The iPad May Be Perfect for Web Browsing, But It’d Really Rather You Didn’t

46 Comments

Apple’s competitors are likely circling the wagons and preparing for quite the fight when the iPad drops late next month. Amazon (s amzn) has been highlighted as the company with the most to worry about in many of the articles written about the subject thus far, but Microsoft (s msft) is probably also sufficiently nervous about the effect the device will have on things like netbook sales.

Google (s goog) is the one with the most to worry about, though, according to a new report (subscription required) posted at GigaOM Pro. Google does have a significant interest in the netbook market, like Microsoft, thanks to its upcoming Google Chrome OS, but that isn’t the reason they need to be scared. The real reason is the demise of the web.

Paul Sweeting, in the GigaOM Pro piece, contends that the reason the iPad poses such a threat to Google is that it rewrites the rules of content delivery, eliminating the avenues through which Google makes money via search and advertising. As I’ve written about elsewhere, Apple’s aim is clearly to control not only the content that appears on its devices, but also the conduits by which that content arrives.

Apple promotes a tunnel vision version of the Internet, with content funneled, separated and kept specific to the app you happen to be using. It’s a cellular model of consuming Internet-based content, and it is attractive to the consumer in the same way a walled Japanese garden is attractive to the appreciator of nature. The garden is safe, predictable, contained and aesthetically pleasing. Raw nature can be all of these things, too, but it isn’t necessarily so all of the time.

My only question, and the one which Sweeting poses without asking directly is, is that something I want to happen as a consumer of media? Do we want to “settle” the web, so to speak, by allowing Apple to pacify it, distill it, and then sell it back to us through tightly controlled channels? It may seem alarmist, but it isn’t. It’s what Apple has to do to grow its consumer base as a mobile device maker.

In an ideal world, from Apple’s perspective, Cupertino would have exclusive control over all major media distribution. The company desires that, or as close as is possible in the real world, because by controlling the distribution of content they can also control which devices consumers have to use to consume it. That, in turn, means hardware sales.

It sounds bleak, but it might not be all bad. Apple seems committed to providing quality content in innovative ways, so maybe handing them more control is the right move. What do you think? Is convenience, ease of use and quality of finish worth the trade-off required in terms of autonomy?

Read the full report over at GigaOM Pro ?

46 Comments

N.N.

despite all the negative comments said about the so-called “walled Japanese garden” that the Apple ecosystem is synonymous with, this isn’t the first… most game consoles (e.g. Nintendo Wii, Sony playstation) come with their own walled gardens. Apple’s control over their own ecosystem isn’t very different from Google’s control over their search engine & how all the data they accumulate gets used. Microsoft’s control over their proprietary .doc/docx, .xls/.xlsx formats locks a lot of people into Office–this is another example of lock-in.

Some lock-ins are easier to get out of than others… an iPhone or game console can be unlocked (though not always easy). Or I can easily dump my iPhone for another phone, as long as there are equivalent software on other platforms for all my critical applications. Avoiding Google’s search engine is possible, though terribly inconvenient if using the other search engine gives a bunch of useless websites, whereby one is forced to go back to Google. Lock-in by a mobile/cable tv operator through a 2-year contract is easy to get out of, though one may need to wait. However, if they have exclusive content, then it’s a little harder to get out of the lock-in. Personally, I find it toughest to get out of the .docx/.xlsx/.pptx lock-in, with too many old documents from long ago which Open Office doesn’t read very well.

Eric Cox

“…Apple’s aim is clearly to control not only the content that appears on its devices, but also the conduits by which that content arrives.”

So, Apple is the new AOL.

(And, in the end, will be just as “hip” as is AOL)

Zeke Shadfurman

“Do we want to “settle” the web, so to speak, by allowing Apple to pacify it, distill it, and then sell it back to us through tightly controlled channels?”

Some do, some don’t. It’s just one device that users now have the choice of buying. God I love free market!

