Is The iPad The Disneyland Of Computers?

from the nice-place-to-visit,-but-you-wouldn't-want-to-live-there dept

It’s been interesting to watch the extreme arguments about the iPad fly by over the last few weeks. As I’ve said before, I think the device will sell quite well and make tons of money for Apple. I just don’t think it will “save media” the way some media companies believe. For some reason, a lot of folks interpreted this to mean that I don’t like the iPad. That’s not true at all. It looks like a beautiful device, and while I don’t see a need for one for myself right now, I could see getting one at some point. I have nothing against the device at all — and just because I don’t think it will be the savior for media companies, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the iPad.

That said, Ed Felten, has put together what I think is the best explanation for how I feel about the iPad: it’s the Disneyland of computers. That is, “I like to visit Disneyland, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

To me, the iPad is Disneyland.

I like Disneyland. It’s clean, safe, and efficient. There are lots of entertaining things to do. Kids can drive cars; adults can wear goofy hats with impunity. There’s a parade every afternoon, and an underground medical center in case you get sick.

All of this is possible because of central planning. Every restaurant and store on Disneyland’s Main Street is approved in advance by Disney. Every employee is vetted by Disney. Disneyland wouldn’t be Disneyland without central planning….

There’s a reason the restaurants in Disneyland are bland and stodgy. It’s not just that centralized decision processes like Disney’s have trouble coping with creative, nimble, and edgy ideas. It’s also that customers know who’s in charge, so any bad dining experience will be blamed on Disney, making Disney wary of culinary innovation. In Disneyland the trains run on time, but they take you to a station just like the one you left.

I like living in a place where anybody can open a restaurant or store. I like living in a place where anybody can open a bookstore and sell whatever books they want. Here in New Jersey, the trains don’t always run on time, but they take you to lots of interesting places.

It goes on from there, and it’s about the best explanation I’ve seen. There’s lots to like about the iPad. It really does look like a great device for some stuff. But not everything — and that’s by design. Just like Disneyland isn’t designed for people to live there permanently, the iPad isn’t designed to take over all your computing needs. And that’s fine.

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Comments on “Is The iPad The Disneyland Of Computers?”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

Preaching to the quior ...

“I just don’t think it will “save media” the way some media companies believe.”

Personally I think the iPad is a very cool device not a chance I am going to buy one though. It is for media consumption not much more. The belief that the iPad will save the media distributors is a false belief based on a need for hope and the five stages of grieving. They are constantly grasping at straws to find something to save them. This is just the latest incarnation of “HOPE”, and this to shall pass …

… until the next magic bullet comes around and they psyche themselves up again.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Matt

“I’m fairly certain I can install anything I want on my MacBook.”

Yeah. And I’m fine with my iPhone being locked down (OK, not completely fine, since I want to have the *option* to jailbreak it.) But the iPad is sort of a laptop lite, and while the UI may scale from iPhone to iPad, I’m not sure the App Store does.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Matt

“I’m not saying the App Store limitation is good, just that it doesn’t apply to all Apple products.”

Yeah, didn’t mean to imply that you did. I was just making a distinction of my own. Super-locked-down phone? Fine. It’s a phone. Anything else it does is a bonus.

The problem is when you start getting into laptop-replacement-or-at-least-supplement territory. Hopefully this is just a function of the porting of the OS, and they’ll start differentiating them.

And yeah, allowing a backdoor (e.g., jailbreaking) would make their devices much more attractive. I’ve stopped upgrading my iPhone’s OS just in case I ever feel the need to jailbreak.

Scott@DreamlandVisions (profile) says:

Re: Devices? (was Matt)

If by devices, you mean iPhone, iPod, iPad, AppleTV, then I’ll accept your statement.

If you include the laptops and desktops, then I’ll have to point out that there is no closed ecosystem for those devices.

They’re as open as any other general purpose computing system.

OS-X even comes with GCC. Can’t get much more open than that.


Dan (profile) says:

Re: @Designerfx

I believe that is the current [but not unfixable] perception problem with the iPad. It can’t do 90% of what those developers do with their Macbooks. If it was a laptop replacement, it’s positioning in the market would be optimal.

