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iPad Is a "Huge Step Backward" 1634

An anonymous reader writes "FSF's John Sullivan launches the Defective by Design campaign and petition to rain on Steve's parade, barely minutes out of the starting gate. 'This is a huge step backward in the history of computing,' said FSF's Holmes Wilson, 'If the first personal computers required permission from the manufacturer for each new program or new feature, the history of computing would be as dismally totalitarian as the milieu in Apple's famous Super Bowl ad.' The iPad has DRM writ large: you can only install what Apple says you may, and 'computing' goes consumer mainstream — no more twiddling, just sit back, spend your money, and watch the show — while we allow you to." What is clear is that the rise of the App Store removes control of the computer from the user. It makes me wonder what the next generation of OS X will look like.
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iPad Is a "Huge Step Backward"

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:22AM (#30933536)

    And I honestly don't mean this as a troll, but anyone who buys an Apple product *NOT* expecting it to be locked down tighter than Ann Coulter's vagina deserves to be disappointed. Buying an Apple and expecting freedom is like buying something from Sony and being shocked when it only supports some bullshit propriety storage or media format than only Sony makes. Apple is about doing what Steve tells you to do, or at least says is okay for you to do. If Apple could get away with locking down their Macbooks and other PC's so that you could only download their approved software, they probably would.

    Apple keeps it simple: Here's what this does. It's elegant and does what it does very well. We don't want you screwing that up by messing around with it without our approval. If you want open and free, go somewhere else and take your chances.

  • by axl917 ( 1542205 ) <> on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:26AM (#30933608)

    The Apple of today is more 1984-ish than Microsoft ever was at the time of the aforementioned Superbowl ad.

  • The Don't Buy It (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:27AM (#30933614)
    iPod Touch.


    They're both spectacular devices. The iPad will work within a similar ecology and thus has a good chance of being a pretty sweet device (time will tell, of course).


    If you don't like it, don't buy it.

    • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:54AM (#30934182)

      I dont think the problem is as simplistic as you make it out to be. I have an iphone and I grudgingly accept its limitations because its a portable device that needs to be rock-solid and not randomly drain the battery on me, or whatever issues Apple has with multitasking.

      Ive been thinking of buying a tablet for some time and have remained somewhat open-minded about this tablet, but you cant sell me the exact same iphone model with simply a larger device. You cant tell me I cant have flash for something that will primarily be a web tablet. You cant expect people to buy flash apps turned into iphone apps for every site. You cant say "Well, its really an iphone, but its not, so when you complain just remember its an iphone sans phone." Its supposed to be a tablet computer not a super ipod touch. Perhaps they should have marketed it as an ipod for your grandpa like those giant remote controls.

  • by notaspy ( 457709 ) <imnotaspy AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:30AM (#30933662)

    it having only one mouse button.

  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:34AM (#30933742) Homepage

    If you want what the FSF purports to want in the iPad and iPhone, its only $99/year more to be a certified developer, and that allows you to upload your own code onto up to a hundred selected devices. The process to become a developer is pretty painless (I did it for my own iPod touch, simply to have the potential to do some hacking down the road).

    Similar abilities exist for companies to upload their own selection of apps to corporate devices, for $250/year.

    Apple really isn't limiting the freedom to tinker for those who actually WANT to tinker, instead they realize that for most users , having an approved-code-only model is something the users actually wants: it means they have confidence in the system.

    How many people will happily grab tons of random free apps off the app-store? Would they have the same attitude if they didn't have apple saying "we've at least done a cursory check of this to make sure these free random apps won't *BLEEP* you up the rear"

  • Oh, come on. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:35AM (#30933780)

    The iPad is not a general-purpose computing device. It cannot be compared to, nor can it show the direction of, the market for general-purpose computers. This is like saying that the segway is a major step backward in international travel because it can't fly.

    If the next version of OSX were to have similar limitations, that would be worthy of this line of criticism. Of course, the criticism would then be unnecessary, as the Mac would drop out of the PC market promptly of its own accord.