Linux Guy

This article distills what I think about my little sister and brother who always argue about something. My little brother likes to understand and ask questions. If his bicycle needs a repair, he gerts out a wrench and screwdriver and repairs it. But my little sister, always wants the latest bicycle. The bisycle doesn’t even have to work, as long as its new and shiny and looks cool with the latest colors. The little pink basket with the ribbons on the handlebars is nice to carry her dolls, so it isn’t necessary that the bike actually go anywhere. Her bicycle is more like a doll than transportation.

My little brother has his own point of view. He loves to play in the mud and get dirty with his bicycle, but then complains about the mud. The mud is loaded with nasty bugs and viruses and I think he enjoys knowing that the very next time he goes out to play, he might get a virus infection and die a painful death.

My little brother realizes that some day, everyone dies. We just don’t know when. But he wants to know why can’t the medicine man fix it? Because part of the intrigue is wondering if the next time you ride your bicycle will kill you. Just like cigarette smokers. They know they will get cancer, but they don’t know when.

My little sister really concerns me. She belongs to a weird church and has started walking around barefoot, even on the hot pavement, just to prove she is faithful to the church. Next week she will walk on hot coals to prove she is worthy to drive her bicycle.

If I could only convince my sister that she doesn’t need to pray to some God of the bikes , so she can enjoy her bicycle. And that she doesnt have to tithe all of her allowance and lunch money to get the latest bicycle that may or may not work. Also my little brother does not have to ride a bike which ALWAYS drives by itself into a ditch or mud puddle filled with vermin, bugs and viruses.

There is another way. Try Puppylinux , if you want freedom, a shiny new bike, no muds, flies or viruses. Puppylinux JUST WORKS, and it is FREE. No praying at the bicycle God three times per day. There is No requirement to play in the mud, especiall;y if you are wearing a suit and tie.

If you REALLY care about your sanity, visit Puppylinux and download the latest FREE LIVE CD. My mother once told me that the difference between a sane person and an insane person is that the insane person does not learn from their mistakes, Instead they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again and keep getting the same viruses or are forced to pray and tithe to some Idol.

Visit the huge and beautiful garden of Pupplinux! Its free, it won’t mess up your bicycle, and will allow you to stop taking your medication.

Kris

*Sigh* This didn’t work for AOL, no matter how many “keywords” were displayed in corporate ads. Apple is arrogant to think that it can corral the entirety of the internet and funnel/filter it through an Apple store. The internet is just too big and too complex for this to happen, and people always want more than just what Apple will be willing/able to offer them. Especially when Apple’s new web superhighway will be toll driven…

Appanage

Truth is, they’re not. ‘Walled garden’ perhaps an accurate way of describing what Apple’s doing but they’re not doing it with content: they’re doing it with the presentation layer. By no means is Apple using closed technologies to drive the development of this layer, either. They’re creating an experience they feel is superior to alternatives that will always be there.

Breaking down Google versus Apple versus AOL versus Microsoft is actually quite simple, and they’re all different. Google’s focused on superior backend technologies, Apple’s been focused taking that content and presenting it seamlessly, AOL attempted to control proprietary content, and Microsoft attempted to control standards.

Apple’s approach doesn’t speak to the entirety of the Internet at all. It speaks to what Apple considers to be the most profitable, value added piece of the technology business in general. Understanding this makes it easy to understand why iPhone/touch have been huge while Apple TV has not: huge isn’t what Apple’s all about, and by proxy neither is controlling or corralling the entirety of the Internet.

TXCHLInstructor

I will not buy any device that allows the vendor to “repossess” content without my permission. Period. That eliminates both the Kindle and the iPad. It is also the reason I no longer have an iPhone.

The problem with Digital Rights is that you and I don’t have any.

Marcus

The content funneled and separated for you…so convenient. Like others have mentioned it sounds like what AOL tried, unsuccessfully, to do…also reminds me a bit of Big Brother…we will filter that content for you.

I do like the analogy of the Japanese garden. They are very pretty but for me, I prefer the untamed area and natural beauty of the wilderness.

