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Apple's iPad: The End Of The Internet As We Know It?

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Apple's iPad: The End Of The Internet As We Know It?


Apple's iPad: The End Of The Internet As We Know It?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


One part of the economy that seems to be doing fine is sales of just about anything labeled as the latest product from Apple.

The iPad went on sale on Saturday. Apple's tablet computer is being hailed as a revolutionary device, but it may also bring a revolution to an end.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports on how the iPad limits some of the freedom associated with the Internet.

LAURA SYDELL: On the Apple Web site, they make it seem as if holding the iPad is like a religious experience.

(Soundbite of

Unidentified Man: When you have a multi-touch display this large, you feel like you're actually holding the Web right in the palm of your hand.

SYDELL: But thats not how Paul Sweeting sees it.

Mr. PAUL SWEETING (Analyst, With the iPad, you have the anti-Internet in your hands.

SYDELL: Sweeting is an analyst with GigaOM Network, who has concerns about the way Apple controls everything on its device.

Mr. SWEETING: It's not an open platform where you can create a lot of content, or other people can create a lot of applications and content that you can then access and use and incorporate into what you're doing.

SYDELL: The iPad is being marketed as an alternative to laptops and netbooks. But on most computers, you can put anything on it you want. The iPad is just like the iPhone - every piece of software and every app must be approved by Apple.

Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor, says with the iPhone, Apple has shown that it's willing to censor ideas it doesnt like. During the presidential election, Apple blocked a political app.

Professor JONATHAN ZITTRAIN (Internet Law, Harvard Law School): Called Freedom Time - and it actually just simply counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until President Bush would be out of office, regardless of who his successor would be.

SYDELL: Zittrain worries that if the iPad really becomes popular for both entertainment and computing, other companies will imitate its closed system.

Analyst Sweeting thinks many of the major media companies would love to see computers discourage people from searching the open Web for content.

Mr. SWEETING: I think the media companies will leap at this, because what it offers them is the opportunity to essentially re-create the old business model, wherein they are pushing content to you on their terms, rather than you going out and finding content, or a search engine discovering content for you.

SYDELL: The iPad does have an Internet browser, but it won't be possible to download unauthorized software or to view sites that use Flash the technology that animates most visual content on the Internet.

But people waiting in line this weekend to buy an iPad didn't seem bothered by Apple's restrictions. In fact, many, like Damen Brown, prefer it.

Mr. DAMEN BROWN: When you have the more open systems, there's more of a risk of there being less quality control and a lot of garbage apps.

SYDELL: And it isnt like there's a shortage of apps. The iPhone has more than 100,000 available, and there are already more than 1,000 just for the iPad.

Jennifer Childers likes Apple's gatekeeping.

Ms. JENNIFER CHILDERS: It's not being controlled so much, because every idea's gotten through except for things that are like pornography, or some other things that I wouldn't be looking at anyway.

SYDELL: There is one big competitor that's likely to try and create a device that will offer up major competition to Apple's iPad: Google. The search giant profits from an open environment. But its Nexus One Android phone hasn't been as appealing to consumers as Apple's iPhone.

Analyst Sweeting says Apple's limitations make its products feel safer.

Mr. SWEETING: Apple is offering you a gated community, where there's a guard at the gate - and there's probably maid service, too.

SYDELL: As more consumers have fears about security on the Internet, viruses and malware, they may be happy to opt for Apple's gated community.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.


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