  • Misses the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Philotomy ( 1635267 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:36AM (#30933800)
    I think the complaint misses the point of the device. It's not supposed to be a full-blown personal computer. It's supposed to be an iPod for documents (including web pages and especially books -- note that bookstore), doing for them what the iPod did for music: let me carry it around and interact with it in my easy chair or my bed or on a park bench.
    • Re:Misses the point (Score:4, Interesting)

      by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:41AM (#30933908) Homepage
      What I don't get about this is why you can't do any of these things with a laptop and why it's better to carry around a device with an unprotected screen instead. I just cannot imagine using one of these tablets and I can't imagine it having the mass market appeal that makes, say, the iPod or the iPhone the success that they are.
      • by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:52AM (#30934148)

        This is exactly what I don't get.

        The iPod was a personal music and later a video and limited "game/app" device. The latter obviously more of a "can do" versus "is made for".

        The iPhone was primarily a phone with PDA functionality and an iPod built in. Feels like either an iPod with phone functionality or an iPhone with iPod functionality. Not sure which, but it was replacing something you already carried in your pocket. Ok, I get the need.

        The iPad.

        Ok, it can't make calls.
        It's an unportable iPod.
        It's an eReader with a bright ass screen that will strain your eyes.
        It can do limited word/spreadsheet processing.
        It surfs the internet the way Apple says you should (no flash, IE: no Hulu, etc).
        It plays limited games so it's not going to dominate the handheld market.
        It only plays video from the apple store but the iPod et al already do that albeit on smaller screens.

        I just don't get what niche this thing is supposed to fill. Is it a crippled laptop or a huge iPod?

        And starting at $500 for the version without 3G surfing capability, which arguably is it's strongest trait, I don't see the "Well, I already had one of these in my pocket (cell phone) and this one does it better plus it does tons more (iPhone), so I must get one." argument.

        It seems to be a solution to a problem, or a replacement for a product no one needed to invent.

        • by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @01:10PM (#30935852) Journal

          It fits a perfect spot for me. But I think my priorities are a little bit different than yours. The 3G is irrelevant to me, because I see this as something that I'd just use around the house, where I've got WiFi. I wouldn't be carrying this around with me everywhere like I do my iPhone. I hardly ever even take my laptop out of the house.

          I like to fart around on the internet while I sit on the couch in my living room and watch TV with my wife. I can currently do that on my 17" MacBook, which I love, but which often a pain in the ass to deal with while chilling on the couch. It's a little heavier than I like, every time I move or get up I need to carefully set it down, I generally need to find a big hardcover book or something to slip under it because the heat it produces is uncomfortable, and the battery has a couple years on it and can't make it through a full football game on a single charge (I'd rather not have to deal with moving the power cord).

          I can also sit on the couch and browse the web on my iphone, which mostly solves the above problems, but with the downside of a tiny screen that requires lots and lots of constant zooming in and out and panning around and that gets aggravating. The other primary home use of my iphone is us lying in bed and watching stupid youtube videos before we fall asleep. Oh, and also I use while I'm camping out on the toilet taking care of business.

          Anyways, my point is that I can come up with a bunch of things that I use my iphone for that I think the ipad could do better. And at least one use for my laptop that the ipad would do better. Now I'm not sure that it does those things so much better that it's worth $500, but if prices come down a little I could see it becoming more appealing to me.

    • by Inda ( 580031 ) <> on Thursday January 28, 2010 @02:13PM (#30937178) Journal
      Firstly, I hate it and I hate everything it does and doesn't do. It is pointless.

      But it's not meant for you or I, nor anyone else who reads Slashdot.

      It's meant for my wife. My wife who runs Firefox, types "facebook" into Firefox's default Google homepage, clicks the first result and then spends the next three hours talking bollocks to her friends.

      If the iPad runs Facebook, it's a winning.
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:43AM (#30933946) Homepage Journal

    We organized actions and protests targeting iTunes music DRM outside Apple stores, and under the pressure Steve Jobs dropped DRM on music.

    Jobs was on record as opposing DRM on music long before the campaign started. It was the labels that had to be convinced to change, they were the ones responsible, not Apple. Taking credit for something you had no part in does nothing for your credibility and weakens your ability to work effectively in the future.

    • by rliden ( 1473185 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:50PM (#30935406)

      I would think Amazon dropping DRM first and selling MP3s at a very competitive price had a lot more to do with dropping that than EFF and FSFs publicity campaigns. I don't mean to discredit their work against DRM and I'm sure it was an influence. I just credit Amazon and business competition a bit more. That perspective could be my bias though. My initial experience with iTuens was horrible. It wasn't until I tried Amazon's MP3 store that I started buying digital music again.

