The iPad and iPhone is a closed system. And a lot of people have criticized this, compared with Android etc. But one especially ironic comparison has been the comparisons with the “openness” of the Apple II and philosophy of Steve Wozniak, the other founder of Apple. For example, the original Apple II not only allowed any hardware to be developed and plugged in, but the hardware schematics were included with the product to allow anyone to start tinkering with it.
While at a one level this is certainly true – I think at a more fundamental level is misses the point. In the 1980s’ knowing the hardware was essential because in order for your Apple II to live with other things or to add features / functions to it – you needed to add hardware in someway. To connect to a printer, to connect to a FDD /HDD etc. but now the situation is much different. Today, you have many of connecting to the outside world from the iPad – wi-fi, bluetooth, and if need be USB (once the connectors become available). So to connect / control etc. with something else, you really just need to write the software.
A case in point – is the app that was just introduced to connect an iPhone’s camera to the iPad to get over the limitations of the fact that the current 1st generation iPad does not contain a camera. While not exactly the most elegant solution (which obviously would have been an integrated one) – this shows how today with software you can solve many problems, or shall I say achieve the many of the goals of the “openness” of the Apple II days that could only be achieved by making your own hardware and software together.
Now, of course there is one important aspect of “openness” that is different. Today, you have Apple as the gatekeeper of this ecosystem. Many people will be unhappy with that of course. But you can still put on your own apps onto your iPad/iPhone. Which is what hackers did with the old Apple II anyway. The constraint really only came into play if you wanted to send it out into the world. Which I admit is a limitation and for some hackers a serious limitation.
But from the everyday consumer perspective – I think the iPad / iPhone is as open as it needs to be (well maybe 90% as I still don’t have multi-tasking 🙂 ).