Apple iPad: Axel Payne is Disturbed

The iPad is #1 on Reddit Programming right now: a curious piece by Alex Payne. Payne says he is “disturbed” because “it’s a device that does little to enable creativity”; thus, the “tragedy of the iPad is that it truly seems to offer a better model of computing for many people – perhaps the majority of people.”

Payne’s conception of humanity is somewhat more disturbing. He is saying that all people can be, or at least should be, “creative” (whatever that means), and those who are not are somehow deficient as human beings. Nonetheless, the iPad so far has not impressed me.

Payne raises some legitimate points. Admittedly, I’ve never seen a real one.  If it’s just a larger iPod Touch, I will never buy it, for many of the reasons Payne describes. I’ve had an iPhone for a while now, and at this moment, I wouldn’t buy another one, simply because of the oppressive restrictions on what one is permitted to do with it. I don’t like having to have Apple’s imprimatur for software before I’m allowed to use it. I certainly don’t like the idea of being forced to pay money for a straight port of a free and open source SSH client that’s available for a thousand other platforms gratis. I own the hardware, I’m not renting it. Didn’t the old AT&T monopoly already go through all this long ago?

I do love the iPhone’s UI polish, though. It’s a very tightly integrated device, and everything Just Works. The Android user interface is not yet up to speed — but it will be, soon. Probably just about the time that my iPhone reaches the end of its useful life, and I’ll be switching. That is, unless in a moment of sudden enlightenment, Apple removes the DRM from the iPhone and avoids shooting themselves in the foot again by making exactly the same mistake Jobs made 20 years ago with the original Mac. (And by the way, what are we looking forward to in Mac OS XI? Pervasive DRM and an App Store?)

Al3x derides Apple as “cynical” for closing the iPad, but it would be just as fair to flip that around and characterize people like Alex Payne as incredibly naive. “Apple can’t – or won’t – conceive of a future for personal computing that is both elegant and open, usable and free… Apple has decided that openness is not a quality that’s necessary in a personal computer. That’s disturbing,” he writes.

Um… Last I checked, Apple was a for-profit corporation operating in a capitalist economy. This is not secret or hidden information. All such corporations have exactly 1 goal: provide a good return on capital to their shareholders. Anything else that they do is always and exclusively in the service of that goal.

Elegant, open, usable, and free are all nice, sure — but, for Apple or for any other for-profit corporation, only insofar as doing those things provides a nice return on capital to the shareholders. If they believe that they can get an even better return by dropping them and doing something else instead, then they will.

What’s really disturbing here is that Payne and more than a few of his friends seem to have actually expected “nice” over “profit” from a corporation, and are startled and miffed because the corporation chose “profit”. “The iPad leaves me with the feeling that Apple’s interests and values going forward are deeply divergent from my own.” … it took the release of the iPad to trigger this epiphany?

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