Eugene

“Apple’s aim is clearly to control not only the content that appears on its devices, but also the conduits by which that content arrives. ”

And how is this different from the Amazon Kindle? From Audible.com? Don’t they control how you get content and on what platform they can be viewed / heard? Don’t they filter the content that they allow?

How is “controlling content” different from any other media organization? Don’t publishers decide what they choose to print and what not to print? Don’t these same publishers choose what to release and what not to release on electronic media?

The aim of the author of the article is clearly to bash, and create unnecessary hysteria over nothing at all.

Jason

I’ll take a netbook and the full blown Internet any day. I don’t need Apple to control everything for me. I don’t like any of their hardware anyways, my EEE PC and linux do just fine.

JJ

Then why the hell to you visit a website called “The Apple Blog”… Trolly troll

JasonG

The best proof this is a bunk story is brought to light by taking a brief look at the history of AOL:

Make things look easy by locking things down. Get popular. Eventually, add access to the Internet. Users slowly discover the Internet has more and better content. Users leave in droves.

The same thing will happen to Apple if they try a similar approach.

Michael

I am amazed at the number of people who a) can’t seem to live without flash because I don’t it miss at all, really b) see no potential in a multitouch device with a 1,000s of existing developers and 10s of 1000s of useful applications. Apple delivered the blueprints to a new class of multitouch apps, I look forward to the App Store’s wonderful devs delivering on these ideas (as they already have for the iPhone). You can keep that netbook, I’ll happily trade it for an ipad (I’ve already got 167+ reasons on my iPhone).

Doug Petrosky

Sorry but this is total BS!

The author’s comment that you can’t view web video content except for YouTube is a flat out lie! I published h.264 video to the web that any iPhone user can watch so I’m betting that anyone can. The only content apple is “controlling” is that content that was not legally available before. IE not free content. But apple happily passes tens if not hundreds of thousands of FREE podcasts (both audio and video) to me. I’m not certain how it will all work but I understand that I can already read Kindle books on my iPhone so I’m betting I’ll have that ability on my iPad too.
If memory serves, there is even a subscription music site application available for the iPhone.

Apple sells Hardware!!! The AppStore was about making a market place for the distribution of software by others so that more people would want to buy the hardware.

Why didn’t someone notice that the sky was falling due the the walled garden of the Wii or the Xbox 360 or the PSP? Consumer electronics devices are not the wild west that was the personal computer. Hell IT departments spend billions of dollars trying to wall in their computers to make them work better. Get a freaking grip. If this device amounts to more that a couple percent of the over all web traffic in the next 5 years I and Apple will be amazed. The other 90% of the “free” web users will keep the sky from falling.

JP

funny that some of you guys are bagging on Darrell — I actually thought it made some interesting points.

You can certainly disagree with the premise without having to make personal attacks.

I’m pretty sure he was open to differences of opinion — probably why he asked the question, “What do you think?”

Amy McFarland

I will stick with my netbooks, yes I have several for various reasons. Just as small, not as thin but with Apple’s history of “user/software issues” once they launch a product I am waiting to see the “consumer reviews”!

Honestly, I fail to see how this Ipad can outperform my netbooks.

We shall see, what we shall see.

Michael

What pipe are the authors of this blog post and GigaOM smoking? Apple wants to control one thing, it’s own destiny. That means it’s not going to give away it’s business to a competitor, it does not mean some nefarious plot to tame the web. How on earth can they control anything with only a slice of the overall market. I worry far more about Google and its search monopoly than Apple. Google has been quite frank about their desires. Amazingly, the love affair with Google, which has no value for your privacy os somehow fine. I’m so tired of people putting ambitions in Apple’s mouth. Epub support, webkit, HTML5 over Flash, seems real pernicious to me. So they have an SDK. No one complains about Nintendo’s walled garden, and what is anyone going to run on Chrome netbooks but Google apps. Seriously. Is this just link bait or do you (authors) really think this?

Sci-fi

I look to this blog for good commentary and useful information, Darren, what you have written is neither. You do nothing to support your article’s title and I’m left with the impression that you are a blathering idiot.

