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cd-roms and ipads

Watching that $14 Elements demo for the iPad reminded me again of the throwaway line that geeks of a certain age make of the iPad — that it all seems a bit CD-ROM.

For those of you blessed with senile amnesia or youth, CD-ROMs were the first wave of “interactive media” in the mid-eighties, and the great hope for publishing houses struggling to understand what they might be doing in the 21st century. Companies from Dorling-Kindersley to News Corp threw millions into CD-ROM publishing, with very little ultimate return. They’d do some fancy-schmancy David Bowie joint project, or an incredibly complex animated re-working of their existing bestsellers. Each one won more awards than it sold copies, and eventually those “interactive divisions” were rolled into the “online media” departments, where their designers would get drunk and bitter, until one night they were sacked after uploading 640MB Adobe Director files onto the website front page.


look before you jump

Back then, geeks were unused to other industry sectors barging into our little rustic byte farmyards with their fancy suits and corporate expense accounts, braying triumphantly about digital convergence, and then, seconds later, striding into the business-model threshing machine that thrummed in the corner. We did not know then that there was a queue of people like this, waiting to dance past us into the bloody knives. We watched their cockiness with alarm, not with the disdain that would come later (and definitely not with own brand of hubristic Internet rockstar smugness, the smugness that tempts us all to look a bit less closely at ourselves, and a bit more closely at that thresher).

No, back then it was all a bit shocking. We assumed these people knew what they were doing. God knows we knew we didn’t have a clue. The only way we knew how to fill a CD-ROM was burning a complete archive of Fred Fish Amiga Freeware on it. Seven hundred megabytes just seemed an insanely large amount to want to fill with professional product.

Subsequent to the threshing, people muttered about how it was the Internet that killed the CD-ROM, but I think that, as ever, the real murderer was economics. A “professional” CD-ROM was just too expensive to produce, relative to the format it was generally parasitical upon.

The classic example for me was the brief phase of magazines including a free CD-ROM on the front of their mag. Dave and I would marvel at the incredible lopsided nature of this venture. The CD-ROM could hold close to a gigabyte of data, including programs, movies and graphics; all of which had to be commissioned, collated, edited, integrated together, checked for viruses, cleared for copyright, tested, mastered, and burned. If done welll, a front-mounted CD-ROM was clearly a far more complex and expensive venture than actually putting out a magazine — and yet they usually paid a single person to do it all, didn’t charge for the CD, and probably got little advertising revenue from it.

The ultimate portrayal of this problem was when, in a desperate attempt to include some unique content, they’d include on the CD-ROM a PDF file of the magazine it was sellotaped to. The PDF would usually take 50MB, if they were lucky. All that unique content that it had taken the rest of the editorial team a month to create — and there was still 650MB to go.

Most started attempting to bridge that gap with incredibly fancy interactive environments that would quickly consumer their annual budget. The ones that survived would ultimately collapse into padding the CD-ROM out with… well, the Fred Fish Amiga Archive, generally. Professional product got thrown out of the window in an attempt to feed the ever-hungry maw of interactive content.

This, to me, is the flipside of the “digital technology makes everything cheaper” argument. It makes a lot of work cheaper, but it can also professional media fantastically more expensive than its analogue equivalents.

In some ways, the equivalent to a newspaper is just a README HTML file, full of plaintext with a few images — but no-one is going to pay a quid for a README file. So what will you pay a quid for? Maybe some other super-awesome interactive newspaper with 3D pictures and audio interviews and in-depth statistical analysis and a 30 minute vodcast with the most famous writers, and, and, and… how much editorial budget do you want to throw on this again?

Elements is going to do fantastically, because it benefits from that “fresh platform” smell that exudes from the iPad. But can you re-gear a newspaper or a publishing house to produce the level of interactive complexity that a $5 app is going to demand, when it is competing with games and films in the same app niche?

Honestly, it might be possible. We’re not in the age of CD-ROMs now. Our price-points are all over the shop, and a sealed environment like the iPad permits all kinds of unnatural pricing inversions. We’ll pay more for a ringtone than a full MP3. We pay $10 for a README file on our Amazon Kindle, and a dollar for a pocket application that plays farts.

But if you want to play that game, you’re running against the clock. Other applications are going to make yours look ridiculously clumsy in a matter of months (honestly, in a year people will be amazed anyone paid $14 for a bunch of text, a rotating picture of a rock, and a quick Wolfram Alpha search). Plus the seals on that environment get corroded by open competition every day.

