Samsung Omnia with Windows Mobile 6.1. It's got a ridiculous UI and of course the API is the usual Windows oddness. But it's open pretty much all the way down (especially since the firmware update that opened access to the GPS). I'm not a fan of MS by any stretch of the imagination but I am suprised by how happy I am with this phone. Pity Win 7 Mobile is going to be a step backwards.
dv_girl From: dv_girl Date: May 11th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dunno. I'm with Jobs on this one. Flash is a flaming piece of crap and it's not open. The UI is fuggin' awful. If they opened up the .FLA format, you can be the application version of Flash would be dead in a year or two. They've been really sleazy about opening the publishing format (swf) but not the .fla format so it's impossible for animators and designers to exchange development code/artwork without using their godawful POS code.
leethomps From: leethomps Date: May 12th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm pleased that someone else has not drunk the Apple koolaid.
shaterri From: shaterri Date: May 12th, 2010 07:42 am (UTC) (Link)
'someone else has not drunk the Apple koolaid'? No offense, but where the hell do you hang out on the internet?! Every time I see a discussion of Apple, the haters generally outnumber the fanbois at least 2:1 if not more. Apple must have the world's worst-tasting Kool-Aid!
ben_raccoon From: ben_raccoon Date: May 12th, 2010 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
This post reminds me of my old English teacher who swore up and down that webTV would replace computers... That didn't quite happen, either.

I saw iPads are far more analogous to being this generation's TV. A consumption device with pretty colors, and very useful in the narrow range of stuff that it does. However, it will never replace content creation tools like a good desktop PC. And for the overwhelming majority of users, they will be fine with this. Remember; we are the exception, not the rule. The majority of computer users don't do much more than check their email and pay web games.. and maybe a little facebook.

One thing Apple does that I like, is give a kick in the ass to other designers. Until their mp3 player came out, all the ones before frankly sucked. Until iPhone, every smartphone was or looked like a crackberry. With the iPad, I'm eager to see what people will make to surpass it, as well.
mikstera From: mikstera Date: May 12th, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I got a chance to play with the iPad, I had the same realization: "This is for content consumers, not content creators." It isn't a question of which apps are available... it's a question of the interface paradigm, and the way in which it is physically instantiated. I tend to use Microsoft Natural Elite keyboards because I have big hands, and the split keyboard (and the tactile feedback of moving keys) lets me touch type with abandon. A small sort-of-virtual keyboard, on a touchscreen, on a small device with a rounded back, would have me screaming in minutes. What about the creation of non-textual content? Maybe... but with a touch screen you don't have the precision of a mouse or a stylus, just ye olde fat finger.

Mind you, I can certainly envision something iPad-like as a way to get reading/surfing/video watching/music listening at bedtime or on the go, but that's not a role I'm willing to sacrifice a large amount of money to.
zanfur From: zanfur Date: May 13th, 2010 09:15 am (UTC) (Link)
My phone is an Android phone. I've spent the last few days tweaking the kernel source code to overclock it, enable various netfilter modules, ripping out the performance lock code, and in general making it do whatever I darn well please. I think you'd like that option. :-)
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