J.D. Lasica on Apple’s iPad

Last weekend, I wrote of the shift that the iPad brings in the creation of a “Web within the Web.” We’ve entered a season of the Web versus Web applications with this device, and while media companies are rejoicing at the idea of a return to controlled scarcity through apps, many people are concerned about what we — as a people — might be giving up in the way of freedom to create.

J.D. LasicaAt issue is the ability of everyday people to compete with the big boys on an even playing field. The iPad tilts the balance by creating a doorway — one entirely controlled by Apple — that slants in the direction of those with resources. I strongly advise caution here, because the energy behind what J.D. Lasica coined the “personal media revolution” in his 2004 book Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against The Digital Generation, comes from a vast cultural change that has been underway for several decades. Steve Jobs used to be a part of that, but he is now leading the way to restore order to what the status quo deems chaos, and that’s of questionable long-term value.

I caught up with J.D. and asked for his view of what’s taking place. Is the personal media revolution — that great disruptor of all things traditional media — in any danger? Here’s his response.

On the day the iPad was released, I wrote that I’d buy one some day, but I don’t have an immediate need for another portable entertainment device, no matter how sleek. The consumer in me is mildly impressed by the eye candy (and would be deeply impressed if I were a gamer, but I’m not).

The producer in me has always been lured by Apple’s suite of creativity tools, which are still a couple of years ahead of anything on Windows. So it’s disappointing that Apple designed the iPad as if the cultural shift of the past 10 years did not happen. While Google is leading us into the next era — cloud computing, though no one will call it that — Apple has missed an opportunity to make the iPad a hybrid device: one part for consumers and one part for the always-on, mobile, update-happy, multimedia-savvy members of the personal media revolution.

There are lean-forward elements of Apple’s new tablet, though they aren’t front and central. And I’ll be using the iPad as a creator. While I’m not interested in becoming an app developer, I am interested in the iPad as a creativity platform. Any of us with a design sensibility and writing chops can now create fabulous-looking ebooks, photo albums, video portfolios, guides, whitepapers and more in ways that will dazzle on the iPad.

But alas, we’ll be using our laptops and desktops to create those works and use the iPad only as a distribution platform, a modern-day version of the first color television — a “hey look!” experience rather than a “hey, look what I can do!” experience.

Apple built the iPad with an eye on its potential as a mobile cash register. Which is why I think it won’t be the paradigm-shifting device that the company hopes it will become. Apple as our new gatekeeper? I don’t think so. We have too much invested in the open Web and the personal media revolution for that to happen.

The Web is about people and connections, not technology and gadgets. And it will take more than a shiny new toy for that to change.

I’m in complete agreement with J.D. on this, and what most people fail to realize is that advertisers are now leading the personal media revolution — becoming media companies themselves. They can only play in Apple’s “i” world up to a point, and those who ignore this do so at their own peril.

J.D. notes that Google is the one leading the way on the personal media revolution, which helps explain the profound sense of dislike that Steve Jobs has for Google’s Android operating system for portable devices. A real battle is shaping up on this front, and I just don’t see victory going to Apple.

(J.D. now runs Socialmedia.biz, a business consultancy.)

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