Often the solution to this problem really is to run away and hide. Don’t listen to those “interactive media” gurus: stick with what you know. No-one demands now to know why their magazines don’t have DVDs on the cover. When books have CD-ROMs or allied websites these days, they’re usually buried at the back, hardly updated, and just contained the original text and some errata. We don’t really care. It’s okay. We just wanted a book. We love you as you are.

I know that publishing companies will be tempted to go for the all-singing, all-dancing iPad application. But what they’re doing that, my suspicion is that what they’re aiming for is a product which exudes credibility, status — an aura of a professional media product. And when you’re spending the kind of money that a professional application requires, solely to improves your status in the world, you’re not selling a product, you’re buying the love of your audience. That may be an investment in credibility, but it’s not an incoming revenue stream.

The goldrush economics of the iPad will hide this for a little while, because everything will be briefly profitable. But to be sustainable, you need to either be producing something that consistently costs you less than it earns, or will produce regular super-hits among a string of drabber products, or just makes you so much money in its first few months that you never need work again. You can’t just make some single wonderful shiny demo product. You need to keep producing them; you need some way of economizing that process. And you need to stop others from making their shiny thing cheaper than, yet interchangeable with, yours. Otherwise you’re just throwing nice fancy gee-gaws into the thresher’s hungry mouth.

36 Responses to “cd-roms and ipads”

  1. Ian Betteridge Says:

    Totally. That’s why Ben H is right when he hits people around the head with his “it’s the workflow, stupid” argument. The workflow has to include audio, and video, and location, and words, and pictures, and abstractions of how all this relates to each other – and then you can create the finished, shiny, magical product without having to go through endless “creative” meetings about the exact pixel dimensions of buttons. You can do what any sane magazine does: template 80% of it, and sprinkle magic pixie dust over the other 20%.

    We’re currently experimenting with this on some work for BT, using those page-turnery ezine things as a test-bed for understanding the workflow of creating a regular, throw-away, digital product. While I don’t think the format has longevity, what we’re learning about how to workflow it certainly will. I could bore you with it at great length (and might at some point).

    The CD-ROM thing worries me, but for different reasons. I might have told you the story about the fantastic coffee-table book from 1996 I picked up – “A Day in the life of cyberspace”. Great book, and you’d recognise a lot of the people. At the back was a pristine, unopened (of course) companion CD-ROM, which apparently has an interactive version of the book, with hi-rez (probably 640×480) images.

    I say “apparently” because of course I couldn’t play it: it’s an application, probably built in Director, and it won’t play on an Intel Mac. Short of digging out an old PowerPC running OS 9, all those man-hours of creativity are now nothing more than a shiny coaster.

    My worry about the app-fad for publishers is that we’re making a lot of virtual shiny coasters. Now in one sense, that’s apt: one of the points of magazines, and newspapers, is that they are essentially throwaway items. But it worries me, too, because inevitably some of those throwaways survive and become valuable cultural artefacts. In the case of “24 Hours in Cyberspace”, the book survives. The leading-edge technology does not.

    There’s a lesson there, and I think it’s this: sure, do the leading edge, push the medium as far as you can. That’s how we learn and progress. Without all those Dorling Kindersley Director-jockies, I don’t think there would be as much pressure on the web to be truly interactive, as opposed to Sir Tim B-L’s text with (begrudging) pictures.

    But if you’re doing the leading edge, make sure that what you do is also available in formats that are behind the leading edge, too. Make it HTML. Make it a PDF. Upload it to MagCloud so someone, anyone, can print it on real paper. Make sure your stuff degrades gracefully. Make sure the workflow supports this.

  2. Joe Kraus Says:

    Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time for Windows 3.1 got it right, http://www.amazon.com/Monty-Pythons-Complete-Waste-Time-PC/dp/B000NSKGH6/ I wonder how well that sold.

  3. nick s Says:

    Worth the wait to read while you exorcised the server. So, yes: totally. (Did tapes kill 8-bit mags in the same way? You have to wonder, remembering how Crash wasted away in its later years, barely substantial enough to avoid warping on the shelf from the weight of the stuck-on tape.)

  4. Jeff Barbose Says:

    I have to wonder, since you’re talking about publishers, why you completely ignored the web properties of traditional dead-tree properties like the NYTimes?

    It’s obvious to anyone the advantages we’re all already seeing with news reporting being available on the web both in terms of timeliness and in terms of medium: nytimes.com can include full color photography *and* video from the other side of the planet within minutes, theoretically, of when the source material was captured. Static graphs that accompanied articles in a newspaper edition that referenced papers published in professional or scientific journals have become interactive—yes, it’s not a dirty or anachronistic word—elements that impart meaning, if not downright learning, to the reader just through fiddling around with the dials and knobs and watching how the variables they represent change the overall model as the graph animates to its new configuration.

