Does Innovation Stifle Technology?
With the imminent release of Apple’s new iPad (hitting stores April 3, 2010), the innovative gizmo has generated quite a bit of excitement and talk–and even a bit of trepidation. Though Apple heralds the iPad’s innovative design as revolutionizing the way users consume information, some fear that it will actually stifle new technologies (see “Apple iPad Will ‘Stifle New Technologies” by Jonathan Harwood at The First Post). Among those expressing concern is Internet Archive’s director, Brewster Kahle, who states in the article just cited that “[Apple] really control[s] the horizontal and the vertical by going with the iPhone platform [for the iPad]… I think it’s discouraging. The future is controlled, and it’s controlled by Apple.” The concern here is largely targeted at the fact that the iPad will only allow proprietary applications to run on the machine, forcing customers to purchase all of their on-line media from Apple. These media include newspapers with proprietary relationships with Apple for display on the iPad, e-books, music, and over 150, 000 iPad-specific applications (see the Official iPad Store for full product details).
Further evidence for trepidation about the iPad’s impact on technology can be found at the Refreshing Blog: Thoughts Related to Apple’s IPOD and IPHONE, where a February post with the title “Who Doesn’t Love the iPad?” states:
Why on earth are people signing a petition against the iPad? Around 5000 people gave a digital signature to a petition against the iPad, which is petitioning the CEO of Apple to remove digital rights from the contents of the device. What this basically means is that the digital rights allow Apple to block competing products, disable certain features, delete books, delete news, and other functions without permission from the user. This is something that up to 5000 people disagree with, and they made their statement online.
Apparently, there is considerable concern about how iPad’s business model could limit consumer choice, as well as technological innovation.
But is such concern really warranted? The answer is probably not–the beauty of the technology market is that competition spurs innovation at a dizzying rate. Even now, Asus (another technology company that designs media readers), is creating two tablets designed to compete directly with the iPad. These tablets will also present news, blogs, books, music, and internet access, but they draw from competing platforms for their operating systems. One will use either Google Chrome or Android, while the other will use Microsoft Windows (see techtree.com for an overview of the Asus tablets). In both cases, book sellers, newspapers, and other media purveyors will adapt to the demands of users of competing gizmos by producing and selling media in a variety of formats. If this is the case, then we have to see iPad as one product within a range of products that will appeal to large numbers of consumers for a variety of reasons. This competition between technologies and platforms should spur technology rather than stifle it.
Of course, the subsequent expansion in documentation types will prove to be a challenge for those seeking to preserve electronic documentation–but that has always been the case in digital preservation.