New, Shiny, Control Freak
John Lanchester buys an iPad
The big news here in New York is that I’ve bought an iPad. I’ve been fooling around with it and enjoying the general awesomeness. My preliminary verdict is a. that it is a beautiful toy, objectively expensive but not dear for what it is, and b. that in a couple of years, say by version 3, the tablet will have replaced the computer for most of us, most of the time. Even this version does most non-keyboard-intensive things more intuitively and more prettily and more conveniently than a laptop. The extra-large touchscreen makes you understand that this kind of interface is the future of computing.
I’m not typing this on my iPad, however. That’s because while loads of software is already available for the device, crucial parts of Apple’s own software isn’t. Or rather, it is only available to customers with a US iTunes account. But my account is registered in the UK. This means that I can buy and run pretty much any of the 150,000 existing Apps, except the ones that Apple makes itself. So I can’t use iBooks, Apple’s new ebook shop, or their word-processing program Pages, until Apple deigns to launch the iPad in the UK, and unlocks access to its already-existing software. This is a gigantic pain in the arse and is exactly the kind of thing which Apple-loathers loathe about the company: the mixture of cool attitudinising and Stalinist obsession with control. There is a workaround, involving starting a new iTunes account and using US iTunes gift-vouchers to buy the software, but that is roughly as convenient as carving on stone tablets.
So, back to the election. If the iPad were a British party leader would it be:
a. Nick Clegg, because it’s new
b. David Cameron, because it’s shiny
c. Gordon Brown, because it displays the symptoms of severe control-freakery?
Answer: d., all of the above.