    The most ancient of technologies of the web—hyperlinking—in and of itself is a powerful feature that can both broaden the effective radius of a given article while serving the web property’s commercial needs by keeping the user within the property’s domain and still remain objective.

    All your arguments about data types and formats degrading gracefully towards open formats is a lesson Apple learned a long time ago, because it was on the business end of that for the longest time: the web saved Apple, arguably, or at least it was contributory in Apple’s comeback. If you were privvy to Apple’s developer guidelines—and no reason you couldn’t be, data types and formats degrading gracefully is one of the most strongly worded tenets of good app design for both Mac and iPhone OS application. I point you at UTIs (Universal Type Identifiers) and the way that pasteboards work as a good place to start.

    In the context of this article, you might also have mentioned HTML5 and the fact that a) Apple has been one of its fiercest advocates and b) the iPad in particular has been the single largest impetus towards HTML5 support by major web properties to come along so far, whether that’s support in the form of abandonment of Flash in favor of HTML5 or co-existence with Flash.

    Speaking of Flash, ten years from now, will you be writing an article about having to hauling out a “PC” (yes, you might have to use scare quotes) just to view something that was written in Flash?

    One more thing: don’t make the mistake (I actually think he knows what he’s doing) that Tim Bray is when he conflates the App Store with the entire web when he speaks of his hatred for the iPhone and how Apple wants to censor the entire internet. Of course they don’t. Borders Books doesn’t sell hardcore porn DVDs either online or at their brick & mortar stores. Are they censoring?

  5. Danny O'Brien Says:

    @Jeff

    Your point about the New York Times is a good one, but, honestly, I think that some newspaper sites suffer from the same problem: throwing money into expensive demonstrations that don’t really add much, and cost more than they bring in. It’s sort of the “bargaining” part of the coming to terms with a shift in medium. First you deny it’s happening, then you throw lots of money at the problem, then you throw up paywalls, and finally you come to terms with the fact that you’re just going to have a different status in this world.

    I don’t think I mentioned open formats, except in the sense of “open competition”. The iPad will have a competitor; it won’t be as good, probably, but it will have some corrosive effect on app prices. All this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write an application for the iPad. It just colors exactly what the lifecycle, profit and audience that application is going to garner. Open formats just seems a totally orthogonal issue to that. (Honestly, I’m mostly a bit shruggy about open formats — I’d be happy if we didn’t criminalize the reverse-engineering of them, or contractually ban people from re-implementing “proprietary” formats). And I don’t think I make the mistake that you think Tim Bray is making; but then, I don’t think he’s making it either.

  6. Sandra Says:

    Your article could use some reviewing – some connectors and verbs missing here and there make the text more confusing than what it needs to be.

  7. Danny O'Brien Says:

    It’s true Sandra. My blog style even gives me a headache sometimes.

  8. Rockstar Sid Says:

    The best thing is you’re linked by boing :) I don’t find any missing verbs, I guess I am used to it :P

    Great write up though.. Cheers :)

  9. Salim Fadhley Says:

    This article is funny… because it’s true.

    I guess I’m not the target audience – even back in the days when OSX had a significant advantage over Linux on laptops I never bout a single track on iTunes. I like iTunes less the more advanced it gets. At the moment I like iTunes only slightly more than Comet-Cursor (remember that, older geeks?)

    The iPad does seem to be targeting a demographic who do not really want a computer. Apple seem to be banking on the notion that these types want to be happy consumers of all the stuff you can buy. Mainly this stuff seems to be the things you can get for free on other kinds of computers. Perhaps this type of person only exists in Silicon Valley focus-groups. I’ve never met such a person in the UK.

    Sal

  10. Mats Svensson Says:

    “mid-eighties”?
    You mean mid-nineties don’t you?
    At least around 1991 cdrom-drives for PCs where bleeding edge technology, and where still ridiculously expensive during the first half of the 90′s

    So, “mid-eighties”? i don’t think so.

    But i guess i qualify as a geek “of a certain age”, as i recognize that most of what is today called “web 2.0″ or “apps” is actually just cdrom-2.0

  11. Jd Says:

    Seriously, before you make an argument about professional quality or credibility, _proofread_. There are about ten seriously glaring typos in this piece. It really undermines your message.

  12. nray Says:

    IIRC wasn’t Director a Macromedia product?

  13. arborman Says:

    Ah, the typo critique non-response response. The way to say something without saying something, and yet feel like a contributing member of a discussion. Don’t discuss an article on its merits – that requires thought – focus on its typos. Good, solid ground there, you know you are right, at least.