  • Amen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mewsenews ( 251487 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:46AM (#30933992) Homepage

    "We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on." - Steve Jobs, Interview in Macworld magazine, February 2004

    Steve used to preach that you could tell simply by looking at someones posture whether they were consuming or creating. The hacker bent over his keyboard is a boon to society while the couch potato leaning waayy back is a drain.

    Meanwhile, he introduces the iPad while leaning back in an easy chair and telling us how easy it is to buy and consume web pages, music, movies, books from the iTunes store. And it's all DRM infested, right down to the software you may or may not be allowed to run on it.

    Consume, consume, consume.

    • Re:Amen (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:49PM (#30935366)

      The hacker bent over his keyboard is a boon to society while the couch potato leaning waayy back is a drain.

      With no-one to consume the hacker's output, there is no reason for it to exist, and thus there is no boon.

      Never forget that supply and demand are linked; without one, the other is worthless.

  • by motorcyclemaintain ( 1674658 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:46AM (#30934006)
    "What is clear, is that the rise of the App Store revokes control of the computer from the user."

    Wrong. It may "revoke control" from the power user. But, the general public will view the iPad, like the iPod, as a simpler, more friendly way to get things done. It gives them control.

    The general public doesn't care about our App Store hang ups, or cries of "DRM". Previously, the general public has struggled to install and play movies / apps / music at all, now they can tap a finger and it's there. Did these users prefer the pre-App Store world, where you had to have specialist knowledge to access this media? I doubt it. They couldn't access that world at all.

    Here on Slashdot, we see the iPad bringing "DRM", and view it as a "huge step backwards". However, the general public sees the iPad as easy access to movies and apps, simple, straightforward accessible computing. The general public see it as a huge step forwards.

    Our loss of control, as geeks, is most people's gain. Don't you think that complex media should be accessible to the general public, quickly and easily? We cry DRM at Apple, but do we really mean that we just don't want the general public in our clubhouse? What's wrong with the iPad and the "consumer mainstream" derided in the story? Not everyone wants to pop the bonnet and fiddle with the engine. In fact, hardly anyone does.

    The story is seriously blinkered.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:49AM (#30934076) Journal
    It is exactly the same thing as it happened in PC. Apple makes an innovative product and makes it an expensive niche product. In 1980s, Microsoft brought a copycat product, it controlled the software, and let the hardware manufacturers duke it out for shrinking profit margins. In 2010s, Google will being Android, the MS-DOS of ultra portables, it controls the OS, the hardware manufacturers will duke it out again for ever shrinking profit margins. Once an installed base is large enough, Google brings out its own applications, and supplants all other competing apps, and it will consolidate its grip like Microsoft did back then.

    Microsoft wanted money for its products. Google just wants to know a lot about you. Most people don't care about privacy. So Google is shaping up to be Microsoft+{Nielsen+Gallup}+{Madison Avenue} all rolled into one.

  • by dogmatixpsych ( 786818 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:53AM (#30934162) Journal
    I don't see what the iPad has to do with OS X. The iPhone OS is built for a completely different purpose than OS X is. iPads are meant to do a relatively few things (read books, consume media, browse web, play games, etc.) very well and intuitively. OS X does a lot of things very well and is incredibly powerful. In our neuroimaging lab we used to run Linux as our main processing OS (we still use it a lot) but we are transitioning over to OS X because we can do everything we need to do that Linux can do plus much more.

    As someone in academia, the iPad would be perfect for much of what I do. I can take notes on it (including notes when I do therapy or psychological assessments), check my email, write papers and reports, read articles and books, listen to music, run all sorts of other apps (including terminal ones with ssh support), transfer and display brain images, and more. With the right adapter I could use the iPad to run Keynote presentations from.

    I do some of these things on my iPod Touch - I use it all the time for my work - but the screen size limits some of what I can do. Could a netbook meet my needs? To some degree but the tablet form factor of the iPad is key for me. I could purchase a different tablet computer but again, their form factors are larger than the iPad. Plus, they usually cost more.