The ipad has a browser, a crippled one without flash. It is also tied to the app store for it’s application content – oh well. Knowing only what everyone else does from having seen it’s release, it looks like fun for a coffee table but really, what else? Certainly your claim that it’s perfect for browsing is WRONG. Your further assumption that it’s designed to stop you from browsing is asinine. You should consider writing for the onion.

ppropp

Apple’s vision of end-user experience can be claustrophobic to some, but for the masses (or the masses who can afford an iPad), Apple will take care of many of their basic needs in a repeatable way so that folk know how to execute certain tasks. In the windows world there are many ways to solve any problem, and end-users will often choose the wrong way.

The group that Apple is really looking out for is the book publishing industry. Those in publishing who embrace the iPad are going to get some very loyal customers and be able to charge some serious bucks. I can’t wait for the first Harry Potter-like title that totally takes advantage of the platform. But they won’t be able to do any fancy stuff in Flash, will they…

Here’s a post I just wrote on why the iPad is good for publishers and serious readers: http://bit.ly/aYjYX9

Geek

Apple is committed to superior hardware designs and high margins promoted as innovation and quality, a bow to Apples marketing genius. The convergence that Steve Job’s envisioned did not happen with Apple TV a so what. Exquisite designs only gets you so far especially when price becomes an issue. The I-Pod had a turn key cost with I-Tunes via Apple a option and at 99 cents a trivial option. The I-Pad does not out of the box enhance any user experience and absent a real keyboard can be argued to degrade it. I have used tables enough to know what a device without a keyboard is, so I don’t need a apple logo to experience that. I am not sure what the I-Pad is perfect at doing and will keep my trusty apple laptop.

Alex

Wow… comparing the Internet to “raw nature”?

A better comparison would be between the Internet and a city built by humans (see the similarity there?). If you browse the web, you’ve got free access to all the city – the parks, the museums, the dingy backstreets and the muggers.

If you access your music exclusively through the iTunes Music Store, you’re the guy who only shops at the major music retailer. You can get music onto your iPod/iPhone/iPad through other means.

One thing I don’t want is a market where anyone can publish applications. That will open the doors wide for malware. The walled garden approach is much more sensible for a consumer level device.

The iPad is not going to take over the world, not while Microsoft is a majority stakeholder in every western Government.

Ricki

The movement of funneling the internet is a good thing and has been going on for a long time. As the internet still grows so does the need for dedicated medias.

Imaging Facebook running as a year 2000 website. Could not be done, the amount of info is staggering, now imaging having to access Facebook only by the mobile safari browser on the iPhone, again, it would quickly get tiresome. Hence the Facebook app.

I don’t think Apple want’s to control the internet, I think Apple want’s to implement the “model-view-controller” pattern to the whole thing.

Keep all the data in a huge pile (the internet) control how they should be presented and react to user queries (iTunes, App store, iBook, Safari…..) and present the data to fit the users View (iPad, iPod, Mac….).

Google is more like: “here is a one-point access to all the data you can eat, forever!”.
Apple is more like: “here are snippets we deem relevant for what you are doing right now”.

Both ideologies are equally good in my point of view, but only one of them can be ported to hardware ranging from 1 to 1000 inch displays and CPU’s ranging from 500 MHz to 5GHz… guess who builds hardware;)

Dan Clark

Just because it has a standard web browser does not mean the iPad (and Apple) aren’t funneling the internet, or at least moving in that direction. I think what the article is getting at is that content delivery would be done through applications vs. a browser. It seems that none of you that commented disagreements realized the point. As an iphone and ipod touch owner, one of the few things I thought the iPad would be useful for is running iphone OS apps on a larger display. For anyone that owns an iphone and uses sites like facebook, twitter, craigslist, myspace as a few examples, knows that if they have the app for it, that’s the method of delivery they are going to choose over the phone browser. Apple is offering it, and we are going to take it if it gives us a better experience. The article isn’t saying Apple is the big bad man for doing it, it is saying they are pushing in that direction because they can offer a better experience and make some cash off of it.

Pustoolio

So Apple is giving users a choice. What is wrong with that? Isn’t choice good?