    Second only to the recursive criticism of the typo critique. Next up, thread diversion and possible umbrage taken and or given.

    I thought the article was interesting. I have another reason not to buy an iPad – I have a laptop and a desktop, and a phone. Sooner or later one of them will stop working. I don’t play graphics intensive video games, and if I did I wouldn’t do it on a computer. So I can replace one or all of them for about 1/8th the cost of an iPad, and get all the functionality I could ever need. The shiny toy just isn’t that compelling.

  14. Salim Fadhley Says:

    Danny, would you be willing to make a short appearance on our podcast The Pod Delusion. Ever contemporary, we’ve only just noticed this why-pad thingymagigger and would like to present a suitably grumpy outlook on this most hyped of products.

    The odd thing about the iPad is Apple’s ambivalence towards open standards:

    Yes, they are rejecting some of the more crufty web technologies (like Flash) in favour of HTML 5. The skeptical me thinks that’s more to do with Apple’s rivalry with Adobe than an earnest desire to purify web-standards.

    On the other hand, Apple clearly are presenting the app rather than the web as their preferred standard of content distribution. From what I’ve seen of ‘em they look exactly like the kinds of things we used to make with Macromedia Shockwave (one of the precursors of tody’s Adobe Flash). They look good mainly because they’ve been optimized for a specific screen size and palette. We did that in the CD-ROM era too!

    I’ve yet to see any kind of killer app that justifies the iPad format. I doubt that anything cdromish will sell in big volume for the same reason that cd-roms were never a license to print money. There’s simply not that much demand for sandboxed content when you can get most of what anybody cares for on the web for free. I do see some niche uses for the iPad (such as that start-up who can transform the device into a credit-card swyping cash-register).

    Sal

  15. arfnotz Says:

    All good points. My fear is that much of the culture and knowledge of our age will be lost more surely than missing writings of the ancients, but in a much shorter window, and without the apaoclyptic invasion of the barbarians. I have CD’s from 2002 that have degraded with music, software and documents. The buisness of burning family photos onto various media means in 100 years your grandchildren will opena box and look at that dvd or memory stcik and wonder “what’s that?” rather than “Who’s that?”. One big server crash somewhere – bang, there goes Wikipedia. There’s a lot ot be said for print on paper and Oil on canvas.

  16. Danny O'Brien Says:

    The typo thing is so true. I’m going to try an experiment, and get back to you all.

  17. Abby Says:

    It wasn’t Adobe Director back then.
    It was Macromind Director (that’s before they bought Aldus Freehand and became Macromedia.)

  18. Dave Barnes Says:

    Who pays for ringtones?

  19. Vic DiGital Says:

    I’m not sure how it factors into the discussion, but Apple is more than just a niche company today because they created a device that brilliantly utilized an inferior product. The mp3 file was and is still considered a lowest common denominator file format. Many have come along attempting to establish a new, higher-quality format, capable of nifty bells and whistles, but in the end, the mp3 won out and is here to stay.

    I think my point is that the iPod became a success because Apple met a need, rather than create one. With the iPad, it seems they are attempting to force the technology and file/app formats on the consumers. They are saying “We’re not supporting Flash”, and are making it difficult to get files in and out of the device and other annoyances. This may work for a while for the early adopters and Apple fanatics, but what happens when they refuse to support a common file format (even if it’s an inferior one?). With the iPod, they only had to do one thing right, play mp3 files, and they did that. The iPad has a LOT more moving parts.

    I could be totally wrong about this, but in spite of it’s out of the gate success I keep feeling the iPad is ultimately going to be a failure. Seems so many opportunities for a company (are you listening Google/Android?) to come along and quickly steal Apple’s thunder by doing the tablet RIGHT.

  20. nick s Says:

    With the iPod, they only had to do one thing right, play mp3 files, and they did that.

    So did the Creative Nomad. And as Rob Malda would attest, the Nomad had more space and wireless to boot. What made the iPod a success after its launch was iTunes (released four months later), Windows compatibility (2002), the iTunes store (2003), etc.

    Seems so many opportunities for a company (are you listening Google/Android?) to come along and quickly steal Apple’s thunder by doing the tablet RIGHT.

    Let a hundred flowers bloom: though ‘RIGHT for me’ and ‘RIGHT for the buying masses’ are different things.

  21. Vic DiGital Says:

    Yes, I had the Nomad, and while I loved it’s HUGE 20gb (at the time) capacity, it had a clunky interface and form factor. The iPod (along with iTunes) hit that sweet spot of convenience and aesthetics. But I always hated the wheel. What was THAT?

