Mislabeling Apple

iPad Launch Day is upon us, and with it comes another wave of articles and opinions. This week I’ve read several times about the coming death of the tinkerer class. Old-school hackers bemoaning the closed nature of the iPad/iPhone ecosystem, theorizing that if iPad were the state of the art when they came of age, they would never have become programmers. They dangle this theory like a specter: a future is coming when young people won’t have the opportunity to tinker, to become entranced by technology, or to ultimately grow up and become as awesome as they are.

These people are utterly missing the point.

Human beings are, by our nature, tinkerers. Nothing is going to stop that. We started out in caves and straw huts, and a mere few thousand years later, we have walked on the moon and created objects that would have seemed like magic to our ancestors. The iPad is not going to kill that spirit.

What these people are completely ignoring is what Apple is. I know the common wisdom: Apple is a hardware company. They make software, but only to sell hardware. In a sense that’s true. But that’s not really what Apple is, at least not anymore.

Apple is an experience company.

Apple isn’t selling a pound and a half of silicon, aluminum and glass. They’re not selling you a machine. What Apple sells is an end-to-end experience, one that they want to work perfectly. That takes quality control.

By “quality control” I mean the App Store approval process. I’ve read many arguments against it. It goes against free software principles. It is the Disneyfication of software. It allows Apple to exercise great power over developers.

Sure, the App Store has some downsides, in the eyes of a certain class of user. But for the other 99.9% of the world, it has one huge, huge upside. You aren’t going to get malware from the App Store. You aren’t going to get porn in the App Store. And, within reason, you won’t get horribly buggy crap from the App Store.

You can trust the App Store.

That’s huge. We are told constantly that it’s not safe out there; you can’t open an attachment in an email; you have to constantly update your system with patches. In the traditional computer world, you can’t trust anything. Any program you find on the Internet could have a malicious purpose; you just don’t know.

That concern goes away on an iPhone or iPad.

And that’s a great experience.