Every year, millions of people visit Disneyland. (Take your flavor of which Disney* is closest to you, because they are all remarkably similar). Disneyland is safe. It’s a well manicured place where you see clean, smiling faces. It’s full of music and prescribed adventure. It’s expensive to get in. Some things are free, others cost money. There are even parts that are only available to folks that have inside knowledge, skills or cash, making them special.
You’re also very strictly controlled as to what is and is not permitted within Disneyland. If you break the rules, you’re told to leave and not allowed to return. You can also be denied access to Disney if they please because ultimately, Disney isn’t real.
Disney is, quite literally, a walled garden. It’s a nice place to visit, but i wouldn’t want to live there.
Honestly, i don’t even find it that interesting a place to visit, but that puts me in the savage minority. There are tons of folks that love Disney and happily consider the fake veneer of reality that it promotes as a wonderful experience. Personally, i kind of like reality more. i like being able to drive around without a rail making sure i don’t go out of my lane. i like going on boat trips where the jokes aren’t scripted from 30 years ago. i like looking at real castles, built to hold off more than candy stoked ten year olds.
So, why the downer on the land of the mouse? Because i’ve been thinking more and more about how we seem to be progressing toward a digital Disneyland.
With the advent of the iPad, there have even been a few articles noting the siren call of the walled garden. Why not? They’re safe from bad things, work fairly well, and give you the feeling that you’re almost real. They’re simple, well crafted devices that are fun, much like the happy little monorail that circles the park. Ultimately, they’re not real, though, and no amount of wishing on stars or listening to talking crickets is going to solve that.
A few articles have even noted that “this isn’t the way of the future” as a dismissal of folks like me that aren’t happily lining up for an e-ticket. i’m not so sure about that. If devices like the iPad and it’s soon to be progeny are targeted at “casual” users, doesn’t that mean that the “hard core” folks that might actually be interested in doing things that are not within the tight control of the company are by definition marginalized? If less that 10% of a device’s audience feels it should be able to talk to programs and devices that aren’t sold by the parent company, is it really worth that company’s time and effort to provide that feature?
That’s the other thing that keeps popping up. You do realize that while Google Voice became a web-app in order to bypass the restrictions that Apple had in place, it didn’t work with iTouches, right? Why would that be if it’s an HTML5 app? You can easily get a mic that works on a touch. The browser and OS level hooks are the same, why shouldn’t it work on a Touch? That’s because Google Voice isn’t really a web app. What Google does when you request an out-bound call is to call your device and then call the remote number. It doesn’t work on the Touch because there’s no phone for it to call, and no way for the browser to capture voice input.
The Garden doesn’t like that.
This means that if you wanted to bypass the Apple approval process, you only get the most minimal subset of the devices capabilities, which could be pulled at any time. Kind of like sitting in a driving game console, where things can be very exciting, but you really aren’t going anywhere. Yes, you could create a rich application experience remotely and have your device be a dumb terminal, but even then, you don’t really control things, and you could be blocked by an intervening proxy.
i’ve yet to get a new phone. Not because there aren’t phones i’d like out in the market place, but because no matter what i may pay for a given device, it won’t be mine, because my carrier may decide to force a change to my device that will remove functions. i’m well aware that Rogers is in Canada and i’m not, but that doesn’t mean that US companies can’t adopt the practice. For the most part, i’m still at the whims of the carrier to decide to allow my device to update.
That’s not freedom. i’m able to update my laptop and workstation at my whim. i’m able to download, run, or build any application i desire. i can customize any portion of the device to fit my needs or desires. Sadly, i don’t see that being a growing trend, in fact, i see the opposite soon taking over.
Perhaps i’m being paranoid again. Perhaps, platforms like Apple won’t decide that with the run-away success they have with mobile and semi-mobile, simple interface, single use devices, they really don’t need to spend quite as much time working on affordable multi-use machines. Perhaps folks will be interested enough in the suite of applications they buy and use to actually try and replicate them. Perhaps my nieces who look forward to visiting Disneyland for every birthday will learn to look for an amazing taquería with a cracked window and worn wooden chairs.
Or perhaps not.
Only time will tell.