    And yes, “right” will mean many things to many people, but Apple has chosen to create a walled garden. As I said, that works fine for mp3 files, but for the WIDE range of media that people consume, in a huge variety of formats, I think Apple is taking a risk and opening the door for a similar tablet product to swoop in and make it easy for people to use all of the media they may have already acquired. One thing I haven’t seen addressed yet, can you load mpeg video files or avi files or quicktime files onto the iPad? What about other comic book file formats (such as cbr and cbz)? What about Office documents? If it doesn’t, then that’s prime opportunity for some other company to be the iPod of tablets.

  22. Chris Says:

    Hmmm. There was a lot of hype around the G5 Cube and Apple TV too. As for the iPad, I still fail to see what purpose it serves, especially in the closed format. It appears, to me anyway, that Apple is starting to get carried away with online cosumables (music, video, phone apps, and now iPad apps).

    Right now, it is nothing but the coolness factor, but even tablet computers have struggled. iPad is so limited and closed right now, I fail to see how it benefits beyond the “cool I own one”. I know future generations will get better, but going with the app/iPhone approach I think is only going to help limit the effectiveness of it’s success.

    Right now, the reviews have been anything but positive. It appears to really get what makes it somewhat effective, full keyboard, media add-ons, etc. is going to end up costing you $700-$1,000 anyway. So why not just get a laptop which does so much more and doesn’t require dedicated applications to run.

    My bet, this will go the way of the G5 once the initial “coolness” wears off.

  23. Chris Says:

    One other thing…

    The iPod met a need of reducing the CDs you lugged around for your Walkman and having to buy entire albums just for one song you wanted.
    The Macs (desk and laptop) meet and obvious need for simplified computing.
    The iPhone met a need for mobile communications beyond just a phone.

    The iPad meets…….. what need is that exactly?

  24. Tony Says:

    The iPad meets…..the need to access the Internet while on the toilet!

    On a more serious note, an important issue here is what economists would call “network effects”, which in this context means that the more people own an iPad, the better it gets for everyone who already has one, making it more desirable for new users.

    With the iPod, more owners means more demand for music in the iTunes store and more investment in the iTunes app by Apple, which means more people want an iPod.

    With the iPhone, more users means more developers, which means more apps, which means more people want an iPhone.

    The iPad will have the same effect, whether we like it or not. Millions of them will sell based on leveraging Apple’s brand alone and this will create sufficient network effects that pull in more users. Maybe it won’t be quite as successful as the iPod/iPhone. But it will be around for a while.

    So maybe the CD-ROM argument applies to the “lets waste money on rich media apps” business model, rather than to the iPad itself.

  25. Graham Says:

    “how Apple wants to censor the entire internet. Of course they don’t. Borders Books doesn’t sell hardcore porn DVDs either online or at their brick & mortar stores. Are they censoring?”

    Here’s the difference — if I want porn (or whatever) and can’t get it at Border’s, I can go down the street and buy it from someone else. Try that with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

  26. Mani Sitaraman Says:

    Two word from a (relative) geezer.

    Lisa. Newton.

  27. nick s Says:

    I think Apple is taking a risk and opening the door for a similar tablet product to swoop in and make it easy for people to use all of the media they may have already acquired.

    And the people who haven’t already acquired any intangible digital media? If you’re clued enough to know the difference between CBR and CBZ, or AVI and MKV, then looking for support sort of means you’re asking the wrong questions.

    The iPad meets…….. what need is that exactly?

    The obvious need for simplified computing. It hasn’t gone away.

  28. Danny O'Brien Says:

    What’s odd here is that I don’t really mind the iPad — let a thousand pads bloom, as Nick says. I think the law that you can’t tinker with it, or tell anyone else how to, without falling afoul of the EUCD and DMCA is an abomination, but absent that, I think it’s fine for Apple to do what they want. I’m still actually wavering about buying one myself (If I do, I think I’ll wait until the camera is included, or the Jobs fumes reach my part of San Francisco). My piece was more about the doomed misconceptions of media companies who are about to throw huge fistfuls of money into developing for it with no idea of how to recoup those costs.

    I do think that what Nick S and others have missed about Cory’s critique is that it is perfectly possible to have an iPad device, and evade all of his (and most of the other) criticism that is levelled at it. Just let people put their own software on it, and play about with it. That’s it. It doesn’t suddenly destroy all of Apple’s amazing work, just as the Mac being open to third-parties hasn’t destroyed all its good work. You could even make it so that it wasn’t the default, just as the default on the Android is to only accept apps from the Android Market.

    The question is: what would that change about the iPad?

  29. David Says:

    Honestly?