    Besides, the iPad is competing with the Kindle to some degree and a Kindle with a 9.7" screen is only $10 cheaper than the iPad. I know the smaller Kindle is slightly more than 1/2 the price of the iPad but it does far less than 1/2 of what the iPad does (but the Kindle is very good at what it is designed to do, so I hear).

    I'll probably purchase an iPad - maybe not this 1st rev. but possibly when it is updated in a year or two. I think Apple is going to sell a lot of them.
  • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @11:55AM (#30934212)

    You can install any application you want on an iPod Touch, iPhone and presumably the iPad as well. If you own or manage the device you have 2 options. You can either get the development environment and install applications directly to each device or you can set up a server (intended for but not restricted to enterprises) that manages all the devices in your control. You can install and remove any application, backup and restore data and setting, etc. What you cannot do without jail breaking the device is violate certain restrictions on using some OS APIs or distribute applications to devices you do not directly manage. You can distribute applications to others without jail broken phones who either have a developer set up or enterprise server. You can distribute pretty much anything to people with jail broken devices.

    As far as I know, Apple doesn’t arrest, prosecute or sue people who jailbreak their devices. They just don’t support them. Fair enough. If you use unsupported APIs on any OS or application you’ll generally find that you won’t get vendor support or cooperation doing that. No one can stand behind a product that is not being used as it was intended. As a customer, your reasonable expectations about a product and its support are those expressed by the vendor. They don’t include anything that the vendor expressly does not support. They don’t include whatever you can dream up.

  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:42PM (#30935192) Homepage

    The kind of "freedom" that is the hallmark of Richard Stallman, GNU and EFF is very simple -if you have programming skills you are free. Otherwise, you are, well, unfit.

    The basic problem is that the "open" computing platform has pretty much failed the consumer. No matter what security features are implemented in software, consumers will circumvent them to obtain what they believe they want: free software, porn, money, etc. The end result is a compromised computer that is no longer completely under the control of the user. And such computers can have a very negative impact on all users everywhere.

    The average consumer has no way to utilise the sort of programming freedom that Stallman would like to see people have. They need a checked-out, validated, "App Store" where both useful and useless things can be downloaded and will never, ever compromise their computer. And if an application is found to be bad after it is released it can be "recalled". Period. If we had this today for Windows there would be no spam epidemic, no malware and little or no phishing. Instead what we have is an environment where the Internet is not safe for users with no special knowledge.

    We are certainly going to see less and less "freedom" for users in the name of keeping out the bad stuff. Users, not programmers, do not need freedom but they absolutely need safe computing. We aren't going to teach that. With great freedom comes great responsibility and the spammers, thieves and scammers don't seem to be properly exercising responsibility.

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:45PM (#30935262) Homepage

    First off, it is based on iPhone OS 3.2. What the hell?!?!??! So you're telling me I'm going to spend at minimum $500 on a device that is just as locked down as an iPod Touch or iPhone? I'm going to have to hack the damn thing just so I can run an unapproved application? Great. Thanks for that, Apple.

    Secondly, it is completely devoid of external ports (except when using dongles hooked up to the 30-pin connector...huzzah for accessories :/), no flash support, no multitasking (oh great, so I can't have AIM and Safari open at the same time? Epic Fail.) just seems to be an extremely restricted device considering the $500 entry price.

    Third, what exactly are you getting for that price? Let's look at the fully loaded 64 gig/3G-enabled version. For roughly $800, you are buying a locked-down device with zero expansion options, zero USB ports or flash card readers, and no way to upgrade. For $800 you could put together a full-blown gaming computer or buy a REALLY nice laptop...hell, you could even buy a used tablet convertible and get the benefits of a tablet AND a laptop! But no, with Apple you get a locked down non-widescreen non-expandable device.

    Fourth (and this isn't that big of a deal, but it is still a missed opportunity) Apple should have included a stylus with the system. Think about the people that use Wacom tablets, like the Penny Arcade guys or countless other digital graphic artists/designers. If Apple had included a stylus and well-designed software, this thing could be used as a portable Wacom tablet. Digital artists would have MURDERED each other for a chance to buy this thing had they included a stylus. Nope, that's a whole 'nother market Apple shunned with this thing.

