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Shall We Call It "Curated Computing?" 331

medcalf writes "Ars Technica has an opinion piece by Sarah Rotman Epps on the iPad and other potential tablets as a new paradigm that they are calling 'curated computing,' where third parties make a lot of choices to simplify things for the end user, reducing user choice but improving reliability and efficiency for a defined set of tasks. The idea is that this does not replace, but supplements, general-purpose computers. It's possible — if the common denominator between iPads, Android and/or Chrome tablets, WebOS tablets, and the like is a more server-centric web experience — that they could be right, and that a more competitive computing market could be the result. But I wonder, too: would that then provide an incentive for manufacturers to try to lock down the personal computing desktop experience as well?" And even if not, an emphasis on "curated computing" could rob resources from old-skool computer development, as is already evident at Apple.
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Shall We Call It "Curated Computing?"

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  • Like a museum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mujadaddy ( 1238164 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @11:54AM (#32208028)
    "It's very cold, and very beautiful, and you're not allowed to touch anything."

    Sorry, I'm more of a hot-rodder than a passive consumer.
  • by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:02PM (#32208130)

    Can't Slashdot editors find ANYTHING newsworthy that isn't about Apple ?

    Fucks sake, the content of this article boils down to "Apple's latest iDevice is equivalent to a gold plated toaster, where user choice has been minimized, but leads to a better overall toast experience".

    It might be gold-plated, but it's still a turd underneath, and no amount of iHype or Apple apologists will change that.

    Bye bye karma, see you again sometime.

  • by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:04PM (#32208146)
    The key distinction is: Are you buying a hardware? Or are you buying a hardware encumbered with license restriction that effectively says you cannot "hack" where "hack" is whatever the vendor deems undesirable?
  • Yeah, that's the thing I don't get.

    I have an iPhone. I use it to make phone calls, email, listen to music, do light web-browsing, take pictures. That's about it. Sure there are other niche things I use on it, but for the most part those are the big 5 I use it for.

    My laptop, I use for everything else.

    Why do people think these "niche" devices have to be everything to everyone? They aren't. Here's your car analogy:

    People commute in cars to work every day. They also use those cars for various other travel reasons. If they want to store a LOT of materials in the back of their car, they're limited to either making several trips, borrowing a truck from a friend, or something else. If they were moving a lot of materials constantly, it would make more sense for them to use a truck.

    In short. Trying to force the idea on the public that having one of these devices will render any other computer obsolete shows a serious lack of critical thinking. (Just like my car analogy does)

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:06PM (#32208188) Homepage Journal

    Can't Slashdot editors find ANYTHING newsworthy that isn't about Apple ?

    It's not just about Apple. It's also about Microsoft, which uses the same App Store structure for Xbox 360 indie games and Windows Phone 7 apps. (In fact, Apple appears to have copied much of the structure of the iPhone developer agreement and App Store from Microsoft XNA Creators Club and Xbox Live Indie Games.) And it's also about Nintendo, which was the first to require that all apps be approved by the device manufacturer.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:09PM (#32208226) Journal
    I think that to focus on the "curated" aspect really misses(or obfuscates) a critical and ugly point.

    Consider the following analogy: You want your house to be aesthetically pleasing and pleasant to use; but know fuck-all about color matching and picking furniture. So, you hire an interior decorator. They "curate" your space and emit a list of suggestions. You can then make it so, or not. On the other hand, if you go to a museum, the curator's decisions are not suggestions, and they are generally tailored to fit the desired audience as a whole, not necessarily you. You cannot add, remove, or substitute anything. Your only choice is to attend the museum or not.

    In computing terms, the "interior decorator" situation is basically equivalent to the OEM providing a set of sane defaults, chosen for some mixture of security, ease of use, power, and cost. You can pick your interior decorator and, if you wish, you can deviate from their suggestions.

    The "museum curator" option, on the other hand, is the iDevice/carrier lockdown situation. You can either take it or leave it; but if you take it, that's it. the OEM retains cryptographic control over "your" property forever.

