The saddest part of the iPad story: No root

Like every other self respecting geek, I spent the afternoon eagerly watching live updates from Apple’s iPad keynote. At the end of the presentation one thing stuck with me: No root access. Its not a Mac.

The iPad seems to be under the same sort of draconian control as the iPhone is.  That might be forgivable on 2.4 inch wide phone, but for a device which is essentially a $500+ keyboardless netbook with a very slick interface, I need to control it. I can edit spreadsheets on it, give presentations with it, hook it up to a keyboard, but I can’t open up a terminal and type ‘ls‘?

I don’t know of any other general computing device with so much potential that doesn’t give users full access.  Its the same walled-garden as the iPhone, same app store review process, and same anti-competitive practices.   Its a very mobile computer, without a keyboard, and without root.

Yes it will be jailbroken, but why should we have too?  When I buy a netbook, I don’t open up google and start figuring out if my software version has an available exploit in it, all while crossing my fingers hoping it doesn’t void my warranty.

This device could almost meet Paul Graham’s description of handheld device developers could program on. I’m sure it wouldn’t be ideal, but geeks could develop software for an iPad on an iPad.  Paul describes this as a great way to get developers to fall in love with your platform.

Except Apple won’t let that happen.

(Note: Information is still tenuous at this point, if anyone has corrections let me know at chris@varenhor.st)

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