    Honestly, my biggest issue with it is the fact that it uses the iPhone operating system. By keeping it locked down like that, they have severely limited the appeal of this thing...they should have either ported over OSX (which would work GREAT on a tablet with minimal interface changes) or just built a new operating system from the ground up. But no, they decided to put on a velvet glove and slap the shit out of their customers...and they'll buy it! They are so focused on the fact that the hand has a velvet glove they are ignoring the fact that they are being slapped by it!

    Basically, this COULD have been an amazing device...but regardless of what they did right, Apple made some unbelievably stupid decisions that puts it firmly in the "what's the point" category for me.

    It is also worth mentioning that if this tablet had been announced with all the same features (both missing and included), but it had a Microsoft or Google logo instead of an Apple logo, people would be treating it like the plague. Fanboyism is a terrible disease.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:56PM (#30935554) Homepage

    The iPad is the future - computing as we know it is coming to an end. We, the geeks, the hackers, the programmers - are the minority.

    We all thought DRM was going to come-in through TPM modules in the BIOS. We thought AMD and Intel would begrudgingly add support under pressure of the RIAA. We thought Windows would add support and that Linux would be the last bastion of free computing left. But it isn't going to happen that way. It's coming from a totally different angle.

    What will happen is that various specialized devices, that are 100% DRM encumbered from the start, will slowly replace the PC until it becomes an expensive specialized device for programmers.

    First the iPhone comes out. Then the iPad. The all the iPhone and iPad clones - until these devices become ubiquitous. That covers internet, document editing, email, and limited gaming. That's maybe 50% of what the average Joe uses a computer for. Major gaming and social networking can be done on XBOX/Playstation/Wii - also 100% DRM devices. Then those devices will handle your movies, your TV watching, and your DVD/Blu-ray/DRM'd streaming video. Now we are at... 75%? Eventually, 90% of what computers do will be done more easily on some specialized DRM'd device. The idea of the infinitely configurable totally hackable PC will die away. Most consumers won't know the difference.

    So how do we break this? Maybe come-up with some super-cool thing you can do on a computer that nobody thought of yet... something that can't be done on these devices? Maybe Android is the answer? I dunno. But I see the tidal wave coming...

  • by MasterOfGoingFaster ( 922862 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:58PM (#30935584) Homepage

    The iPad is not a computer - it is an information appliance.

    Sure it has computer components, but it is not meant to be a general-purpose computer. It is a sealed-box with tightly controlled access to tools and data. It is aimed at the same crowd that buys a TV and pays for a cable connection. They can only choose what is being offered to them.

    This has been Job's dream since before the first Mac, when Jeff Raskin convinced him that computers were too hard for non-technical people to use. The smart thing about this design is (like a TV) it just works. Most people will accept the limitations, because too much freedom may not be a good thing. These are the same people who run as admin on a Windows PC, and click on any little thing that pops up. Their "freedom" turns their PC into brick in short order. So a limited device that just works is fine for them.

    I'll wait for the more open clones to appear and do what I want. Apple is rightly aimed at the crowd that is willing to cash for the comfort of not thinking. The thinkers/doers will wait for something more open. This is not a product meant for us.

  • The future is now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @01:56PM (#30936830) Homepage

    A couple of years ago everyone realized the computer was on it's way to becoming an appliance like your toaster or microwave, and were pretty optimistic about it. Well, the future is now... and people still complain about it. As others have stated, this isn't a general all-purpose computer, and it's not meant to be. Jobs was right when he said the netbook doesn't do anything better. It only does things smaller and, with every passing generation of the netbook, they're increasing the size of the device until it's indistinguishable from a laptop. The iPad is in practice what the original netbook was supposed to be - a device just for surfing the net, watching videos, reading books, playing games, and looking at photos. It's a useful appliance. All the Apple hate is pretty ridiculous, as with this they are progressing technology. Without the iPad, we'd see 10 more years of netbooks getting bigger, phones getting smaller, and Microsoft releasing Slate PCs as if they're new. If the iPad takes off, which it probably will, in 2 years time everybody will be scrambling to get a iPad like device out there, and enough of them will run existing OSes that you can install programs to and hack to your hearts content and you know what? They all won't compete with the iPad because people don't want freedom in computing... they want an appliance that they can rely on not to get viruses and have their kids come fix every 2 months.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.