  30. Mark Says:

    Haven’t we seen the rise and fall of the tablet PC once already? One-button Steve has also managed to take away the mouse now so you are left with one hand holding the device (which doesn’t fit nearly as nice as a phone) and the other poking at the screen, one finger poke at a time. Seriously, give me a netbook , keyboard that doesn’t take up screen real estate, and a fingerprint-free screen.

    Beyond that this is a good summary of what is wrong with the iPad although the article was difficult to parse due to the typos and missing words.

  31. Sparkplug Says:

    Personally, id pay full book price for an electronic version of every book I have ever owned. No added content, no added art, no linking, no bs.

    I just want it Searchable, a Readable. Like a PDF, rotated 90 degrees so I can hold my laptop like a book and just enjoy reading.

    And then we can FINALLY stop killing trees just to tell a story about Drizzt.

  32. missingxtension Says:

    Just wanted to touch base on some of the misconceptions about apple product being easy to use.
    lack of features make it harder, lack of keyboard, etc.
    I have set up plenty of apple Ipods/Iphones for people who don’t know how to use computers. Let me tell you it is plenty hard to set up the darn thing when it needs Itunes to work, even the Chinese mp3 players come with mini cds if any additional software is needed. I am talking about downloading a 100 meg file for people who don’t even have a need for dsl. Even worse for people who don’t even have internet, I find myself having to lug an itunes install around on a usb drive I format very often.It would be nice if they had a small fat32 partition with the install files. Then on computers with low resources you have itunes helper services running all the time. Like bonjour?

    I set up a g3 computer for someone who just needs word processing. Then i see the person 6 months latter and he tells me has a new Imac now. Apparently his computer developed one of those things that doesn’t happen in apple computer (problems). He took it into the mac store to get it fixed, instead of fixing it they talked him into buying a brand new 17 inch Imac. The point of this story was, that i wanted to help out the guy by getting him off his word processor that did everything he needed by getting him an appliance like computer for practically free. Then he goes out and gets a brand new computer that he obviously wont ever use for anything but word processing.

    to Chris
    “Right now, the reviews have been anything but positive. It appears to really get what makes it somewhat effective, full keyboard, media add-ons, etc.”
    You’re absolutely right, but i remember the Iphone was getting horrible reviews when it came out. The biggest problem was dropped calls/low signal, no keys, no 3g in a 3g world, etc. Reviewers would carry two phones to check the signal, but the other phones were magically getting a better signal. This some how turned into the ATT network being the culprit, but in the end apple users seem to be the only ones making a fuss. Don’t forget that apple users are the minority too.

    “I think Apple is taking a risk and opening the door for a similar tablet product to swoop in and make it easy for people to use all of the media they may have already acquired.”
    I really don’t think apple is taking a risk at all, if anything they are on a fishing expedition. It would not surprise me if the Ipad was conceived when the original Iphone came out or was a dusted off prototype. They literately took an Iphone, snapped a snappier processor, which more than likely will end up on a future Iphone. Make it bigger, load the same OS, then some how its a magical machine? They could have at least loaded up the 4.0 firmware to differentiate the product and get some more hype into what to expect from the future upgrade.
    The reason no real slate machines have come about is because there is some serious r and d, and drawback that were unacceptable by anyone but apple users.
    unless HTC for example takes and HTC touch pro2 and hit the scale button. Oh yeah and last but not least, put windows mobile 6.5 on a 12 inch tablet. that does sound stupid doesn’t it?

    Great article, spot on.

  33. Bryan Says:

    I think the summary of the conversation is need: the iPad isn’t something people need, in the way that they need a powerful desktop or laptop. It is a toy. Sure, some may use it for important tasks, but they will never be as productive as they could be with a laptop or desktop.

    The iPad is a toy used to consume content. Like an old GameBoy (remember that?) or one of those small portable DVD players people used to carry onto planes. Only this time, the toy also allows you to consume many other types of media and even write an email or two. This will appeal to many people but it is not fundamentally transformative in a technology sense. It will remain relegated to toy-dom. It will probably change the dynamics of book / magazine / newspaper consumption considerably, but I doubt it will be widely adopted enough to completely change their business models. The iPad will be one more ounce on the camel’s back that is already breaking the newspaper industry: that is, the weight of the loss of the gatekeeper’s ability to control information. The gatekeepers (publishers, newspapers) no longer weild the power they used to. Not because of the iPad – because of the internet. This is just an explanation point on the already finished sentence.

    These content providers need to, as was elegantly stated in another comment above, realize that they are just going to hold a different place in the world than before. If they are smart, and get lean and mean, they can probably survive on less revenue and still bring home enough bacon to pay the bills. If they stay bloated and old school, they will die fast.

