Is the iPad a mistake?

The iPad was announced about a week and a half ago to great fanfare amongst both the tech community and the world at large. It has been hailed as the computer for people who don't know how to use computers.

What a thought.

I really applaud Apple for this achievement. They've really gotten close to pushing something out to market what I would like to call the "sexagenarian-proof computer". This will be the computer that will not longer be called a computer by those who use it. That's probably a good thing, because mostly everything about the iPad is antithetical to everything that computers have been up until today.

If you're around my age and ever had any interest in the Internet, you probably remember when you made your first website. You opened up your text editor, searched Altavista or Yahoo for "how to make a website", and were up on Geocities within the week.

I did this when I was younger, and one of the reasons I did do it was because the barrier to entry was so incredibly low. There was nothing stopping me. If I was a kid with an iPad, the barrier to actual development would be so high that I'd most likely not consider it.

If the iPad is a harbinger of things to come, I'll be very uncomfortable, mostly because the kid in me probably wouldn't have made that first website. From that first website came my first interest in programming, and then my interest in Java, etc, etc. Each step of the way requires that your computer be incrementally more capable. And tinkerable. Hell, I'd be a frustrated kid if I couldn't figure out how to write a program on my iPad. I'd be even more frustrated since it would cost $99 for my parents to fork over just so I could "play around" (that is the actual cost of the SDK for those who are interested in whether I'm simply pulling numbers out of my head).

I believe that computers are meant to be democratic devices – machines that anyone can use and do anything with. If it ever gets to the point when our computers are owning us rather than the other way around, the iPad will have won. Let's hope it doesn't.

Originally posted at http://dloewenherz.blogspot.com/2010/02/is-ipad-mistake.html