    The big difference is whether your "curator" is providing a list of suggestions, or a list of orders. The former, frankly, is something that OEMs(particularly the wintel guys) really ought to do a lot more and a lot better. Sane, secure, usable defaults are a good thing. The customer shouldn't have to blow the stock image to hell and rebuild from scratch just to get a desktop worth using. However, any set of defaults that doesn't include a "screw this, I'll do it myself and take the consequences" button, somewhere, that allows you to reject advice and do your own thing is ultimately invidious and will inevitably be used as a tool of rent-seeking(as in consoles, where the OEM extracts a tithe for the privilege of being allowed to sell programs that run on the hardware, or as in the App Store) and likely censorship and all sorts of other fun stuff.
  • Economies of scale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:12PM (#32208264) Homepage Journal

    The key distinction is: Are you buying a hardware?

    The fear expressed in a lot of these articles is that the popularity of "curated", "walled garden", or "hobbled" devices will erase the economies of scale of hardware that you buy outright. A "PC" will likely become a niche product used only by established publishers. It has arguably already happened in some fields, such as games, where the major couch-multiplayer titles are either console exclusives or multi-console with no PC port.

  • Re:Locked Down (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) <ememalb@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:12PM (#32208272) Homepage Journal

    I would posit the average end user DOESN'T want a lot of choices. I'd say wanting to do whatever you want with a device is pretty much in the geek realm. (Overall) I'm not saying I agree with it, just saying that your average end-user doesn't care that they can't run a specific version of some (for example) SSH program on their phone. Hell, 99% of the world doesn't know what the hell SSH is.

  • Inevitability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danaris ( 525051 ) <danaris@nosPAM.mac.com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:14PM (#32208290) Homepage

    Let's face it. We are geeks. We are always going to like the freedom and power to do whatever we want with our computers.

    But we are not the majority.

    Most people don't really care if their operating system allows them to recompile their kernel, write a new text editor, or even install arbitrary software. They would be happy enough to be able to install the stuff their friends have, not have to worry about viruses, and surf the web and chat with the aforementioned friends. And do some occasional work.

    Some of this stuff is still Not There Yet on the iPad. And maybe the iPad itself will not be the dominant device of its type once things settle down in a few more years. But I think it's foolish to expect that the completely-open, easily breakable, general-purpose PC is going to be the only, or even the primary, computing device that most ordinary people use in 10 years.

    PCs will certainly still be around. Business applications, by and large, will always be a poor fit for the iPad and similar devices. So will programming. So will some types of games (but not all!). And, heck, at least for the time being, the iPad requires a computer with iTunes on it for managing it.

    But for the vast majority of people, a fully-featured PC is overkill for what they want to do. We're entering a period of transition—and, I would say, moving further toward the maturity of the computer age. As many people have pointed out in previous discussions, in the 1950s, if you owned a car, you more or less had to know how to do a bunch of basic maintenance tasks. Now, many of the parts you had to maintain no longer exist (such as the carburetor, as I understand it—I'm not a car person), and most of the others you can't maintain on your own: you have to take it to the dealer or an authorized service center, or void your warranty. Computers today are just starting to move past where cars were in the 1950s. It's no longer absolutely necessary to know how to perform maintenance tasks, but it still makes things run much more smoothly. And with the iPad, not only do you not need to do those tasks—you can't.

    For some people, that will always be a dealbreaker. And you know what? That's OK. Apple doesn't care if everyone buys an iPad, any more than they've ever cared that not everyone buys Macs. The world will go on, but changed: instead of just computers, we'll have computers and "curated computing" devices.

    Dan Aris

  • by The End Of Days ( 1243248 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:15PM (#32208308)

    I can't imagine why they got tired of catering to whiny pirates who refuse to pay for anything and turn every game into a cheating contest. That must have been such an awesome market to serve. How could anyone voluntarily give that up is beyond me.

  • The word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spatial ( 1235392 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:17PM (#32208350)
    The word is 'appliance'.
  • Re:Locked Down (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:20PM (#32208370)

    It's a false dichotomy to discuss "streamlined user experience" versus "user freedom" as if one is completely at odds with the other. To provide a streamlined experience simply requires good design and sensible defaults. You don't have to lock-out the user from changing those defaults, accessing the full capabilities of the device, or repurposing the device entirely.

    Of course it makes sense that vendors of locked-down solutions would spread this misunderstanding. They want to enforce consumer lock-in to their product/services stack. By convincing customers that the lock-in is actually to their benefit, they now have people effectively begging to give up their user freedoms. What bothers me is that media outlets seem not to have generally caught on to this lie. Instead they repeat the false dichotomy, as if it were a fact of nature. I guess it is because computers are still fairly misunderstood by the public at large. (By comparison, most people would not buy it if they hired an electrician who installed locks on their fusebox, telling them that they'll have to call/pay him when the fuses blow... because only then can he guarantee a proper "electrical user experience"...)
  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:22PM (#32208388) Journal

    ...between reducing user choice but improving reliability and efficiency myself.

