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Conflicted: The Announcement of the iPad

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As Mac users, Cara and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Apple’s iPad. We’ve had lengthy discussions about how this might change how we work, interact with media, or how it will make chilling on the couch looking up YouTube videos that much easier. Mostly, we’ve been excited about the interface possibilities it opens up for us as an interface as artists. For Cara, a truly interactive way to work with graphics and design that doesn’t involve a 3rd input device (a mouse or stylus), and for me, an open, customizable controller that can be anything I want it to be – a mixer, an effects pad, a drum machine, a MIDI controller, on and on and on.

After seeing all the product specs and features, I’m left a little disappointed. What I see is a really big iPhone.

I’ve done a lot of reading the last week taking in everyone’s opinions, and I’ve come to two conclusions, both of which seem contradictory but do actually express how I feel about the iPad.

More after the jump.

I’ll also assume that you know what the iPad features and capabilities are by now.

Position 1: The closed model Apple has chosen to take chokes off any innovation, and dashes the hopes of a lot of us looking for a truly new way of computing and interacting with a device.

I was really hoping for this to be the holy grail for digitally creating, and more importantly, performing music live. I have just recently gotten into MIDI control and attempting to pull some of my compositions into the live realm, mostly using Ableton Live. The prospect of having a touch controller that’s not way up in the astronomical price ranges of a Lemur or other custom kit is really exciting to me. Unfortunately, we get a closed product – yes apps will be written for it, but what about a MIDI output? What about peripherals? Create Digital Music summed it up for me with this post. I can see the promise, but I’m disappointed with the approach. And no multi-tasking? Grr.

Position 2: This is a revolution in interface design, and will change the way we interact with computers daily. It doesn’t choke off innovation, it just gives us a different path for utilizing a device. If you want something different than this, do it yourself.

I couldn’t have summed it up better than this Gizmodo post. I’m an iPhone user, and I love it. I have come to appreciate the user interface design so much on the device, I can easily see myself loving the iPad simply because of this. But, I still see the merits of having a system that is closed and perfect and under close scrutiny, as Apple has again chosen for this device. It’s not Apple’s fault, they are simply conducting a business and keeping their products running as perfectly and profitably as they can for 95% of the population. The other 5%, those of us who scream for customization, need to make our own way in the marketplace.

I guess what I’m saying is this: I’m excited to plop down on the couch and hand out with the iPad, watch some videos, play some PacMan. I’m just not sure I’m ready to go to work with it yet.

Comments

2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. I finally got a chance to watch the keynote address. The bulleted list of features left me uninspired but, seeing it in action, the fact that you can manipulate full-size Web pages and e-books (instead of tap tap tapping to make the text readable, etc.) with your fingers does look like a whole lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see how the NYT app gets better.

    It doesn’t replace my lappy or my phone but, until I started doing any media production after I graduated from college, it would have been almost exactly what I wanted to write papers and browse the Web on. I hate the clamshell form factor. I think the only thing I would have considered missing was Flash, because, y’know, no XTube.

  2. I’m really on the fence about iPad. On the one hand, it proves out some of my predictions about the likelihood of e-readers being supplanted by devices that read books and then some.

    At the same time, while I love my iPod Touch (I’m too cheap for the iPhone), I find that the interface—while head and shoulders above most PDAs and smartphones—is still just clunky enough that I generally end up breaking out my computer anyhow when it’s readily available. That said, it’s invaluable for situations in which busting out the laptop isn’t an option. The iPad seems not to resolve this well. It has the same interface that sends me running for my laptop, but it isn’t the sort of thing I’d be likely to have on me in situations when my computer wasn’t available. All that said, if I were choosing between iPad and Kindle or iPad and Nook—iPad all the way.

    Lastly, I’d point to Google Android as an interesting open development alternative to Apple’s hardware and software model. I know some folks who do research on their open source community, though, and let’s just say it’s not always a big, happy family in the way that some other prominent open source projects are.

    The reasons for that are myriad, but it mostly has to do some awkward choices Google made about how to mix commerce and open development. There are good (Firefox, IBM) and bad (Microsoft) ways to do that sort of thing, and Google’s experiment so far seems to fall somewhere in between. That said, as the kinks get worked out, their OS and apps could ultimately provide a good, customizable alternative to Apple that could be deployed on a wide variety of devices.

    I have tons of Apple products now and have been a big Apple fan for many years. But I have to say, the more I get into open source and open design, the more frustrated I am with Apple’s culture of “well-designed, but immutably-designed.” I love their design savvy, but I hate the feeling of not being able to do much about design decisions I disagree with. If it ever gets to the point that I can’t install Linux alongside my Mac OS, my Apple love affair will probably be over.

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