Most people are still trying to figure out what this actually is. I haven’t heard a good description from anyone. Steve is throwing this ‘thing’ out there and seeing what happens. It’s either completely stupid, or a master stroke of genius. We’ll find out which, in the next year.

jfgilbert (profile) says:

Save the media?

Besides the point of the article, which I find very good, I think there is some undervaluation of what that will do to the print media, now that the ad platform has been unveiled. For a magazine, that means the ability to create the content and publish it in an app, reserve some space for ads, then let Apple sell and place them. That eliminates the cost of ad sales, the speculative printing, the tracking of circulation, and all the other costs of getting revenue. For the advertisers, that eliminates the guess work based on (often questionable) circulation numbers, the risk of buying expensive ads that nobody will see, and brings the ability to keep ads fresh and current, or modify a campaign depending on response. That’s a lot of value for both sides of the magazine advertising partners, and that’s bound to change the business dramatically.

Dan (profile) says:

Dictating what the user does, doesn't always work

With the iPhone, Jobs dictated what the user could do because of the small form factor of the iPhone. You could do all this stuff from your pocket, oh and it’s a phone too.

With the iPad, the form factor benefit has been removed. The iPad will need to do more to make up for it. If that is more general computing functionality, or a ‘killer app’, who knows. Jobs would be wise to find out what the users WANT to do with it and work from there, instead of what he did with the iPhone.

Jeff (profile) says:

iApple and their toys for adults

The iPad is the newest toy from Apple. Yes it’s pretty cool and would be fun to play with and such, but it’s just the next product from Apple that I’m not going to buy.

I don’t have an iPhone. I have all sorts of friends that brag and go on and on about their pretty toy and all the 100’s of apps they have and such.
I have a Blackberry that I got for free from my service provider that can do more than I need it to do, and I’m not one of those that download any and every app that comes along just to say I have it. I mean come on, do you really need an app that tells you how to spread peanut butter on a sandwich? My friend Mike thinks so. Yeah it’s pretty and has a touch screen. Oooooh, Aaaahhh, big friggin deal. It’s like buying a fully loaded Cadillac and coming over to show off to me. I don’t want one, and I can keep a little cash in the bank with my semi loaded vehicle and be very happy with it.

The iPad is just another pretty toy to brag about and that’s all. I don’t want to support Steve Jobs and his evil little ego trip. I can afford to build or buy a few pcs and laptops for what I’d pay for one of his macs.

Then there is the fact that if it’s an Apple product, it pretty much only interfaces with Apple only products.
Yeah, my friend Mike is always bitching that he can’t sync his iPhone to his pc, or the fact he can’t multi-task on his iPhone. But wait they are talking about it happening, hmmm all that fancy sparkle but a year or few behind on something a lot find important.
And I live in West Texas, and all that dirt in the air everytime there is a little 40 mph breeze, his touchscreen gets scratched in his pocket. He’s had to send his phone in 3 times to get it fixed, and of course pay for it and get a refurbished iPhone, and loose all his precious apps and info stored on his phone.
I see the iPad that he just bought having the same trouble, but Mike thinks it’s the best thing to ever happen in human history. I was laughing so hard when he went to install World of Warcraft on his pretty little toy and then say, “wait, I need a keyboard and mouse for all the controls I need to play,” and had to give up that wonderful plan. He didn’t find it was too easy to handle the game with a keyboard taking up half the screen.

Oh well, have fun all of those who are foolishly building Apples new fortune. I’m not loosing any sleep because of the fact I don’t care to keep up with the Joneses.

jsl4980 (profile) says:

It’s definitely like Disney Land – everything is more expensive on the iPad. iPhone apps cost more on there. TV shows cost more on there than on Hulu. Games cost more since you can’t play the Flash versions. Free news content costs money on the iPad. The iPad is great until you see how badly you get ripped off. But hey at least it’s shiny…

Jeff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Flash support

I highly doubt Apple will ever allow Flash on iAnything. News pops up every day now about how developers keep trying, but Apple keeps blocking it and their terms state that they will not allow it.
And yeah HTML5 might be a great change, but that is if and when all the players settle down and decide on what stays and what goes. So, don’t expect it to go anywhere for years.

scarr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Flash support

I’m interested to see how that works out. People want video support, but video sites want their content to be seen by people. The iPxxx market is getting bigger and bigger, and more and more people are accommodating it because they don’t want to lose their eyes.