If that is what Darrell is trying to say then he is a terrible writer.

Howie Isaacks

“Apple promotes a tunnel vision version of the Internet, with content funneled, separated and kept specific to the app you happen to be using. It’s a cellular model of consuming Internet-based content, and it is attractive to the consumer in the same way a walled Japanese garden is attractive to the appreciator of nature.”

I totally disagree with this statement. Apple does not do anything like this! If they did, why would they include a web browser with the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch? If you’re referring to the lack of Flash, get over it. Flash is clunky, and out dated. It needs to be killed off by a better standard.

Gazoobee

Another totally BS article from Darrell. Has he ever written anything that’s worth reading? Why is it that so many writers come and go on this site, and the worst one remains?

Bent

I’m not sure how we jump from a device that supports an open browser and HTML 5 / H.264 to the boogieman of a cable television “walled garden”. Apple is enabling a paid content model for music, video, and now text because: that content has value, the owners of the content want to get paid for it, consumers are willing to pay for it, and Apple likes taking their cut as a middleman.

Apple is not forcing that model on anyone, nor are they insisting on exclusivity. The browser is still there. The Kindle app is still there. What Apple is trying to do is to execute that model so perfectly that people prefer it to other options, even free ones. So far, Apple is doing a pretty good job.

The cable TV model of a “walled garden” is coercive. The whole idea of creating a walled garden in media is that customers can’t get to any other alternatives. It’s like living in the company town. If you want to eat, you buy your groceries at the company store.

Any attempt to paint Apple with that brush falls short.

The closest you could come is Apple’s spat with Google over Google Voice. It looks like Apple has now decided to allow VoIP over G3. No word, however, on whether the Google Voice app has been approved.

No matter what, it’s clear that Google Voice is a communications service that is directly competitive with some of the core value proposition of the iPhone. Agree with Apple’s decision to banish it or not, keeping Google Voice out is fundamentally different than building a walled garden for media.

Henk Duivendrecht

The walled garden is actually a good comparison because the iPad primarily seems to be an iStore. You can get music on it (if you buy it on iTunes). You can get books on it (if you buy them in the iBook store). You can get movies on it (if you buy them in iTunes) and you can get apps on it (buying them in the App store).

HTML5 may be supported but web video sure isn’t. It’s only through the youtube app (which is controlled by apple) that we can see some youtube videos.

Pustoolio

Henk, You can purchase music from Amazon that works fine in iTunes. You can play movies not purchased from Apple. You need to get the correct information before you make everyone think you are stupid… Oops, too late!

JasonG

Actually, Google Voice now works on the iPhone via an HTML5 web interface; no app required ;) Would assume it’ll work on the iPad too

JJ

These are totally unsupported claims… Apple isn’t controlling the internet, except for things coming through the iTunes store… And there’s a lot more than that store that you can access through your iPhone.
This just sounds like a round-the-back complaint about the lack of Flash. Another Hulu crybaby, perhaps?
I have no problem getting any content I want onto my iPhone without the use of Flash, or the iTunes store.
I have no problem visiting any website I want with my iPhone… Apple isn’t selling the internet back to me, or controlling it… They just aren’t spending their time, getting their devices to support buggy, shoddy, crash-causing Flash. Get over it.
If you want Flash, and open-source everything, go get an Android phone.

The real issue is, 90% of people want access to media to be easy because they are not tech-savvy, DVD-ripping, bittorrent-using, super-nerds… they are normal people with too little time to waste figuring stuff out. Apple is providing this ease of use and ease of access to media in a way that NO one else is! They are the only company out there, with the products, the interface, and the content all working together and playing nice… To compete, someone else is going to have to figure out how to give most people what they really want better than Apple… and I bet that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, because most tech companies (like most tech bloggers) still only think about that tech-savvy 10% when deciding what “most people” want.

For us nerds, the internet is still free, and if you want it to be, Apple-free… but why would you want it to be that difficult?

Ceteco

Guess you celebrate xmas @ dec 24, and jobxmas @ feb 24.

