Stefan Tilkov's Random Stuff

iPad Thoughts

There have been some (some? rather a few million) interesting posts regarding Apple's iPad. One worth reading in its entirety is Aristotle Pagaltzis's, from which I quote:

But how would the fundamental experience of the device suffer if Apple shipped a dev environment with the iPad, just like one used to be part of every home computer (incl. the Apple II)? Is that really an inconceivable proposition? Or heck, it could be a $20 download on the App Store for all I care. That’s no hurdle for a teenager, not even a big one for a preteen. Why must the iPad require a dev licence and a Mac to write code for? (Obviously: because that makes Apple a lot of money.)

Anybody can build a development environment for the iPad/iPhone, this seems to be just a matter of enough commercial interest or enough open source enthusiasts to combine their forces. The real problem is the fact that the only way to get software onto an iPad is through the AppStore. I don't even believe it should be Apple who address the development environment aspect; I'm pretty sure that there'd be a great option for somebody else to build an awesome environment, perhaps based on a modern dynamic language, and this could be hosted on any platform to produce applications for the iPad. But you wouldn't be able to install the development environment itself to the iPad, as the AppStore approval policy explicitly forbids installation of any sort of interpreter, nor could you install applications built with it unless they go through the AppStore.

Apple's reasons for insisting on the AppStore as the only delivery method are understandable from a commercial point of view, at least for now. But ultimately, they'll harm both the users and Apple itself – which makes me pretty sure this will change – who knows, maybe even the first generation of the iPad OS will allow the user to install applications via some other means than the AppStore. My guess is that Apple will wait until they have a very firm position, similar to the way the dropped DRM from iTunes music once they no longer had to rely on it.

Until then, at least there's the set of interpreters built into Mobile Safari …

One line of reasoning that I don't really buy into, though, is the one related to "tinkering". As Alex Payne writes:

The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today. I’d never have had the ability to run whatever stupid, potentially harmful, hugely educational programs I could download or write. I wouldn’t have been able to fire up ResEdit and edit out the Mac startup sound so I could tinker on the computer at all hours without waking my parents. The iPad may be a boon to traditional eduction, insofar as it allows for multimedia textbooks and such, but in its current form, it’s a detriment to the sort of hacker culture that has propelled the digital economy.

I have some sympathy for these feelings because I have similar personal experience. But the whole things smells a little like complaining about not being able to tinker with your car anymore. The level of detailed fiddling you can do with any sort of device that becomes mainstream has been going down steadily – while my grandfather probably could have repaired a mild engine damage without too many problems, I'm pretty sure not too many people do this anymore today. I believe it's fine to be able to tinker on a totally different level, even if it's in the form of Web apps that run locally. The hypothetical development environment on the iPad – can you imagine what kind of Scratch one could build? – would be more than enough of a compensation from my point of view.

The feeling I understand not at all, though, is the one expressed by Tim Bray:

It’s probably a pretty sweet tool for consuming media, even given the unfortunate 4:3 aspect ratio. And consuming media is obviously a big deal for a whole lot of people.

For creative people, this device is nothing.

Given the fact that I expect there to be millions of people who'll use an iPad to write, and paint, and sketch, using a multitude of applications built for the purpose, I beg to disagree.


On March 21, 2010 3:18 PM, andrej said:

If web technology only apps are an option, a fully webbased development environment would be doable: somethink like oracle apex or palm ares. The app created could be installed on the ipad and run offline using the resource caching and the database in the browser.

On November 17, 2010 11:42 AM, Melissa said:

I have a friend that build an app for iPad, was an app of a online fashion magazine and of course he send it to Apple to get their approval and he was rejected because was only portrait and they want apps both ways portrait and landscape.