    Why do non technical people believe the words that pour out of Jobs' gob? The man, and Apple's advertising, is infamous for saying things he knows are not true. Hell, my favorite recent example of this was when he bashed Flash about being designed for PCs as one of the reasons not to use it on the iPhone/iPad when his company makes you use Objective-C! LOL. Guess what Objective-C was designed for?

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:23PM (#32208392) Homepage

    It might be gold-plated, but it's still a turd underneath

    Why? If users like the experience and it let's them get things done, what makes it a "turd", exactly? Granted, it may not be your kind of turd (I'm more of a Linux guy, but god knows it can be a shitty experience sometimes), but that doesn't mean it's a poor product. It's just not marketed to you, that's all.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:25PM (#32208412) Homepage

    "My friends, each of you is a single cell in the great body of the State. And today, that great body has purged itself of parasites. We have triumphed over the unprincipled dissemination of facts. The thugs and wreckers have been cast out. -- And the poisonous weeds of disinformation have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Let each and every cell rejoice! For today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directive! We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thought is a more powerful weapon than any fleet or army on Earth. We are one people. With one will. One resolve. One cause. -- Our enemies shall talk themselves to death. And we will bury them with their own confusion. -- We shall prevail!" -- Apple, 1984. That's the copy from the famous Apple ad with the guy speaking to an audience of people in grey from a big screen.

    The Apple fanboys hate that paragraph (and will mod it down to "Troll" in about 30 minutes). But that's a clear statement of Apple's "walled garden" approach. They even use the same terminology: "A garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths". As for the "Information Purification Directive", see the the EFF's analysis of the Apple iPhone Developer Agreement. [eff.org] Apple tries to keep the Developer Agreement secret, but they accepted a NASA app, which made it subject to a FOIA request, and now anyone can read it.

  • Re:Like a museum (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:27PM (#32208428)

    Unfortunately, the attitude of freedom at all costs simply doesn't hold up to sociological demand and data. We are over-run by choices these days and as a result not only are the quality of our products declining but the incentive for a positive user experience is as well. We are no longer sold on an item due to it being the "best overall" item, we are sold on it because the commercials separated it from the couple hundred nearly identical items that were of a different brand.

  • Computer Appliance (Score:1, Insightful)

    by gmurray ( 927668 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:30PM (#32208488)
    I would call hardware like the iPad a computer appliance. When people buy tools for their tool shed or household items, they know that if they buy something that tries to do everything, usually it will suck at most things it does. So they buy targeted tools/appliances well designed for their specific need. The apps in the apple app store follow this analogy in microcosm, and the iPhone or iPad device follows it in macrocosm. Its certainly a boon for non technical users, but as a developer I don't enjoy the lockdown Apple is imposing on their development environment. Some of their restrictions can be seen to be in place to make the platform more appliance-like (restricted multitasking, etc). But others just seem like anti-competitive practices (disallowing Flash, Monotouch, and presumably Silverlight). I'm alright with it being a limited platform, as that helps out the target demographic, but artificially limiting the developers is just poisonous and makes me want to distance myself from the company.
  • by gimmebeer ( 1648629 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:33PM (#32208522)
    This statement alone is enough to disregard the entire article.
  • Re:Like a museum (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:36PM (#32208568) Homepage Journal

    So, wait, presumably that means you believe "passive consumption" is somehow a bad thing?

    No, exclusive passive consumption is a bad thing. If it costs orders of magnitude more to make than to consume, the population will get segmented into two warring classes [wikipedia.org] of haves and have-nots with respect to ability to make.

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:38PM (#32208594) Homepage Journal

    By that definition every society is a managed freedom institution: you have a certain amount of freedom you have to surrender in order to obtain a certain amount of security.

    At least modern western society has few restrictions about what you can do when you are alone on property to which you hold title.

  • And minor and independant game developers have already moved in to cover that niche.

    And how many gaming PCs do you see hooked up to the family TV, vs. how many consoles?

  • Re:Like a museum (Score:3, Insightful)

    by H3lldr0p ( 40304 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:40PM (#32208624) Homepage

    Sorry, I'm more of a hot-rodder than a passive consumer.