    I run a publishing company: http://www.lymebook.com – and I am keenly aware of changes to come. However, I feel that if I keep my eyes on my core focus – that is, to provide people with content they need and content that is unique and valuable, that the mediums will be less important. Mediums come and go. I recognize that there will be some piracy of my created works and prices will be driven down, but I suspect new opportunities will offset at least enough of these downsides that my business will stay intact. Just my few cents.

  34. Steve Nordquist Says:

    Even w.r.t. your rebuttal on how this thing comes with a confounded default nanny, and the follow-up clarifying that it’s a Magic Flying Nanny Of Cupertino Traffic Space Who Won’t Mind Hurting Us To Enforce Bedtime, I look at the iPad, and then the BD-RW (blu disk) and …no, I’m not assembling them with hermectic magicks, stop that…considering neither a bad citizen. Supreme, unwarranted (as if it were a kinetic skill like lockpicking or Vulquila Mind Melding and the published demonstration made The One of all informed persons) hacker confidence helps a bit; the MAME cabinet will eat what humankind doesn’t promote.

    Both of those gadgety notions somehow want for an IME with some CJKVh savvy to transpond glyphs from unicode supersets against things like webs and…fancy photos marked up with difficult zoom, pan, geotag and date markup manouvres…, despite a half-century of F/O goth glove work, decent multi-touch research and component availability, plasma screen technology that works in a wide temperature range, and at least four Jog Dials that worked. They’ve faults; the CPUs set for them almost certainly need crank-powered spares when actual enthusiasts are making them (iPad and BD player; perhaps the physical bits too) shine.

    For our trouble with serial data formats and Apple though, maybe punters can get the shine on for 8 connections on the PCB rather than 812.

    So, if they’re not staying closed (though it’s mechanically sophisticated to parallel a license for 50GB disk formats with e-paper that also understands rock and scissors gestures (with a literate UNIX that succeeds Plan9); that is, art both common craft wisdom and TBA,) what’s to say the thresher where captive Adobe (…and thanks for all the glyphs) tools grudgingly exported design and content databases to inappropriate customers’ libs (it’s a special version of Flash from Fox?!?) or pdf is going to be hard at work here? Will it make it pricier to edit or consume data and an interaction environment for it, by reference? Perhaps so if one needs Purple Magazine Markup on one iPad to regard Purple Magazine on the next! It seems like this time, they thought about mixing up DOM (DOM2, DOM3) though; so we won’t. Until RAM runs out; when are the reviews going to mention that? Remember press embargoes on reviews of those CD-ROM? It made reviews of the NY Times Interactive CD that much more precious. The Lickable Gray Lady is going to be awesome; neverminding editorial hamhandedness on NYT’s part, in complete denial of the Wall Street Journal’s tenures, something that does a little ripping and rerouting is going to make it a better read and a fun bid at a $7 program and an even more fun bid as newspaper of record.

    Speaking of inline content references, why don’t we just have a glyph for various scenes in Alien, Minority Report, The SUIDwhale, etc. anyhow?

    Why didn’t you expand the Fred Fish (1500×1200, IIRC) free syndication meme up there? Tastes in provenance (holds up example YouRube video of ICP rhyming over Jean Michel Jarre) maybe?

  35. Al Feldzamen Says:

    In the late 18th, the 19th, and early 20th centuries, as industrialization spread across America, “company towns” began to be formed, small communities centered around a factory — towns in which a corporation owned the real estate, built the housing for the workers, and generally ran the local governments. Included among the amenities there were generally “company stores” to provide the workers with foodstuffs, clothing, fabrics, hardware goods, and the like. In time, these stores came to be considered symbols of oppression.

    Wikipedia, for example, notes this often was “an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities or some currency substitute (referred to as scrip), rather than with standard money. This limits employees’ ability to choose how to spend their earnings—generally to the benefit of the employer. As an example, scrip might be usable only for the purchase of goods at a “company store” where prices are set artificially high.

    “While this system had long existed in many parts of the world, it became widespread in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as industrialization left many poor, unskilled workers without other means to support themselves and their families. The practice has been widely criticized as exploitative and similar in effect to slavery, and has been outlawed in many parts of the world.”

    Paying the workers in scrip and forcing them thereby to buy at the company store was the heart of the system. This was the time of the foundation of many of the great American fortunes — the times we associate with the names of Robber Barons and industrial and financial magnates such as Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, Astor, Harriman, and the like.

    Something similar has been approached, but until recently been never realized in the new world of data handling.

