A reader writes:
Having been in the computer hardware and software business since the mid-sixties, I am amazed that people like Cory Doctorow can still get an audience. He yearns for a long-gone era of home-grown hacking. If people like him were in charge we would still be using Altair 8800s. The iPad is a demonstration of the total irrelevance of his ilk. There is a predictable Not Invented Here backlash from the noisy crowd re the iPad. They know better than us what we should be doing and buying. His headline "Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)" says it all.
Cory's full of it. Yes, if you want to be a hardware hacker and in total control, the iPad is not for you. But for the other 99.999% of us, who like things that perform their functions easily and elegantly, the iPad is pretty cool.
Just because I know how to create a program doesn't mean I want to do it every time I need something done, on every device. Cory will have plenty of tablet devices to play on soon enough, I'm sure, many that will run Linux or Android and have plenty of ways to customize them. Why should he diss the iPad and those who buy it? If he doesn't like it, just ignore it.
Doctorow's arguments are so easily shot down as to be suspicious of intentional internet trolling. The first being "contempt for the owner" vis-a-vis hiding the screws in an attempt to make a seamless experience. This has certainly not stopped ambitious hardware hackers in the past from opening up and modifying their hardware. Search YouTube someday for "repair iphone." It certainly will not stop potential iPad hackers.
Secondly, and most importantly, is his ridiculous assertion that the method of improving your iPad is to buy apps. What's so shameful about it is that it ignores the real avenue of creative input: writing your own app. Apple has certainly put forward the kit necessary for coders to access the hardware to make it do essentially whatever they can imagine. Obviously the framework of the App Store has come under fire for their less-than-transparent approval processes, but still. The App Store was the defining success of the iPhone, and will undoubtedly continue with the iPad.
This is to say nothing of the highly active "jailbreak" scene, wherein basically anyone can install alternative software on their device to allow the use of unapproved apps. Been going on nearly as long as the App Store. The iPad was jailbroken the day after it was released.
Finally, one of Doctorow's central arguments is that the iPad is faulty for being in essence a device centered around consumption (as opposed to creation), and all of the Baron Harkonnen grotesqueries implied by that. That is completely unmade not only for the reasons above, but also by every consumer who uses these apps in new and creative ways. Perhaps he forgets the cover of the New Yorker that was created from an iPhone screen, or impromptu concerts people have rigged by connecting iPhones with music apps. To my mind it is akin to criticizing a blank sheet of paper for its inherent blankness, just before an artist transforms it into an origami swan.