iPads and irResponsibility

Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania has announced it will give every full-time student a new Apple iPad upon arrival in the fall. This seems remarkably irresponsible to me. In a time of scant resources, does it really make sense to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars to a device very few people have ever even touched and for which not a single device-specific educational application has been built and tested with real students? With a total enrollment of approximately 2000, and a per-iPad cost of approximately $500, Seton Hill could spend $1,000,000 on this experiment.

The iPad may very well turn out to be an excellent, maybe even game-changing, device. But let’s at least give it a test drive. If the iPad proves a flop—Steve Jobs is not without his failures; remember the Lisa, the Cube, and the Apple TV?—Seton Hill will have spent an awful lot of money simply to (and I hate to put it this way) tie itself to the Apple hype machine for a day or two.

E-Book Readers: Parables of Closed and Open

During a discussion of e-book readers on a recent episode of Digital Campus, I made a comparison between Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPod which I think more or less holds up. Just as Apple revolutionized a fragmented, immature digital music player market in the early 2000s with an elegant, intuitive new device (the iPod) and a seamless, integrated, but closed interface for using it (iTunes)—and in doing so managed very nearly to corner that market—so too did Amazon hope to corner an otherwise stale e-book market with the introduction last year of its slick, integrated, but closed Kindle device and wireless bookstore. No doubt Amazon would be more than happy with the eighty percent of the e-book market that Apple now enjoys of the digital music player market.

In recent months, however, there have been a slew of announcements that seem to suggest that Amazon will not be able to get the same kind of jump on the e-book market that Apple got on the digital music market. Several weeks ago, Sony announced that it was revamping its longstanding line of e-book readers with built-in wifi (one of the big selling points of the Kindle) and support for the open EPUB standard (which allows it to display Google Books). Now it appears that Barnes & Noble is entering the market with its own e-book reader, and in more recent news, that its device will run on the open source Android mobile operating platform.

If these entries into the e-book market are successful, it may foretell of a more open future for e-books than has befallen digital music. It would also suggest that the iPod model of a closed, end-to-end user experience isn’t the future of computing, handheld or otherwise. Indeed, as successful and transformative as it is, Apple’s iPhone hasn’t been able to achieve the kind of dominance of the “superphone” market that the iPod did of the music player market, something borne out by a recent report by Gartner, which has Nokia’s Symbian and Android in first and second place by number of handsets by 2012 with more than fifty percent market share. This story of a relatively open hardware and operating system combination winning out over a more closed, more controlled platform is the same one that played out two decades ago when the combination of the PC and Windows won out over the Mac for leadership of the personal computing market. If Sony, Barnes & Noble, and other late entrants into the e-book game finish first, it will have shown the end-to-end iPod experience to be the exception rather than the rule, much to Amazon’s disappointment I’m sure.

Hello (Linux) World

Feeling increasingly alienated by commercial software companies and increasingly uncomfortable with my absurd level of Mac lust, I finally decided this weekend to get off the Apple train and make the switch to Linux.

Until I’m sure I’ve worked out all the kinks, I’m running a dual boot setup of Ubuntu 8.10b and Mac 0S 10.5 on my MacBook Pro. It was a pretty simple operation, which took up the better part of my Sunday morning, but not much more than that. I more or less followed the Ubuntu support community’s MacBook Pro documentation line for line, and everything more or less seemed to work. A few quick Google searches showed me how to install Skype and a few other applications that aren’t included in the main Ubuntu repositories. Aside from a couple minor annoyances (e.g. “right-click” is confusingly keyed to F12 or a two-finger trackpad click) so far I’m very happy.

In the coming weeks, once I’m sure I have everything I need off my old system, I hope to leave Apple entirely. I’m a little worried about what I’m going to do about my music; I’ve bought quite a bit from the iTunes Store. But the fact that my music is locked up in iTunes shouldn’t be a reason for sticking with Apple. It is yet another reason to leave.

Currently I’m looking at a combination of a Dell Mini 9 and either a desktop or 15″ laptop. If nothing else, I have a whole new range of hardware to ogle.

Briefly Noted for December 21, 2007

NEH announces funding for Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities.

A Visit to Yesterland – The Discontinued Disneyland. “Did you ever wonder what happened to Disneyland’s Mine Train, Flying Saucers, or Indian Village? These and other attractions, restaurants, and shops are now collected in Yesterland, a theme park on the Web.”

The Museum of Bad Album Covers. “Currently displaying 156 awful album covers!”

1990 Mac ad deemed fake. (Via Crunchgear.)

original_mac_chick.jpg

More Crunch

Here’s another one from the “Crunch” network of blogs. Today TechCrunch has a post on Apple’s 30th anniversary. While the post itself is not very interesting, many of the reader recollections solicited by the author and shared in the post’s comments section are. Currently there are nearly eighty. As our experience with Echo, the September 11 Digital Archive, and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank has shown, that’s not bad at all for one day of online collecting.

(h)iStory

It’s official. The iPhone will make its debut on June 29, 2007. Will 6/29/07 go down in history as the day Apple revolutionized the cell phone industry? Maybe, maybe not. In either case it will have some competition for ownership of June 29th in the historical consciousness. CrunchGear has a rundown.

Virtual Apple

For those of us who grew up with an Apple II computer in the home, Virtual Apple provides a timesucking trip down memory lane. Dedicated to “preserving a generation of Apple 2 disks,” Virtual Apple emulates old Apple 2 games in your web browser. Ironically, because they’re powered by Active X, the games only work in Internet Explorer for Windows, though the site operators promise Firefox compatible (i.e. Mac) versions soon. For now just boot up in Parallels, and see how rusty your Lode Runner skills have grown.

Lunch Break

Most days, Ask Dave Taylor is a great place to go for Mac tips and support. Today it’s a great place to go for a spirited (bad, I know) history of gin. It’s really no substitute for a three-martini lunch, but maybe it can suffice for those of us stuck at our desks surfing the web over sandwiches and diet cokes.

Apple History Roundup

Like many enthusiast communities, the legion of Mac users seems particularly interested in its history and in the history of its cause: the Apple computer. This takes the form of both casual interest by ordinary users (e.g. “Early Apple sound designer Jim Reekes corrects Sosumi myth” and “Steve and Steve in 1976”) and also more dedicated research and collecting (e.g. This Day in Apple History, apple-history.com, The Apple Computer History Weblog, and especially The Mothership).

Obviously historical impulses aren’t limited to Mac users. Indeed, we’ve seen lots of non-Apple computer history right here at Found History, most recently Eric Lenevez’s fantastic timelines. But Mac users seem much more historically engaged than their PC-bound brethren. Admittedly it’s an imperfect experiment, but all of the top ten links in a Google search for “Apple history” are enthusiast websites, compared to only three for “Windows history” (five if you count the two Wikipedia articles that turn up). I can imagine several explanations for this. Perhaps Mac users are more creative and energetic. Perhaps they feel beleaguered and are desperate for attention. Perhaps it’s just a function of Apple’s relatively smaller marketing budget. Whatever the case, the wealth of amateur Apple history online certainly makes for good browsing.

P.S. If anyone knows of other examples of Apple enthusiast histories, I’d love to hear about them.

Late Update: I’m embarrased to admit that I neglected to mention probably the most successful amateur Apple history site of them all: Folklore.org. Thanks to Steve and Jeremy for pointing out the oversight.

Late Late Update (10/30/06): Here’s another: Low End Mac.