18 March 2010

Android, iPhone, criticism

Tim Bray's left Sunoracle for Google; working on the Android. In his announcement of the switch he denounced the walled garden that is the iPhone. He re-visits the thoughts I had concerning the iPhone, more sharply: It's a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord's pleasure and fear his anger. ... I hate it. Non-Android-bashing is his job now, so take that for what it's worth. RWW reported that the Droid (unlike the Nexus One) basically matched the iPhone's sales when you compare the first 2-1/2 months of each. An unlike comparison, but all we have to judge is imperfect metaphors at this point.

In the Slashdot discussion of the Tim Bray story, several people take this opportunity to take up what is becoming an old chestnut of internet flame wars. One, criticising disingenuous arguments defending the iPad's limitations:

That the iPad is crippled because it's simplified for grandmothers (it's not, it's designed for internet addicts who already have at least one computer); that the walled garden is for security (it's for profit and lock-in)...[ 1 ]

And another pointing out the feeling of missed opportunity:

The iPad is a nice device. But there are a lot of things inherently wrong with it. And I find it worrying that Apple, otherwise often a pioneer in technology is capable of ruining an otherwise good device and wants to severely restrict what I do with it. I think there's something very wrong with that.[ 2 ]

This second, and certain thread replies, gets to an interesting point. Many who have been criticizing the iPad (ahem) have been treated as idealists or fanatics. Apple holds a special position among geeks, and so criticizing them can hold special weight. Like asserting that Beethoven was a hack or Einstein dull-witted, criticism of Apple can appear to be merely attention-grabbing. I had mentioned before that my old iRiver MP3 player restricted copying from it to a computer. This is an archaic idea that would not be tolerated in today's marketplace. If a company decided to create such a consumer-limiting device, any geek would immediately rail against it on principle. If it were made by Apple, those geeks would be mocked.

From the original news story, I noted what I called the backlash backlash: criticism of the iPad was the first order backlash, and criticism of that criticism was the second order. I've always been befuddled by criticism of criticism in the arts. There, it represents a gall that another person might have an objective assessment of what some believe to be subjective: aesthetic quality. Other, more general possibilities explaining hostility towards criticism are (1) that you can't criticize unless you are an artist, or (2) that critics are simply arrogant and negative--tearing down that which is better than them. A complement to this belief is that praise of a work of art is both true and valid.

[ posted by sstrader on 18 March 2010 at 6:18:11 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Phones | tagged android, iphone, mobile development ]
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