    So, wait, presumably that means you believe "passive consumption" is somehow a bad thing? That, say, looking at art pieces at a museum, or watching a great film, is somehow a negative thing? Interesting.

    If you do nothing more than passively watch, then yes, it is a very negative thing. That means the artwork hasn't touched you. It has failed to be art.

    If it otherwise inspires you to create, discuss, or otherwise think about the world around then no, that is not passive and, in IMHO is the point of art.

    That aside. I hate that word used in this context. I "consume" nothing when I listen to music, see artwork, or watch a file. All of those things are left in their previous state, not changed in the least. It's lazy phrasing.

  • A better Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:40PM (#32208634)

    Clearly most Slashdot users prefer more choices over someone making choices on their behalf when it comes to computing. That's because we're computer geeks. The average person, however, is getting real benefits from having a group of experts with more control over the device on their behalf. They also get real negative consequences, such as some applications they want never making it to the device they use and less ability to migrate devices without losing one's investment in apps.

    Okay, we know all that already, right? So now we come to what people are doing about it. Half the venders are ignoring the benefits Apple has provided, secure in the knowledge that Apple's innovation will lose in the market. Half of them are emulating Apple, betting Apple is right. What none of them are doing, that I've seen, is innovating. Is there really no way to create a system that provides both the benefits of their "curated computing" while not bringing about the drawbacks? Can't someone build a central marketplace for apps that are vetted, and hosted by any and all comers? Can't a phone or series of phones be built where there is a guarantee that the apps will be portable between those phones and have been vetted for security and performance concerns so the user can make informed decisions? I've long advocated that the average desktop user doesn't have the information they need or the OS level control they need to effectively know what apps to run and how much to trust those apps. I've long advocated that the only way to get proper unbiased information is to build into the OS a way to get greylists of what apps are trusted from multiple sources, weigh them, and then take good, automated action on behalf of the user while providing them the details they need. It's easier to put all this power into the hands of one company, but then you end up having to trust a single party (be it Apple or MS). So who's going out making a better solution? Come on Google, I'm looking at you.

    Using an app store should be a process of getting data from many parties. "Three out of four of your security feeds say the battery performance of this app is unacceptable and should be avoided". "Warning: this app only works on this phone and has no vendor promise to allow you to support other AndroidCert phones going forward. Be sure to take this into account." "Warning: this app is rated as malicious by two of your four security feeds. You will need to change your app settings to download it. This is not recommended." In addition, devices should be doing the right thing in the background, sandboxing apps and severely restricting ones that have not been vetted... maybe even refusing to run unsigned apps by default.

    It is not impossible to create a decentralized app store using data and servers from a variety of companies... a personalized store that only shows users the apps that meet their security, performance, and compatibility requirements; or at very least makes the needed data available to the end user. People complain about the Apple iPhone App Store, but complaining is not really very useful. Who's making something better? Who's making something that is going to take hard work, but which will make a store that gives users all the benefits of Apple's store and freedom besides?

  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @12:41PM (#32208654)

    "...a new paradigm that they are calling 'curated computing,' where third parties make a lot of choices to simplify things for the end user, reducing user choice but improving reliability and efficiency for a defined set of tasks."

    How about "censorship" instead?

    Ok, I know I am playing devil's advocate but if the slashdot headline was "China develops computing model where users have reduced choice but increased reliability, with the choices made by the State Education Department", I know the word censorship would be bandied around pretty quickly.

    Depends on who you want to make the decisions for you and of course a big question is how much opportunity you have to affect those decisions if you'd like to get involved in the process.

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:11PM (#32209086)

    I switched to Mac about a decade ago. Primarily because I needed a new laptop and was tired of trying to get things like sound cards to work on Linux at the time. Apple gave me a Unix laptop that also happened to have commercial software support like MS Office. And I've been sold ever since. My time is worth something to me, especially now. I deal with technology at work all day. Last thing I want to do when I get home is get on or fix another computer. Same when I go visit my Dad, hence why I got him an iMac. Spent a total of 2 hours in 3 years working on it and that was upgrading to OS 10.6. I used to spent 2 - 3 hours everytime I was home.

  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:31PM (#32209484)

    The AC can try to spin it however he wants, but if you jailbreak the gear you won't get:

    • OS updates
    • The store; neither the Apps, the music, the movies, nor the books
    • Customer service

    You will get the shell, and the ability to run "whatever you want." However, if you want a shell and an open environment and no media stores, why don't you just buy an Android phone?

