The iPad(lock) and throwing away the Key.

So Apple’s iPad has been unveiled.  I am somewhat disappointed by the first incarnation, cool and all as it is, it is not useful enough for me as it stands. No doubt it will improve over time and eventually there will be a version that has two tablets which fold together, cameras, projector and 3d hologram with an LED pen to sketch on one side while it live updates on the other. It would also allow conversion of handwriting to text on the fly giving an alternative to noting your thoughts as opposed to speaking them out loud with the auto dictate voice feature also included. While I wait for this reality I will go about using my own system and optimizing the organising of files.

The main problem I see with the iPad is it’s closed operating system following on from the iPhone. Everything goes through Apple’s iTunes store and must get their approval. The eco system is entirely Apple’s. This is a great thing for Apple but is it for the creative content market? Now books will go the same way as music in their digitisation. Apple and Amazon will have the market for their own proprietary devices (but how quick will the Kindle sink?) making moving your purchase to another device difficult or undoable. Apple’s patents on multitouch have put the fear in other technology makers that they will be sued if they go down that road, but this should not be the case. I’ve seen multitouch prototypes going back as for as Sonar 2003. Multitouch is the future (sure, it was in PK Dick’s “Minority Report”!) and it’s use in interface design should not be restricted. This technology alongside augmented reality will change how we interact with computers with extraordinary improvements. Combine Microsoft’s Project Natal, Vuzic iWear and multitouch devices and we bring the virtual world to life.

I welcome new operating systems which are designed from the ground up for multitouch. I don’t have a problem with the iPhone / iPad operating system, but I would like to have full control of it (without having to jailbreak it) and install apps from other vendors, as well as build my own personalized apps just for my own use. But most of all, I would like to see the continuation of OS X as a gesture controlled operating system which works on the iPad or using the iPad as an input device for another computer (a VNC client supporting multitouch?). As for other technology makers, I hope they push on with using multitouch on their own devices. We need open application development without gatekeepers.

We are at a time now in the development of our technology assisted future where we have reached a crossroads, whereby the openness of the Internet is at stake. This week, Sourceforge have blocked access to their site to IP addresses originating in China, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan in response to Hillary Clinton’s “solution” to censorship, “more censorship”. Apparently this falls under trade embargoes with these countries under US law and Sourceforge have taken it upon themselves to block access to the site. The site hosts open source software and acts as a community for developers of such. The restriction of open source software flies in the face of the ideals of the open source movements. It flies in the face of the nature of the internet.

Every day brings new plans to restrict the flow of information online. Pay gates are going up everywhere and the net is being divided up geographically with geoblocking. This is largely due to the commercialisation of the internet and the turning it in to yet another distribution channel for multinationals. Big media wants a big slice of it and alternative strategies are swept under the carpet. The sharing is being removed. The copying forbidden. Tools to restrain the organic nature of the web are being implemented. It is becoming a sit-back (and shut up) medium. You may think this is very over the top, but this is the future if censorship sneaks in under the guise of “protecting creative works”. A trend has started and it is not a good trend.

So what is “the Key”? The key is to remove the gates. The access point to the web and it’s information needs to be the same all over the world and you need to know that you are not being excluded from any part of it. You also need to know when you are being spied on and when you are not. You connect to the web and the software you have installed to browse it tells you ; “Welcome to the Internet, your connection speed is 10Mbps, your IP address is Location Dublin, Ireland. >>>   Enter your personalised secured private network or go anywhere?”

Where do you want to go today?
Apple’s dominant side needs to be challenged. People pay good money for good technology and therefore should own that technology and be able to make it their “own”. There needs to be independent online stores offering “choice” in mobile applications at prices in competition with the iTunes App store. The same is true for music and movies and books and any content worth selling to a consumer. It worked for desktop computing, it worked for high street record buying. Digital offers a greater freedom than physical product, yet incompatibility is being built in. Where do you go to sell your used mp3s or books?! But seriously if you are reading a book in a digital format, you should be able to read it where you like, just like a paper one. What I see is a rush to charge for things you can already to for free… format conversion.

I hope software developers rise to Apple’s (reckoned) challenge and pave the way to have more stores that sell you different versions of the same app for different operating systems. Applications should not need approval by any one company. They should made available at any part of the internet. They can be flagged by the community if they are good or bad, the network effect.  Ideally applications would be developed in whatever packages and code the developer wants and then export compliant versions for each platform available. Of course to make this fair, a purchase of software would be a package with versions for all platforms to offer the consumer flexibility (as is often done with computer software).

Open source software is vital to innovation in technology fields it also offers ways to save money for companies and countries. We need to stop being sold to and instead find alternative solutions. The status quo is largely a waste of money. Not every company needs to spend thousands for licenses for word processing software etc when they can get it for free. Moreover access to the web should not be confined by borders. It is the world wide web afterall.

There does need to be a new ecosystem online where creative work is bought and sold. It needs to be organic and not monopolised. The first thing a band needs to do in this day and age is to have it’s music for sale by direct download from their site. 100% of the revenue is theirs (almost). They can sell it in stores such as iTunes, Rhapsody, 7digital, Zune, PlayNow, Napster or Amazon for a revenue split based in whether the service is just for hosting or for hosting and promotion. It would make sense too that the price is cheaper from the band’s website and that there is promotional offers and extras to bring traffic.

Innovation is accelerating, let’s not put the brakes on.