I don’t know if it’s fair to compare this to when Apple lost the floppy drive, declaring it outdated technology well before the mainstream thought it was. Eventually, the mainstream caught up to them.

I’m not arguing for/against. It’s just an interesting thought. 🙂

faststeak (profile) says:

It won't save those who won't save themselves

I bought one mostly to have an e-reader that has color. I have a ton of technical reading material in PDF’s that just isn’t good on the Kindle or Nook. I also expect to use it for other uses, there are already a couple really nice games, etc. I thought I might try the Wall Street Journal, or maybe some other newspaper product. I already deleted the WSJ app after having it installed for ten minutes. They want $3.99 a week for access, when I can get it delivered to my house and get online access for $2.69 a week. Someone has has no clue, therefore will not get my money. I still have the USA Today and New York Times free apps installed.

Danny says:


It seems to me everyone is filtering the iPad discussion based on their religous stance toward Apple. This is, of course, nonsense – that that people are going to stop beliveing in whatever iGod they happen to believe (or not belive) in.

The thesis of this post is great: Disneyland, as explained, is a great metaphor for the iP* platform. And I think it gets at why the newspaper industry is excited.

That industry is looking for a platform that has several characteristics:

1. They want a platform that is dead simple to use and (usually) degrades gracefully;

2. They want a platform that is fairly closed so it is at least difficult to jailbreak from their prescribed revenue model;

3. They want a platform that is controlled by someone who will be a willing partner to their prescribed revenue model.

So the iPad looks like manna to them. But as Mike continually points out: if their revenue model is flawed, none of this is going to save them.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Apple fans and haters are both wrong

Sorry hit enter too soon… Here is what I meant to say.

For those people that say Apple is late to the tablet game or only for those people that worship at the feet of Jobs I say you are wrong.

I have been involved with the Tech industry for over 25 years and have seen many ideas come and go. I was a selected beta tester for the UMPC pre-market. I have worked with and deployed literally thousands of tablet PC’s and even worked on an Apple “tablet” made by an aftermarket maker. The issues all those faced were that the touch capabilities were always an add-on layer or just a fancy way to move the cursor or arrow. The other issue was and still is cost. They are at least 1.5 times the cost of a non-touch computer and many times a lot more.

So to dismiss it because of what it lacks (which honestly is quite a few things) is short-sighted. Instead, look at what the target market is and what they will be doing with it. If you look without bias at that market you will see that the iPad satisfies at least 90% of what they want from it. Plus it is cheaper by at least $500 than the next touch PC.

It pains me because I have been involved with technology for so long to see how little the average computer is asked to do. Most people (65+%) want to check there email, view websites, look at a video or 500, post to facebook or linkedin, write a doc or two, play some games and that is about it. Which of those things is the iPad not able to do?

My opinion like the iPhone the iPad is a gateway drug for the masses. Experts were all over the iPhone when it first came out screaming about what a piece or crap it was. But the thing they missed was that although Apple did not include something’s it should have, it did include what it needed to.

What Apple did right was create an environment where it was easy to use only a finger to do everything. I have had at least 10 Windows mobile PC phones with touch and they just never were all that good. They were pretty much the only game in town so they had to be good enough if you needed that kind of functionality. I now own an iPhone but only after my Wife had to have one (because it was cool!) and I got to play with it a bit. It was the first cell phone I could actually use without a stylus. (Of course I waited until the 3g one came out, I could give up the speed I had with my WINMO phone which did 3g.) Are there things I hate about it, YES, is it everything I could want, NO, but it does enough of what I need to keep me happy.

