My Linux hippie reaction to the iPad

So the iPad was announced yesterday. It's just a big iPhone, not a small Mac, but it's also one of the sleekest pieces of hardware I've seen in a while.

I've worried for a while about the iPhone and AppStore problem. The iPhone is amazing, there's no arguing against it. The AppStore, on the other hand, worries me. Apple has been unapologetic about blocking and rejecting apps they don't like. The Google Voice app, which I'm sure didn't have any quality or security issues, was rejected. While this case was probably driven by AT&T, it still leaves the door open for Apple to dictate everything about what software is allowed on the iPhone, and part of me bristles at that.

Software should allow the freedom to do anything you want. One day, if we work hard, there won't be any closed systems, or "walled gardens". Everybody will enjoy a utopia where all computers run an Open software stack. Linux, Unix, and new homebrew software options will abound. Everyone will have a personal computer that they can't properly get to work because of the infinite diversity. No one's computer will interoperate because there's no benevolent dictator enforcing a common programming substrate to communicate through. Linux nerds will rule the world while everyone else will wish they could give up this horrible "freedom" for a closed appliance that just works.

Apple's closed ecosystem, on the other hand, will "just work". If you want to do something, there's an app for that, and it'll work. If there isn't an app for that, then tough shit, because if Apple doesn't think your use case makes sense, there's no way around that.

This article sums up alot of what bothers me about this possible future. Still, it is a great success story for the 80% end-user experience, and it's an amazing success story for Apple, who is essentially selling magic, not a simple device.

My preference of Android over iPhone comes entirely from this same vague desire to not let "the man" control what I run on my own device. But I really can't deny how much better the iPhone hardware is than any of the Android devices out there, and the iPad continues the trend. It's sleek, has amazing battery life, and it's FAST.

So really, I wish I could get Apple's build quality with Android's freedom. Yes, iPhones/iPads have a very capable browser on it that I can use to access the completely open internet, but I can't compete with native apps. Google Voice proved that you can get most of the way, and webapp's capability to compete is improving, but it's not totally there. There's no way (that I know of) for a web page to interact with the accelerometers on the iPhone, or get ahold of audio inputs. There's hope that with Apple's continuing commitment to HTML5 on it's devices that webpages will continue to push the envelope, but it'll never be the same.

In the end, I'll keep hoping Android comes up with something even remotely competitive hardware-wise, and the mean time, I might just buy an iPad or iPhone. While I couldn't program like I do on my laptop, for most other things, it would just work.

This article is pretty jumbled, which sort of reflects my uncertain stance on this whole thing.

EDIT 10:48AM - This article better describes why the iPad will succeed than I was able to