Today I saw several mentions of this blog post, which boldly asserts that the iPad is “99% more open than any other computer”  After a good double take, I was determined to reserve judgement until I’d read the whole thing.  In rge next to last paragraph, the author finally explains his provocative title.

The iPad is actually opening up technology to more people. None of this crap about it being closed is accurate. By giving people freedom to explore the app store without having to worry about anything (except their wallets), Apple has possibly made the best move they could make by locking down the iPad’s installation sources…..The iPad only does less than a regular computer to us geeks. To everyone else, it does more. This is what Motorola and Google and Samsung and BlackBerry and everyone else, with the sole exception of Apple, do not get about “open” computing. It’s powerful, but for ordinary people, it’s too powerful.

To geeks like us, open means something very specific.  It has to do with things like Stallman’s four freedoms.  I think the author means something different here.  He talks about “freedom to explore the app store” and makes the quite valid point that many people do more with an iP*d than they do with a “computer” because the ease of use and integrated application management system make non-technical users more willing to try things.

This has value and is for some a reason to buy an iOS device, but call it ease of use or flexibility or shallow learning curve.  Don’t call it opennness. Given the connotations that “open” has in the technical community, if you must use the term in a different way, you should make it very clear how and why you have chosen to do so.

The author,as an open source developer, knows that Stallman’s freedoms matter. His FLOSS project won’t run on an iOS machine. It almost seems as if he envisions a bifurcation into a large group of users with locked down devices and a small group of programmers with general purpose computers who create everything.  Even though that may how things are de facto at the moment, the huge installed base of programmable machines means that the user who decides he wants/needs to program has the tools available. Someone who owns an iOS device and makes that decision needs to get access to another machine. Is that what Mr. Teti wants?

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