The past two weeks I have had an iPad with me. We are doing some tests on how to use ebook readers for education. Testing, after all, needs to be done in realistic environments, like by the coffee table and in bed.  The device is not yet available in Norway, which makes some of the user interfaces weird because the AppStore does not work.  Applications have to be downloaded to a special account at a PC and then transferred by iTunes to the device.  The iPad is a cool gadget, and my sons really want one (mommy, I wish we had one for real that we could share).

On to the login:

  1. You do not log in to the iPad itself.  It is open for anyone with physical access.  Yes, it can be closed, but I operate with default.
  2. You do desperately need an iTunes account.  Without iTunes, the device is worthless.
  3. A normal person cannot change iTunes accounts without damaging major stuff (iPad, arteries, marriage).  It is just too difficult, and you end up cursing.
  4. You need accounts all over the web to access content, even if much of the content works through App Store.  Examples of accounts I ended up with after a few days: iTunes (see 2), various wireless networks (including eduroam), Amazon (to use the Kindle app), email, gaming accounts (not linked to the App Store, so this worked in Norway), twitter, Feide (for federated login)

The short summary

iPad is a portal, with iTunes as its portal framework, and a beautiful user interface.  It suffers all the usual portal problems

  • There is only one world view
  • The portal operator locks you in
  • The portal operator  can lock you out
  • Authentication is a mash-up of various solutions, with issues about reusing login

The usual portal advantages include a coherent user interface, a business model that is defined by the portal operator and apps added according to guidelines.

Watching YouTube on the iPad rocks.  Some of the apps are just beautiful (epicurious, New York Times), and the weird size makes sense for something sitting in your lap.

My son wanted one iPad that we could share in the family, but the iPad is a personal device, where sharing is not intended.  This is partly a result of the iTunes business model, and partly a result of the “tweak and download apps until I cry”-attitude the user is lured into.  Or the last could be just me, running wild in the hope of getting better stuff.

I am concerned about the lock-in of the iTunes business model.  Free speech in society is often measured by how much smut we are willing to put up with, and the iPad apps are smut free.  On the other hand, a quick search yielded a number of web based iPad-friendly porn sites.  You can take free speech out of the regular apps, but the users route around it.