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Why I don't like the iPad

Yeah, this is another freedom rant.

There are two really bad things about the iPad, and they're both the restrictions placed upon it by Apple. In short, you may only do with your iPad as Apple deem appropriate. You may only install apps approved by Apple, and if Apple want you to have a particular update, they can force it upon you (as in the recent Amazon Kindle debacle). In order to put music or video, or much other media, on the device, you must wrap it in Apple's DRM, and so in order to publish to the device, Apple must also approve.

That's a hell of a lot of power over the device given to Apple. Aside from the other i* devices, I can't think of anything that comes close.

Now, I know, this hardly affects the average user. Generally, the average user doesn't really care about the 'freedom' associated with their kit. They just want it to work. And, generally the updates don't break things, and they've not started removing features.

So, all is well and good, then?

Not really, firstly there's the idea of Apple doing Bad Things with their control, like censoring news or videos, or removing media it deems inappropriate. One of the benefits of a free market is that it is competetive by default, but a downside is it doesn't need be so. In deferring responsibility for deciding which products are acceptible to the manufacturer(s), the users are removing the competition, and therefore the incentive for progression in the manufacturers. Whoever gets to produce the authoritative version of the GPS software just needs to make some GPS software. It doesn't need to be particularly good, since you're hardly going to go elsewhere - Apple wont let you.

But the thing really worrying me thing isn't so much that Apple retains control over 'your' iPad, it's that the notion of the manufacturer retaining this control is being so widely and easily accepted. The prospect of a future where computers are little more than mildly interactive TVs scares the crap out of me - half the fun of the computer is making it do what you want it to do - that has, after all, long been half the point.

More importantly perhaps, is the fact that all the good developers and hackers today are so because they grew up on quite free PCs. They cut their teeth on PCs, ATs, Amigas, Commodores. All tinkerer-friendly platforms, and ones that didn't try to stop you experimenting, they practically encouraged it.

Even modern Windows really isn't that bad. Sure, it doesn't come with any reasonable programming environments out of the box, but thanks to the internet they're not far away. But it also doesn't complain when you mess around with the booting, as the popular changes to the bootup and shutdown images demonstrate.

Computers like this, which enable the curious to experiment, foster and encourage the passion required to make really good hackers. And we need really good hackers to have really good developments. Things like the Internet and Google weren't created out of boredom, it was through a genuine passion for computing, which would be mostly killed off in an age where computers are audience-only devices.

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