Other people’s toys
So the iPad has landed, selling more units than even Apple had bothered to predict. Not much of a surprise there, and it sounds as if a lot of people are pretty happy with the machine. Despite my nannying about the iPad, it is a pretty cool device and I am mulling waiting for the inevitable price drop and picking one up down the road.
Greg Knauss is one of my favorite bloggers, bar none, and I generally snort coffee out my nose laughing at his posts. The other day he dropped a small bomb on Cory Doctorow for whinging about how the iPad is an unhackable device (screws not glues is his mantra). I’m right there on his arguments against Doctorow’s hacker elitism; I, too, want devices that work as advertised that do not force me to read manuals or decrypt error messages while on a “service” call costing me $3.99 a minute.
What both of them have in common, however, is a focus on the hardware, and to a lesser extent on its operating system and installed software. The topic that seems to live on the periphery of the iPad euphoria, however, is Apple’s growing role and power as a media giant. Beginning with the iPod and now through the iPhone and iPad, Apple has managed to insert itself firmly between the creative artists and the consumers, pulling in billions in the process.
On the one hand, using Knaussian logic this is a good thing. iTunes makes sense, and sells me a bunch of stuff for a decent price. On the other, however, it is an annoying intrusion into my media consumption. How many times annually must one agree to new terms and conditions when purchasing content? How many times does one discover that certain content is not available because one’s billing address is in the wrong country? And the really devilish question: how much content must I buy from Apple because they strongarm companies into dealing with them exclusively? Is it really good that Apple is able to use its media muscle to drive prices up?
Now with iBooks and whatever else they offer up for the iPad in terms of caged content, one will have to dance to their tune or do without to some extent. The fact that they do not allow Flash on the iPad has nothing to do with their claims of Flash’s impact on battery life or system resources (or little to do with that), and a whole lot to do with the fact that by blocking Flash, they make it impossible for an iPad/iPhone/iPod user to access the vast majority of innovative online content these days. The point is to force them into Apple’s hands as media consumers.
Shouldn’t this raise a few red flags? Surely, but when one considers that mainstream media are betting on Apple to pave the golden road to paid-content paradise for them, one cannot expect much objectivity from them, despite their claim to be society’s guardian against the powerful and mighty.