Both r born in a 24 day of the month. Coincidence? You be the judges!

Albert kinng

Please stop talking about the iPad and the things will do. Lets wait first to see it and use it and then next year we all can talk about the wonders of it. We dont have it and we dont ever see it until Apple is ready. Today rumors has it that verizon will sell it also so, please shut up and wait for it damn it!

Dave

I disagree, my use of Google is extensive on my iPhone and while we do not view PPC ads most of the time when I am using a portable device I am not going to even consider click-through on PPC ads. The iPad will obviously be far more efficient of a web browser and I personally feel that google will be able to compete with their Chrome OS. After all they make the only phone I would consider using over an iPhone and they are a progressive enough company to develop reasonable alternatives to something like the iPad. My biggest skepticism on the iPad is when comparing it to a kindle. I have been using the Kindle 2 since its release and can honestly say I find the text on it easier to read than even a paper book it is super crisp and clear. Even with a gorgeous IPS panel my eyes still feel like they got beat up at the end of the day so that is a big minus for me and the “ebook” features of the iPad. Yes, the iPad is going to do things the Kindle simply cannot but I see its ultimate role as a web browser and a media device or fitting the needs of someone who doesn’t want to put out the money for a MacBook and only requires processing power enough to consume content not create it.

Dana

Yes, But you use Google only because Apple lets you. You must use apps from the app store to do anything on an iThing. Nothing is allowed to run on iThings unless it comes from and is “approved” by Apple.

Ian

I really fail to see how the iPad threatens the preeexisting standards for content-delivery any more than the iPhone and the iPod Touch already have. I just don’t think the tablet is designed to be a replacement for our desktop and laptop workstations; I think it is rather a supplement.

For instance having the ability to finish an article in a comfy lounge chair without burning your knees or stretching a power cable across the living room. The iPad certainly offers new possibilities for content-delivery, but until it has the power to be a standalone device, I don’t see it as a threat to the net as we know it.

When they start making it without the 30-pin dock connector, I’ll start getting concerned. I’m starting to wonder if everyone’s concern over what it will do to the Internet (especially given its lack of Flash support) has more to do with losing advertising revenue from banner and sidebar ads that rely on Flash for much of their visibility and appeal.

Julio

well the one new thing they will control is ebooks in to portable device(that is if you have an ipad) they had not done this in the iphone or ipod.

and as far as flash it is the lost of money, but not from adds, it the loss of money if apple introduces flash in the ipad/ipod/iphone because it would crush the app store. meaning that if my application gets rejected i can create a flash and put it on the web and completely bypass the app store.
then no revenue for apple and i can charge on my own for my application.

Jerry

Ian,
I don’t think people have taken into account how hard it is to key on a flat surface, on your lap looking down. It will essentially be the peck style as with the itouch until people are used to a keyboard with no tactile feedback. I still miss the home postion on occasion after 20 years of using convential keyboards.
Sounds like a lot of neck strain to actually key anything of any volume.
The cable across the room comment. Umm, actually many netbooks have the same 10 hour (maximum, not really doing anything) and if not, like my Wifes’ HP 311 mini, which is wonderful with full windows 7 home premium at your fingertips at 2 to 3 lbs and 11.6″ of perfect wide screen space, the usually have a 6 or 8 hour battery. No points for the tablet with power.
Reading is not going to be as enjoyable as with a device with E-ink technology. The Kindle app on my Wife’s itouch is ok, but reading on a regular screen, no matter how nice the font, is still a strain on the eyes and can’t compare to a dedicated device that has less eye strain than an actual book. My kindle is perfect and I love it.
I don’t think this device will find the market and momentum the iphone did. We’ll see…
oh, Apple seems to be willing to give up itouch sales for this. I wonder why they created something that competes with their own product. Right on the Apple website under the ipad, design, safari, is states you can view web pages a full page at a time “as they are meant to be viewed” and then further it says it makes web pages “actually readable” obviously referring to small devices like it’s own itouch.
Well, this is a non true multi-tasking large itouch, so I suppose those with the $$ will want both. I don’t see that.
Jerry

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