iPad, iPod, iPhone, iConsume
While all of these new Apple devices seem really great on the surface (pun intended), with no effective local storage, the design behind these devices offers no thought on creation or export of created content. However, the design clearly targets consumption of digital goods. Effectively, this is a one-way device for content. That is, content goes in but it doesn’t come back out. The question begs, however, does Apple think that we are only consumers now? We are now relegated to being just a bunch of ravenous money spending consumers? We don’t have brains in our heads or creativity or imagination? We’re just a bunch of finger pushing consumers with portable devices?
If there’s anything that Apple has done in recent years with these one-way devices, it’s to solidify consumerism. That is, to sell us products that are essentially one-way content input devices. Granted, it has a camera so we can take pictures or video. And yes, they may have even managed to get a video editor onto an iPad, but these apps aren’t designed for professional level editing (or even prosumer level editing). Sure, it’s fine for some random party or perhaps even a low quality wedding souvenir, but these consumer-centric devices really don’t offer much for creativity or imagination, let alone software development. It doesn’t even much offer a way to produce a spreadsheet or a word processor document. No, these platforms are almost entirely designed for consumption of digital goods (i.e., books, movies, magazines, music, web content, games, etc).
Lack of Creativity
These devices were designed to consume, not create. Consume, consume, consume and then consume some more. Yes, some creativity apps have popped up, but they’re more game than serious. They’re there to let you play when you’re bored. Even these creativity apps must be consumed before you can use them. As these are really read-only devices (no hard drive, external storage or other ways of getting things out of the device), these creativity apps really aren’t meant to be taken seriously. In other words, these apps are there to placate those who might think these are consumer focused only. In reality, these creative apps are shells of what a real creative app looks like, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, AutoCAD or Maya. Even prosumer apps like Poser and Daz Studio are still leaps and bounds better than anything that’s available on these iConsumer devices.
Computers vs iConsumers
Computers are designed as well rounded devices capable of not only consuming content, but creating it. That is, as a computer owner, you have the choice to both produce and consume content. Granted, there are a lot of people who have no intention of writing music, painting a digital work, developing an application or writing a novel. However, with a computer, you have these choices available. With iConsumer devices, you really don’t. On IOS 4 or even Android, these devices just don’t have enough resources to run these types of full sized apps. So, you won’t find a full Office suite on the Droid or an iPhone. Even something as big as the iPad still doesn’t have a productivity suite that would work in a proper or efficient way. Granted, Android likely supports Google Docs. But, even still, I don’t want to sit around all day pecking in information on a chicklet keyboard of a phone. Give me a solid full sized qwerty keyboard any day for creation.
Cloud Computing, Operating Systems and a step backwards
Apple definitely missed the ball on this one. With a device like the iPad without any local storage, the only way this device could actually create is by using cloud computing services. Unfortunately, Apple offers nothing in cloud computing. The iTunes store is a poor alternative to that. In fact, the iTunes store is just a store. It doesn’t offer online apps like Google Docs, it doesn’t offer any types of web based or cloud based services that the iPad can consume. The sole way to deal with the iPad is through apps that you must download from the store. Yes, there may be ‘an app for that’, but many times there isn’t.
The other difficulties with apps is that they don’t work together on the device. There is no app synergy. For example, NeXTStep (the operating system that gave birth to Mac OS X and later iOS4) was a brilliant design. It offered a system where any app could extend the operating system by adding new controls or features. New apps installed could then consume those controls within its own app framework (sometimes even launching the other app to do so). With iPhone OS (any version), Jobs has taken a huge step backwards in computing. No longer is this extension system available. Apps are just standalone things that don’t interact or interrelate to or with one another. Yes, now multitasking may be back, but they’re still just standalone things. About the extent of interrelation between apps is having one app launch Safari and open a URL. Wow.. so sophisticated.
Notebook and creation tools
Granted, there are a lot of people who’s sole goal is to consume. And yes, it’s probably true that most people only want to consume. The question is, though, do you want to give up the ability to create to only consume? That’s exactly what you give up when you buy into the iPad, iPod or iPhone. When these portable devices can clearly consume and create content equally well and don’t force consumers to make this choice when purchasing a device, then the device will have its true potential. Until then, I see these consumerist devices as easy ways to give your money away. For people who don’t need portable creation tools, that’s fine. For those of us who do, then a full fledge hard drive-equipped notebook is still the only portable device that fills this void.
Cloud Computing Standards
We are not where we need to be. Again, the iPad was a shortsighted rapidly-designed device. It was designed for a small singular purpose, but that purpose wasn’t long term designed. Sure, the OS is upgradeable and perhaps the device may get to that point. Perhaps not. Apple has a bad habit of releasing new devices making the old ones obsolete within months of the previously-new device. So, even if a device is truly capable of reaching its potential, Apple will have tossed it aside for a new hardware device 6-10 months later.
Clearly, cloud computing will need to establish a standard by which all cloud computing devices will operate. That means, the standards will discuss exactly how icons are managed, how apps are installed and how people will interface with the cloud apps. That doesn’t mean that different devices with different input devices can’t be created. The devices can, in fact, all be different. One computer may be keyboard and mouse based, another may be touch surface based. What the cloud standards will accomplish is a standard by which users will interact with the cloud. So, no matter what computer you are using, you will always consume the cloud apps the same way. That also means the cloud apps will always work the same no matter what interface you are using.
We are kind of there now, but the web is fractured. We currently have no idea how to find new sites easily. Searching for new sites is a nightmare. Cloud computing standards would need to reduce the nightmare of search, increase ease of use for consumers and provide standardized ways of dealing with cloud computing services. In other words, the web needs dramatic simplification.
Cloud Computing and the iPad
The iPad is the right device at the wrong time and consumers will eventually see this once a real cloud computing device hits the market. Then, the iPad will be seen as a crude toy by comparison. A true cloud computing device will offer no storage, but have a huge infrastructure of extensible interrelated apps available online. Apps similar to Google Docs, but so many more types all throughout every single app category. From games, to music, to video, to photography, to finance, to everything you can imagine. Yes, a true cloud computing device will be able to consume as freely as it can create. A cloud computing OS will install apps as links to cloud services. That is, an icon will show on the ‘desktop’, but simply launch connectivity right into the cloud.
Nothing says that you need a mouse and keyboard to create content, but you do need professional quality to produce professional content. I liken the apps on the iPad to plastic play money you buy for your kids. Effectively, they’re throw-away toy apps. They’re not there for serious computing. To fully replace the desktop with cloud computing, it will need fully secured full-featured robust content creation and consumption applications. You won’t download apps at all. In fact, you will simply turn your portable computer on and the cloud will do the rest. Of course, you might have to use a login and password and you might be required to pay a monthly fee. But, since people are already paying the $30 a month for 3G service, we’re already getting accustomed to the notion of a monthly service fee. It’s only a matter of time before we are doing all of our computing on someone else’s equipment using a portable device. For listening to music, we’ll need streaming. But, with a solid state cache drive, the device will automatically download the music and listen offline. In fact, that will be necessary. But this is all stuff that must be designed and thought out properly long before any cloud device is released. …something which Apple did not do for the iPad. What they did do, though, is create the perfect digital consumption device. That is, they produced a device that lets them nickel and dime you until your wallet hates you.