I am still not buying an iPad (yet) but some of things I’ve been reading and hearing about are just wrong. Take Eric Sherman at Bnet who thinks that the iPad is an example of Apple ignoring it’s brand. In addition to a few weak points about an e-book reader interface element that is not up to Apple’s design par and a poor book cover for iPad, his main point is that Apple is forgetting the creative designers and developers that have really made Apple.
The iPod and now the iPad, he claims, is no longer for content creators but for consumers. He sees that as proof that Apple is leaving behind their core market. He’s right in a way, web development and graphic design really are better completed on an actual computer, and not a media consumption device that the iPad or iPod is. However, just as I’ve described how the iPad is bad for the used book market, it’s nothing but a bonanza for content creators. Here’s why.
Unlike desktop and laptop computers, Apple has created an ecosystem for software distribution that virtually eliminates piracy. There is just no straightforward way for the consumer to have access to all that software without paying the price the developer wishes for it. Same for books (unless they have a book scanner, but that’s not practical). It’s almost the same for movies, as the tools for ripping your own DVDs are limited and not wide spread and converting movies from pirated sources to the iPad is inconvenient at best. From the Apple ecosystem’s point of view, they’ve even done the same for music, but as the digital music files are small, it turns out that pirating these appears to be still easy enough.
That’s a huge departure from open systems out there. Imagine, your a developer of content; you know, one of those very creative people Mr. Sherman thinks Apple left behind. You can create software for an open platform, such as Android and it’s just like developing for the PC. You put it out there through a variety of distribution models and then people download it, and some cracker breaks your copy protection and suddenly it might as well be shareware, whether you like it not. Some people will be honest and pay, others will not. You have to raise your price to cover the difference. Meanwhile, if you create a clever piece of content for the iPad/iPhone, you must submit it to the Apple store and pay their commission because, alas, that is the only way for users to gain access to your creation; but when they tell their friends about it, they can’t also send them a copy to play with. Off they go to the Apple store themselves to buy their own copy. This isn’t just for software. Ars Technica is describing comics as a killer application for the iPad. Web comics and e-zines may finally have a great place to live, in full color, and with animation, able to be read where you want to read them, in coffee shops and waiting rooms without a plug nearby.
The iPad is only the initial expense for consumers to enjoy media. Everything else, users have to pay for. If I buy one, I lose my access to used books, music and DVDs. I am no longer able to pick up a used magazine in the seat back pocket in front of me on the plane. All of those second hand purchases and scavenging (what, you’ve never read a paper after someone else did?) doesn’t help content creators one bit. They only get paid for the first use. Far from forgetting it’s core of content creators, Apple’s developers have never had it so good.