And that is why the iPad will sell at least 3-5 Mil units by Christmas. It is is good enough.

I will not be buying an iPad on launch day but will probably buy one after the next model comes out.

I think that the main things it will do is increase video rentals through the iTunes store, increase ebook/epub sales (the two reasons they actually made the iPad IMHO. They make 10 times the profit after the device is sold they from the device.) But I also think it will push more publishers to create new creative ways for people to enjoy their publications. Link below is a good example.

Also I wold like to add that I am not an Apple Fan. There are a lot of things that I do not like about the way they handle customers. I won’t go in to the long list of problems I have with them, but that does not mean I can’t look at what they ARE offering to the masses that will be successful. I have owned many Macs over the years and even started working with computer on an Apple II+ but don’t own any now. The only Apple product I own is the iPhone.

Chris (profile) says:

The comparison to Disney is surprisingly relevant, and I agree. Mostly.

If the iPad were only meant to be a computer, running native applications written by whomever you choose (as it should, and cannot) then it would be a shitty, closed experience.

But it’s not intended to be a computer (despite duplicating some functionality) – it’s a web browser. One that you can hold; one that lets you touch the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Those who can do, those who cant, erm teach..?

If you’re angry, design and build one yourself. How hard could it be? Those who can do, while those who can’t write about those who do.

And in some cases, you can find a gem- like an article about someone else who wrote about it being Disneyland even though they teach doing it.

Bill C. says:

analogy fail

Yes, the iPad is just like Disneyland . . . if Disneyland was anyplace you were, and if it included any other amusement park or entertainment source on your command.

I think MM is right that it won’t be the savior of Big Media. (jfgilbert also has some insight into what Apple may be developing.) He gets it that any premium-priced media app is going to compete with its own free Web site (and everybody else’s). So why doesn’t Ed Felten understand that?

Maybe Felten knows something we don’t know — maybe Apple will block Safari on the iPad so it only goes to Disney and Apple (and maybe the New York Times on alternate Mondays). Or maybe he thinks the iPad experience is so intoxicating that its users will end up like monkeys with their pleasure centers wired to a button, pressing it again and again until they wallow about in their own filth. (Rather like the more unhinged of the haters here. Clue: If the term “fanboi” is your favorite insult you probably are one.)

Even if we grant the analogy, Felten would seem to be unaware that there are a lot of people (not me) who revere Disneyland. They remember it fondly, they appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into that excitingly bland exterior. They read and share books and websites about it, some even write novels based on it. People like fellow iPad-phobe Cory Doctorow.

Jeff (profile) says:

Re: analogy fail

“Or maybe he thinks the iPad experience is so intoxicating that its users will end up like monkeys with their pleasure centers wired to a button, pressing it again and again until they wallow about in their own filth.”

Actually I know a few folks who fall into this category. They just sit there all day on the couch pressing buttons on their iPhone. You try to talk to them, and they either ignore you or tell you to shut up. They keep pressing buttons with a big smile on their faces about all the fun they are having.

Bill C says:

Re: Re: analogy fail

“Actually I know a few folks who fall into this category. They just sit there all day on the couch pressing buttons on their iPhone. You try to talk to them, and they either ignore you or tell you to shut up. They keep pressing buttons with a big smile on their faces about all the fun they are having.”

I see ads for Playstation 3 that hype some game to be so good you won’t even pay attention to your girlfriend once you start. People in Korea play so long they’ve been known to have seizures and die. Is there a difference? Both kinds need to get a life, as do some of us here.

I just find it bizarre that this piece of consumer electronics has acquired the reputation, even before its release, of being able to separate humanity into touch-panel Eloi and Apple-fearing Flash-loving Morlocks. It’s just a freaking tool (though a useful one, unlike some commenters above). A new kind of screwdriver isn’t going to make pliers and crowbars and hammers go away, no matter how scared (or secretly hopeful) you may be that it will.

This is starting to sound like opening of 2001, with the iPad as the monolith . . .

greg.fenton (profile) says:

Re: analogy fail

Felten would seem to be unaware that there are a lot of people (not me) who revere Disneyland.

