Resisting the iPad's Siren Song.

Harvard's Jon Zittrain is out with his critique of the iPad. If you've followed Zittrain's work at all over the years, then you likely won't be surprised. He's long been sounding the alarm that technological development is trending away from the wild and wooly Web. But here Zittrain nicely frames the essential truth that the iPad isn't the tablet computer many of us have been waiting for. Instead, the iPad is much more akin to one "big iPhone."

Which is one big reason why I don't think I'll be getting an iPad. (At least, if my self-control is a match for the iPad's shiny novelty, which isn't guaranteed.) The problem with being a jumbo-sized iPhone, on a macro level, is that the iPad moves us back toward the days of gatekeepers. It's already begun. "Apple has managed to convince a number of popular web properties to rework their sites" to be more iPad friendly, reported the San Francisco Chronicle, citing CNN, the White House, and about a dozen other sites.

Indeed, I've heard more about "HTML5" in the last week than in all the previous years of my existence. Why? Because HTML5 provides an embeddable video delivery standard that works on the Flash-shunning iPad. We've already started shaping the Web to pass through the iTunes store's filters and advancing standards to meet with the iPad's blessings. I don't want a giant cell phone. The one I have already doesn't make phone calls. Somehow, I'm much more comfortable with giving in to controlled technology if I can fit it in my pocket.

Of course, it's well within Apple's rights to innovate an awesome new content-delivery device engineered to its own liking. Kudos and all that. But it's also well within our rights to opt for something different. That's my plan, for now. If they come out with an iPad II that's more tabletized Mac Book than giant iPhone, though, all bets are off.

--Nancy Scola

You may also like