sarah epps at ars technica is proposing a new concept for the ipad age: curated computing, defined as “a mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences”. apparently the idea is that the iphone os, which also powers the ipad, ” runs more like a jukebox than a desktop, asking consumers to choose (and often pay for) applications from a predetermined set list” – in other words, it’s the internet without all the clutter, no shit only gold. consumption paradise, productive activities go elsewhere.
it’s not a particularly original analysis, but eliot buskirk at wired.com tries to expand on the idea to propose the “age of curation“. for him, the concept sums up everything from social media to original journalism, at which point the concept seems to have been watered down to mean everything and nothing.
which is sad, because the concept actually does seem apt to shed some light on where the ipad is being positioned in this new niche of computing.
because if you think about it, isn’t “curated computing” what apple always have been all about? that is, good design and sound quality inside a walled garden which restricts choice so you can’t possibly do anything stupid, no matter how much you’d want to. take the mac os, for instance. it is beautiful and well-designed and so incredibly much more user-friendly than windows – i made the switch 3 years ago and i’ve never looked back – and yet mac os hasn’t been able to make a dent in the total dominance of microsoft windows. why not? because users don’t get a choice – if you want to run mac os, you have to buy a mac. period. around 5% of the world’s computer users have done that, the rest have gone with windows.
it seems fairly obvious that the iphone and the ipad are placing themselves in exactly the same position. according to tomi ahonen, the market share of the iphone has already stalled, at a point where only about 1% of the mobile phones in the world are iphones. looking at the ipad, the obstacles on its path to world dominance look even greater, as android is already there at launch – in wired’s recent overview over “8 Tablets That Aren’t Made by Apple“, 5 of the competitors were android devices, and several are already on the market.
of course this doesn’t mean apple is doing badly – they are apparently making money like never before. but their platform will always be an up-market, profitable niche – not a common standard. apple has only achieved that with one single piece of software: itunes. and tellingly, that is the one place where apple placed itself on the side of more choice, not less: first, in giving consumers easier and better ways to buy music online, and then in battling the music industry and forcing them to give up drm locking.
“less choice, more relevance” – sounds suspiciously like yahoo in the mid-nineties, trying to sort the web into catalogues of links. or aol. or docomo’s i-mode. yes, very much like i-mode. this article on the rise and fall of the i-mode “curated mobile web” should make interesting reading for anyone wanting to buy into the idea of curated computing.
not that one shouldn’t buy apple stock, by the way. i’m sure they will continue to make lots and lots of money. but as a developer i’d be careful to let myself be locked in to their platform.