Slashdot tumbled me onto this excellent blog post by Charles Stross - The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash. I recommend it highly.
Stross seems to have 50,000 foot view of tech, and removed as he is from the day-to-day comings and goings of tech (read his bio - interesting background!) I think he's got a good overall perspective that merits consideration.
Stross posits that Apple's moves to date with iPhone, iTunes, App Store, and now iPad are all part of a master plan to allow Apple to stay relevant in the coming total commoditization of all small computers, operating systems, and applications software. Basically, we'll all have cheap, commodity computers, ubiquitous Broadband Internet Access, and all apps and data will live in cloud services, and we'll all like it that way because we no longer have to be expert enough to maintain the OS and security - all of that will just be part of the cloud services.
Stross makes a compelling argument. He seems to intuitively understand how BWIA changes nearly everything, and how BWIA is is the key to tying cheap commodity hardware to cloud services. I think Stross nails it - he's expressed a kind of grand unification theory of computing f1or the 2010 decade:
- Cheap, commodity hardware
- Ubiquitous, high-bandwidth, Broadband Internet Access (often wireless)
- Cloud computing services that handle anything you want to do
- Amazon's aggressive moves with the Kindle ecosystem - Amazon wants to, essentially, lease you books via the cloud.
- Netflix is trouncing everyone around with their low-cost streaming of movies, which suits perfectly the way most people want to consume movies purely for passing entertainment.
- Microsoft sees the same thing Stross sees... and is terrified that their lucrative desktop PC cash cow will dry up in the face of no-cost "boot loader" OS' based on Linux that will just act as a cloud computing services smart terminal.
- Google (mostly) proving the cloud computing model with steadily more capable (and seamless updates and bug fixes) cloud-based apps. Google's not perfect, and sometimes they don't get it right... but generally they do.
Stross doesn't come to a conclusion of how he thinks it's going to turn out. But I will.
I don't think Apple's current model of a closed ecosystem for the iPhone and iPad - (desktop) iTunes, iTunes Store, or App store being the only sources of content and apps will stand for more than a few years.
Ultimately the world does want choice, and when there is choice, a lot of people will take choice over the certainty of Apple's approach. One of the things that chafes me about the iPad is that Apple makes it damn difficult to get one's own data onto the iPad. You have to resort to tricks like mailing it to your iPad account, syncing through iTunes (desktop), etc. It would have been trivially easy to include a SD Card slot on the iPad and just mount the SD card as a file system. But that would relinquish too much control for Apple, and in leaving that gaping void in capability, there will be many, many variants of the iPad concepts by other companies. Apple can't sue them all into oblivion (just the stupid ones).
In keeping the iPhone and iPad locked down, I think Apple is playing right into Google's hands. Google can afford to be patient, letting its hardware partners perfect their versions of the iPad, while it continues to encourage "everyone else" to continue refining Android and Chrome OS. All the while making their cloud computing services even more compelling.
I fondled an iPad again over the weekend. Yeah, I want one... but that stupidity of putting up a (purely artificial) wall between the iPad I buy (and then own) and bringing all my data onto the iPad so that it could become truly, incredibly usable to me, is sobering. It's enough to make me want to wait at least a little longer to see if 1) Apple gets the message and loosens up enough to allow people to bring their data onto the iPad, and 2) see the Android / Chrome OS versions of the iPad to start showing up to see how they stack up against the iPad.
Put it this way... I'm an Apple (hardware) customer right now. Apple offers cloud services for a fee, and although I paid for it a while ago, I never used it, and likely never will. I'm also a customer of Google, and don't pay them - the free services are that good.
But if Google said tomorrow that their free services were going to be severely restricted or terminated and if I wanted to continue to use them, I had to start paying...
I'd fumble for my credit card and sign up happily.
Apple and Microsoft don't engender that kind of loyalty and willingness to pay.
And the BWIA angle? In the above scenario, I don't care what Broadband Internet Access I'm using. Home Wi-Fi? Corporate / College Wi-Fi? LTE? WiMAX? 3G? DON'T CARE! As long as I've got some. Isenberg was incredibly prescient that the Stupid Network is what we really need and want. In this, Verizon, AT&T, and all other big carriers are in the "uh oh... commoditization ahead lifeboat with the PC builders - no value add wanted or needed (or willingness to pay) - just move the bits.
By Steve Stroh
May 3, 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Steven K. Stroh