    Imagine, for example, the furor that would arise today were Microsoft to engineer a new Windows operating system that would prevent totally using any word processor other than its own WORD application. In point of fact, critics have asserted that earlier versions of Windows, while not preventing using outside software, did indeed offer certain specific operating advantages to Microsoft’s own spreadsheet, display, and word handling programs. And only this year did the European Union force Microsoft to present other internet browsers than its own EXPLORER on an equal footing in the latest version of WIndows.

    But Apple, always fiercely defended by its ultra-loyal devoted partisans, has seemingly managed to create its own “company store,” successfully selling one data handling device to which it totally controls normal access, the iPhone, and now presumably, the iPad to come.

    I write as one who bought the original Macintosh, upgraded through the years, using the computers to manage two medical offices, even wrote two (functional but not totally successful, alas) commercially available programs for it (a physician’s California office billing relational data base program—this being surprisingly complex — and also a teleprompter simulator that simultaneously, while presenting scrolling words under speed control to a laptop user, also showed synchronized slides and videos to the audience), and has generally appreciated Apple’s offerings through the years. But I nonetheless look with growing disappointment at the company’s restrictions on outside resources, and its censorship or suppression of software it finds objectionable — sometimes disgracefully on purely competitive business grounds.

    Certainly, Apple has the right to sell what it wishes in its own stores, internet-based or in reality. But preventing others from selling software to its products? That’s precisely the 21st century update of the “company store.” And forbidding outside developers to speak out about their relations with Apple — is this not Big Brother in action?

    When commentators have been critical on this point, Apple devotees have responded: “It’s a company, and they can do what they want.” And also, “There are contracts for the developers, and they signed them willingly.”

    Those writers are displaying a woeful misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of the law. There is a reason, for example, why in the splendid film and later television series, THE PAPER CHASE, about a beginning law student, the sternly curmudgeon professor, portrayed by the magnificent John Houseman, thundered: “I teach you to think like a lawyer!” and had, as his subject, the most important first-year law course, Contracts. Because, as every law student rapidly learns, just because both sides have signed a piece of paper with words written on it, a valid contract is not thereby created. There are many, many reasons such paper agreement can be considered invalid—and chief among them being a finding by a judge that its provisions are against “public policy.”

    So as a former attorney, I think there is a reasonable probability that many if not most, of the provisions of Apple’s absurdly restrictive “contract” with developers for its iPhone (and presumably iPad) system would be voided with a court challenge, since they are clearly against certain public policies. Attempting to forbid, by a specific provision, an outside developer from speaking out about relations with Apple, and about the contractual provisions themselves, is certainly a BIG BROTHER, perhaps Fascistic, tactic! Should this muzzling not be against public policy?

    Monopoly avoidance is another such public policy, and indeed, one that has led to various forms of legislation in many countries. Microsoft certainly did not have an absolute operating system monopoly in Europe, since the Macintosh OS and various open source operating systems are in widespread use there. Nonetheless the EU concluded there was a sufficient monopoly interest that Windows could no longer be permitted to favor Microsoft’s Explorer.

    So how then, can Apple’s more restrictive closure of its systems for the iPhone and iPad be defended? My guess here to that this “company store” policy can also be voided, because Apple does have a quasi-monopoly, established by its restrictive operating systems, over the hardware universe it has pioneered.

    Another legally valid reason for considering a contract invalid is that it is not the result of legitimate “bargaining” between the signatories, in that one side has a significant advantage. This is called a “contract of adhesion,” and can thereby be voided. Can any Apple functionary or fan maintain that an iPod, iPhone, iPad developer can bargain, on an equal footing, with Apple?

  36. dave d Says:

    iPad: This is the way competition is meant to be. To compete: Be early to market, expensive, nifty, and crush everybody else with DRM.

    Competition is not: Microsoft/Apple and Ubuntu building Operating Systems that run on compatible commodity PCs built with interchangeable Intel or AMD processors and identical Seagate WD Hitachi disk drives running either Office or Open Office or iWork providing identical functionality. What is that? Seriously guys, do we all live in China???

    Competition is: ARM killing Intel processors when creating the mobile widget market space. Netbooks pummeling laptops. Intel chewing off their own foot to release Atom to compete against their own dominant processor platforms just so they can play. Netbooks shipping with Linux forcing Microsoft to cut Windows prices. Intel’s body blow to all the GPU companies when they started shipping a GPU in every chipset. Apple killing Windows PCs by making a compelling poopbrowsing TabletPC. Android’s crushing growth shipping more phones than Apple’s dominant iPhone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

petit disclaimer:
My employer has enough opinions of its own, without having to have mine too.