    This complaining about the iPhone OS as if it were the only game in town, or ever could be, is pointless.

  • by ShinmaWa ( 449201 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:33PM (#32209526)


  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:34PM (#32209550)
    If you're dealing with 'files' and 'processes' when you start your web browser then you're doing it way wrong. I start my system and double click on the big blue 'e' or the little picture of the flaming fox and I'm on my way.

    Really, people make too big a deal out of the complexities of simple tasks on normal operating systems. It's not really that hard to start a browser.
  • by ElFizzo ( 1752454 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:43PM (#32209734)

    Why do people think these "niche" devices have to be everything to everyone? They aren't.

    Not yet they aren't. But some people already want them to be and Apple really likes that. People are already used to smart phones being on non-neutral networks. The iPad is just about half way between a smart phone and a laptop, and it's on a non-neutral network. The next version of the iPad will have a slightly larger screen, have a little more memory, and come with a stand that lets you prop it up on a desk and use a keyboard. Jobs has already said, and this article is echoing the sentiment that this is a new way of doing personal computing. This is Apple's way of squashing net neutrality. So if you bought an iPad, congratulations, you are letting Steve Jobs tell you what you can and cannot do with your own computer and you are paying top dollar for the privilege. If you are a developer that is working on an app for the iPad or iPhone and you aren't also releasing that app on other platforms, thanks, you are helping make net neutrality a thing of the past. You may like your Apple products now, but a benevolent dictator is still a dictator. The iProduct might have everything you could possibly want right now, but the moment you can't get something you want because Apple says no, remember you were warned, and I hope it stings...a lot.

  • Re:Locked Down (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:48PM (#32209822) Homepage Journal

    I would posit the average end user DOESN'T want a lot of choices.

    A model which permits but does not require customization would serve both classes of user, but would not serve Apple Computer.

  • by bingoUV ( 1066850 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:25PM (#32210564)

    Until they're everything to almost everyone.

    Why do people here on slashdot have this crazy notion that slashdotters are everyone?

    No one here is assuming that, at least not the GP post by tepples. Notice the "until"? It is used to indicate an expectation/fear/possibility that such-and-such might happen in the future. So your word "are" is misplaced. Use future tense (in a non-certain manner i.e less than 100 percent probability), and you might be closer to what the GP post means.

    Now, why such a expectation/fear/possibility ? There are more people who might be happy with just an appliance, with losing some of the flexibility of a full-fledged openly architectured because they don't use much of that flexibility. This makes the flexible computers expensive because fewer people use it, there is less demand and hence less economy of scale for the manufacturers.

    Now, why express this expectation/fear/possibility rather than keep it to oneself? Simple : self-interest. For better or worse, historically computers have been very flexible. Even if most people don't use much of the flexibility. If this changes, it obviously goes against slashdotters - who actually used the flexibility.

    What is so surprising in a slashdotter making such a post, that too on slashdot?

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:42PM (#32212796) Homepage Journal

    This pretty much gets to the crux of things. Yes, you can't do everything with this device.

    You mean, "No, you can't..."

    But the things you do want to do are more usable, and better designed.

    That very much depends on what you want to do.

    This is a different device for doing different things differently than you do them now.

    I think you got a little carried away there, sport.

    But sitting in the back yard, or in my recliner, or what have you ... it allows passive web surfing, reading a book, or propping it up in the kitchen like a cookbook with a recipe I got off the web.

    So does my netbook.

    I'm really interested in one of these once the price comes down a little. The early adopters are shelling out money for them now, but I can see a lot of people eventually getting one of these.

    Did you get paid? I don't think you were flamebaiting, but I could see you might be shilling. You're ridiculous. By the time the price of the iPad comes down by some trivial amount, there will be competition, and who knows what it will look like? Right now you can jump on eBay and get an ARM-powered MID running Android for a hundred bucks plus shipping. It does most of what the iPad does. Are you really going to argue that the base iPad does them four times better?

    Now, I am not actually going to argue that such a device is a suitable substitute for an iPad for all users, or perhaps even most users. However, it's only a matter of time before a device with more headroom (and more real estate) comes along at $200, and it will suit the needs of most users. Calm down, and consider one of those when they hit the street. With any luck, this multitouch thing will blow over by then too :p

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!