Monday, February 01, 2010


I've had a bunch of conversations with friends since January 27th regarding the latest Apple device, and most of these chats have found me circling around the fact that the press and the 'commenters' are not grasping (yet) the profound implications and unison endgame of the iPad — are not drawing conclusions far enough out to the paradigm shift that the device certainly signals in terms of human beings' relationship to a 'computing interface' (and their potential and actual facility with a grammar of interface) and in terms of revenue acquisition for beleaguered publishers and 'content'-creators. Above all, the self-assumed pundits miss the base essence of the iPad's 'is'ness' as a kind of Athenian, or essentially Delphic — or, neo-platonic — ideal of mobility and fluidity, as a means of access to and connection (not even just 'interaction') with content, i.e., contemplatable stuff with which to interface, s'exposer. There's been so much hand-wringing instead over the "annihilation of the physical book," which I don't for a second believe in (because there's a pre-disposed compulsion in mankind toward tactility, and because 'computing' never did extinguish inscription — speaking for myself [though I'm sure millions would agree], not being able to underline or make notes in the margins of novels would amount to a totally unacceptable self-effacement, would basically incinerate a whole history of [re-]reads, of workings through aesthetic/intellectual schemata),.......... or over the lack of support for Flash, or the present absence of a built-in camera.

So that's a really brief abstract of my feelings re: the iPad. Due to lack of time and lots of work, I'll hand things over now to quotes from / links to a few articles I read today (on my iPhone, at dinner) that get to the codexical crux of the matter —


"By the time the bells, whooshes and clicks died down, I couldn’t say the future had arrived, but I’m pretty sure we can see it from here.

" 'It was like someone came back from five years into the future and handed this to us,' said John Gruber of Daring Fireball, a respected tech blog.

"The iPad’s promise was hinted at before Mr. Jobs hit the stage. The set was dominated by a large, comfy chair. Since the birth of the personal computer, we have been hunched over, squinting at screens — great big terminals, laptop displays, tiny screens on PDAs. With the iPad, the screen has come to us as we lean back in ease.

"Critics who suggested that Apple unveiled little more than an iPhone that won’t fit in your pocket don’t seem to understand that by scaling the iPhone experience, the iPad becomes a different species. Media companies now have a new platform that presents content in an intimate way."

— David Carr, in The New York Times — the full piece is here.

"In the rush to slobber over one's self, the real point of the iPad was either missed or dismissed in a whiff of epic proportions. To whit [sic] I submit this humble rejoinder to the hordes. At the end of the day, at the end of this decade, the iPad will be seen as the first device that collected all the media together in one truly portable place. The real power of the iPad model will thus come not from the monetization of any one thing but in the creation of a whole new form — a form of forms, if you will."

— Michael Conniff, at The Huffington Post — the full piece is here.

"The iPad represents a fundamental shift in the metaphors and language of 'computing.' Or rather it extends that shift that was tested first in our pockets with the iPhone, and brings it to our desks, our coffee tables... everywhere else. The iPad is a huge change.

"We have lived for the past thirty-plus years in an engineer's universe of computing, where layers of implicit understanding — about file structures, multiple programs, menu idiosyncrasies, nomenclature — are required to figure out how to make your computer do what you want it to do. To many of us, these metaphors are completely embedded in our brains. So we can't understand how someone like, say, my mother, can't figure out how to use her scanner software. ....

"I don't know if the iPad will be commercially successful, but I believe it represents a fundamental shift in the metaphors of computing, as significant as the move from text to graphical interfaces."

— Hugh McGuire, at The Huffington Post — the full piece is here.

"What you're seeing in the industry's reaction to the iPad is nothing less than future shock.

"For years we've all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the 'average person'. I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.

"Secretly, I suspect, we technologists quite liked the idea that Normals would be dependent on us for our technological shamanism. Those incantations that only we can perform to heal their computers, those oracular proclamations that we make over the future and the blessings we bestow on purchasing choices.

"Ask yourself this: in what other walk of life do grown adults depend on other people to help them buy something? Women often turn to men to help them purchase a car but that's because of the obnoxious misogyny of car dealers, not because ladies worry that the car they buy won't work on their local roads. ....

"With the iPhone OS as incarnated in the iPad, Apple proposes to do something about this, and I mean
really do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it, and the world is going mental.

"Not the entire world, though. The people whose backs have been broken under the weight of technological complexity and failure immediately understand what's happening here. Those of us who patiently, day after day, explain to a child or colleague that the reason there's no Print item in the File menu is because, although the Pages document is filling the screen, Finder is actually the frontmost application and it doesn't have any windows open, understand what's happening here. ....

"The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get 'real work' done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the 'real work'.

"It's not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS.

"The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table's order, designing the house and organising the party."

— Fraser Speirs — the full piece is here.


Steve Jobs throughout the 1990s, in the NeXT years and his return to Apple in 1997 (his comments from a few years ago on 60 Minutes about The Beatles that I wanted to include are unembeddable):



  1. i wish i could impersonate steve ballmer as well as steve ballmer does.



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