Sci-fi guy, Cory Doctorow, prefers punchcard to iPad


And that’s fine. Cory has a load of targets, corporate, and political, that he’ll chow on to further his ideology of bolts, screws, and wood instead of glue, metal and glass. While his books are preachy, at least they aren’t boring. In fact, Doctorow’s stuff got me back into Sci-Fi, and that’s a good thing.

His reasons for hating the iPad have everything to do with the fact that you need a spatula and a hairdryer to get inside. In a Doctorowian world, you should be able to tear apart an Elmo doll, hot wire a few circuits with your mum’s bathroom mirror and a stolen bin lid; voila! you’d have an iPad. Unfortunately, this world belongs to the corporate and the sleek.

The iPad isn’t meant to be taken apart – it’s meant to be complete, a holistic self that doesn’t require the services of a tinker. Apple will do that for you with iPhone OS 4.0, with the next iteration of the iPad.

In some ways, Cory has a point: new ‘toys’ like the iPad are anything but encouraging to young people with screw drivers and hardware hackers. This ain’t Wozniak’s Apple. Cute, inventive youngsters must join Apple’s hegemony, shooting from the hip in the the App Store Wal-Mart.

He is right. Firstly, iTunes is a mess now. Three years ago when it sold music and movies and let you view and listen to both, it was acceptable. Sure, it was slow as hell on Windows computers, but iTunes played music. Today for some reason, it does that, AND interacts with the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod touch; it sells apps, podcasts, syncs with calendars, photos, movies, rentals – the list goes on and on and so does the churning of your harddisk as you through the adverts and internet connection to get to your music.

Talk about cumbersome. But, beyond that, iTunes dictates what a dev can and cannot do with their own software. In some ways, it’s scary, especially for creative types as yet again, developers must release their stuff to a money-grubbing corporation – their creations aren’t their own anymore.

The iStore lock-in doesn’t make life better for Apple’s customers or Apple’s developers. As an adult, I want to be able to choose whose stuff I buy and whom I trust to evaluate that stuff. I don’t want my universe of apps constrained to the stuff that the Cupertino Politburo decides to allow for its platform. And as a copyright holder and creator, I don’t want a single, Wal-Mart-like channel that controls access to my audience and dictates what is and is not acceptable material for me to create.

In Cory Doctorow’s idea world, books can be bought and they can be downloaded. For free. In fact, he encourages it. He hates DRM, and evidently, so too does Steve Jobs – as it applies to music. The App Store is a freaking gestapo of DRM. Competing distribution methods such as Android Marketplace may be also be knee-deep in DRM, but at least their distribution model is freer.

Sure, Google’s products and the products of its clients are as hardware-locked as Apples. They need spatulas and hairdryers to get into and can’t be assembled from dental floss, leftover freon, and a hamster – no, you’ve got to buy one from stodgy Wal-Martised HTC, Motorolla, and the rest.

But, software creators have a lot more freedom. Doctorow is a prolific writer. His blog, BoingBoing, is the digital hub for armchair activists. A lot of what he says is just hella true. Apple get by with their image – people want the hardware, so devs have gotta focus on that new piece of shiny. But how long will that last? Apple ain’t the same sort of cool they were two years ago. It comes with age, and with market penetration.

Apple haters would have me believe that everyone has an Apple device and because of that, they suck. According to them, Apple products sound like poo and break easily. The whole different thing is hard to nab if everyone has something Apple in their front pocket.

Devs have little choice now, but they may have in the future. And when they do, Apple may have to change its ways. While open-sourcing everything from from software to Berkenstock shoes in Omaha to Oman would be a revolution, but in the end, it would be headed up by humans. And in the end, it would turn corporate. It always has, it always will.

So Cory, enjoy your anythingbutipad, your backpackable Apple II, your preachy, ideal world. I’ll be picking up an iPad in the summer. I’ll read your books on it, and as a none-too dextrous creative consumer, I’ll enjoy enjoy.

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