Felten completely gets that. His analogy is sound. While he likes Disneyland (as most people who have experienced do), he wouldn’t want to live there. Most people tire of it after a few hours/days. Those same people will return at a later date, wanting to experience it again.

The fact that people enjoy it, and return to it, does not detract from the fact that the environment is controlled, mostly static and overly sterile.

That’s the whole point. Cool to look at and play with for a while, but wouldn’t want to give up deeper experiences in life to be exclusively in Disneyland.

Of course, people can have both world’s if they can afford two devices. However, the only reason that both the iPad and Disneyland are static and sterile is by the choices of their gatekeepers.

Felten isn’t looking at the device as a “support business models” device. He’s looking at the “limits consumer capabilities” aspect of it.

And, as many threads on Techdirt rightly point out, that might be a short-term hit but it will become a long-term loser. EXTREMELY few closed systems continue to outlast competition with open systems. And history has shown that extremely few closed-system companies know how to open up and adapt as the competition catches up to them.

Would you rather the iPad as it is, or the iPad that allows you to install whatever apps you choose? The development difference between the two is incredibly small, but the functional and usable capabilities between them is nearly unmeasurable. Apple has decided to make the device extremely limited, customers be damned.

Anonymous Coward says:

Those who can do, those who cant, teach... at Princeton...

If you’re angry, design and build one yourself. How hard could it be?

“Those who can do, while those who can’t write about those who do.” And in some cases, you can find a gem, like an article about someone else who wrote about it being Disneyland even though they teach doing it.

enrolled agent test prep (user link) says:

Very nice post!

And a very nice analogy. The last paragraph really sums it all up and I do have the same line of thinking.

In my opinion, the iPad is a very cool gadget to own. It has all the best aspects I can ever find on a social gadget. Great apps, great games, mobility, stylish design, etc., etc. But I do agree it’s not for everyone. Some hates it simply because it was made by Apple. Some hates it for what it represents. But they should just really relax a little bit, take a look at the device and its uses in our daily lives and not be too personal about it. Steve Jobs really isn’t gonna lose any sleep over them hates anyway…

McBeese says:

It won't save old media, but...

I got an iPad last week-end and for the first time in a long time, I actually read some old-media publications over coffee this week. Reuters, AP, NY Times, BBC, and even USA Today have pretty slick presentations. The iPad form factor made them pleasant to read and I’m sure additional old media publications will follow in their footsteps. BUT – am I willing to go back to a paid subscription model? No way. The Internet has changed the economic model for information delivery services and a new form-factor like the iPad is not going to change it back. Sorry guys. It might help increase ad revenues, but just forget about the pay-wall concept.

I have another analogy for the iPad. It’s like a Tesla. Good-looking, expensive, proprietary, advanced, and initially limited. Great in the city, not great for a drive in the country. No gasoline support is like no Flash support. Both are at the leading edge of something new. We’ve had crappy electric cars before and we’ve had crappy tablets before. The Tesla and the iPad represent the first versions that people actually want to use, despite the initial limitations. Not for everyone… yet.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Part of an evolution in user interface

I watched a YouTube video of a 2-year-old checking out the iPad. The device was pretty intuitive for the kid. I think that’s really who the product is for: the next generation. The costs just need to be brought down so it can become a mass market product.

It’s kind of like the transition from command line to GUI. It’s one more step toward a more multimedia, less text-based system. Where it’s all headed isn’t likely to be seen for awhile yet. But I anticipate that the ultimate product will be so simple and responsive that it will be extremely user-friendly, allowing people to pick it up and begin creating something immediately.

Max Dunn (profile) says:

Yes, Disneyland, good and bad of it

That is a great analogy; Disneyland is a great experience, but tainted by aggressive commercialism and creative restraint. It benefits from its limitations, yet also suffers from its limitations, such as having little depth of content and no serious extensibility into the outside world. A controlled experience worth taking in but not satisfying any deep desire or need. Disposable technology, short-term joy.

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