The thing about creativity …

Steve Jobs with iPad

I left this comment on Simon St-Laurent’s interesting and thoughtful post How dare Apple … (which, in turn, was partly a response to Tim Bray’s post Nothing Creative).

I don’t believe that most things, including the iPad, are obviously right or wrong, but I do have serious concerns that go beyond simply not being able to code on an iPad (at least, until there’s an app for that). I’m copying my comment here to give it a more permanent home. If I hadn’t posted this yet, I’d edit it to tone down the emotional language 10% or so, but still, it’s a fair reflection of my thoughts and concerns, not about the iPad itself (it’s just another consumer device), but about the way people are starting to talk and think about issues that are very important to me, like software freedom:

The thing about creativity is that it responds poorly to central planning and central control. I have no problem with the fact that the iPad isn’t developer-friendly — I can buy a Netbook with twice the power for half the price and code on it (and, BTW, that netbook makes just as simple a consumer device).

My problem is the idea that a single Apple politburo controls everything that can appear on the device. Is that the future? Even in the bad old days of TV, before cable, there were 3 1/2 US networks to choose from, not just one – you had to watch TV outside the US to see just how bad things could get with a single, government-controlled broadcaster (I grew up in Canada, but close enough to watch the US stations, thank god).

Apple’s obsession with central control goes beyond software to hardware. There must be some kind of port for the optional keyboard to plug into, but no way it’s going to be USB or Firewire, because that might let someone use an *unplanned* creative device on the iPad, someone creative daring not to give Apple its cut (and veto). If I build something clever for creative people using a USB interface, it will work with desktop towers, notebooks, netbooks, and even some small portable devices, but *not* with the iPad.

Apple has some smart people working there, but they won’t always have the best ideas, and Apple has thrown up too many barriers to other people with smart ideas. The best apps in the future are going to come from a couple of students coding in a dorm room, and they might just be so annoyed by Apple censorship that they defect to a freer platform. It’s sad that things have gotten to the point that even Windows is a freer platform than Apple.

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5 Responses to The thing about creativity …

  1. Tom says:

    After reading this, I thought the iPad version of the “downfall” meme would appeal to you:

    Although, since you speak German, you may want to mute it to prevent cognitive dissonance.

  2. david says:

    Thanks, Tom. It looks like there’s quite a pile of different versions on YouTube now – shouldn’t have been surprised.

  3. BigLinuxGuy says:

    You know, one of the things I’ve never quite understood is why that people think the iPad is a developers’ laptop replacement. It’s not even aimed there, yet everyone compares it to a netbook that they can code on. It’s meant to be a consumer device, not a computer. Your point is equivalent to saying that you should be able to write code on your remote control or home heating and air system control panel.

    If you really want to program on it, install the ssh terminal and connect to a server. Voila! You’re writing code on your iPad which keeps you legal with the terms of the iPad EULA.

    BTW, nobody is making anyone buy the iPad, especially if they don’t like the terms associated with it. Wait for the Android tablet and hack away to your hearts content.

  4. david says:

    BigLinuxGuy: you’re saying pretty-much what I said in the posting — there’s no need for the iPad to support software development. The problem is that there are many other kinds of creativity, and by centrally controlling what can appear on an iPad, Apple is potentially stifling all of them.

  5. picnic says:

    “If I build something clever for creative people using a USB interface, it will work with desktop towers, notebooks, netbooks, and even some small portable devices, but *not* with the iPad.”
    Something I doubt …

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