Blog / Consuming iPads

Want to annoy an Apple pundit? Claim “the iPad is for creation, not consumption.” Drives them crazy. Drives me even crazier, because I have to read an argument where no one will define the terms.

We all know what an iPad is. Consumption is also easy: the act of reading, watching, or playing a piece of content (text, audio, video, interactive game) created by another person (or yourself in the past).

But what does “creation” mean in the context of a computer? I like to think of it as a scale:

  1. Writing e-mails, posting to Twitter, commenting on blogs
  2. Creating multi-page documents, making spreadsheets, designing presentations
  3. Composing original music, making movies, working with multi-layer images
  4. Creating original computer applications, programming languages, operating systems

While the iPad is restricted from level 4, there are apps to help you accomplish everything else. Level 3 apps are a viable market on the App Store.

Now, there are severe limitations:

  • Apps can’t share data without an intermediary like the Photo Library or Dropbox
  • Users can’t modify an app they bought (e.g. plugins, skins)
  • Content restrictions on the App Store forbid entire categories of apps
  • Modifications to the iOS operating system are not allowed

With me so far? The real trouble - the heart of this issue - is the word “for.” What does it mean that the iPad is “for” consumption rather than creation? I’d like to give it a reasonable defintion:

Most iPad owners, most of the time, consume content rather than create content.

Something weird about this definition is that it applies equally to desktops and laptops. What do people do on the iPad? Play games, read news, listen to music: the same things they did on computers before the iPad was released. That we’re forbidden from level 4 creation means the ratio is shifted slightly more towards consumption than it was previously.

Of course, in the mind of the aggrieved Apple pundit, the word “for” in that sentence means:

No one has ever used an iPad to create any piece of content, and no one ever will.

Which is factually incorrect and easily disprovable. The disconnect between my reasonable definition and this one has filled enough blog posts. Can’t we spar over something worthy?