What Will End with the iPad?

So everybody is hyped now. Indeed, the hype is strong enough to wake up the dead.

While the initial enthusiasm is falling off, some interesting and more considerate thoughts are starting to pop up:

Perhaps the iPad signals an end to the “hacker era” of digital history. Now that consumers and traditional media understand the digital world, maybe there’s proportionally less need for freewheeling technological experimentation and platforms that allow for the same. Maybe the hypothetical mom doesn’t need a real computer.

Alex Payne: On the iPad

Fantastic article that, in my opinion, truly captures what’s most significant about the iPad. It’s the end of an era in a computer history. Apple was the company that made the computer personal (with Apple II and Macintosh). It seems to be also the company that will kill it. At least kill the “computer” part in “personal computer”.

iPad is the first computer aimed at non-geeks. It does everything people expect from a computer at home: internet access, basic editing, casual gaming. With the new ipod keyboards and other accessories, everything above can be done just as easy as computer. Game consoles had similar aims, but they failed to be more than pure entertainment devices.

iPad comes without all the complexity, jargon and metaphors originating in a computer science department. To the point it’s no longer a “computer” – a general purpose computing device. Instead it’s an electronic utility: simple, straightforward, accessible. And closed.

It could be an end to the open ecosystem started by IBM PC. This model allowed any manufacturer to produce conforming hardware. Anyone could write software for it without asking for permission. This approach turned out to be extremely successful for the last 30 years. Microsoft embraced it and succeeded. Even Apple computers use this model to some extent and can run any software. With the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Apple is trying to have its own controlled ecosystem even creating tablets for college students and for people who need an extra hand. Can they succeeded now? Most likely.

iPad is not a computer when one can install any piece of poor code and play with it. It’s not hackable or “free as a speech”. For the first time ever I empathize with Richard Stallman running lamentable but truly free Loongson netbook.

In that sense iPad’s debut is a sad day for computer geeks. They We may not be the the primary target for the “computer” industry any more.

P.S. I started a link blog two weeks ago: There’s more activity there, though I have no plans to retire


  1. It’s quite obvious that it’s aimed at non-geeks (actually my first thought was that I’m going to buy one for my mom, remote desktop would be gift from heaven). Yet, what soon came through my mind was that it’s simply a perfect attempt to get even more fence-sitters. I’ve been observing for the last few years dozens of ipod & pc users who within year or two, convinced by ipod (i.e.the most affordable item) switch to Macs. And through the perceived quality and ease of use, once you’re in, you’re there for long.

  2. For me the computers amost lost it when they decided not to boot directly in to the BASIC interpreter and opted for either a dos prompt or a windows. Thanks god for Linux – my first OS after Commodore 64 that had a programming environment by default :)

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