Wherever and however you are reading this, welcome. It might be that you are, like me, the kind of early adopting sillyhead who has already got their hands on an iPad and, having naturally rushed to download FryPaper the App, is now reading this on your new slidey-smooth device. Perhaps you have an Android or iPhone and are making use of WordPress’s rather superior on-the-fly mobile formatting. It may be that you are quite happily reading these words the traditional way on the stephenfry.com website. You may be one of a large-ish chorus who wishes I would stop being so lazy and prevaricating and return to the habit of recording blessays and blogs in the form of a podgram as I used to do in the good old days.
Let us suppose for a minute that you have an iPad on your lap, perched oddly on your splayed out knee, laid flat on the table, fashioned into a lectern by the Apple suedette case, cradled in your arms above your head in bed or in any of the other peculiar contortions that you will find your body adopting in order best to read and interact with your new friend. You may, rightly, think that this FryPaper app is rather simple and unexciting. Indeed it is. There are the device, the content and you and we are not very interested in clouding the interaction between the three. We might add this bell or that whistle from time to time and as occasion and opportunity might suggest, but for the moment we are happy to offer this as no more than a little something. If the mood strikes me to blog, microblog or blessay the app can suck that content from the site and let you know that it has done so and you can read it in an iPaddy sort of way. That is all there is to it.
But there is a much stronger chance that you do not own an iPad and that you are waiting to see what the fuss is about or waiting for iPad 2.0 or even 3.0. There is a chance too that you are an Apple sceptic or even Apple hater who thinks those of us who have one are dumb lemmings, mindless style slaves, pretentious boobies, suckers, poseurs and losers. Over the last few years and with a growing intensity more or less mappable onto a graph of Apple’s seemingly relentless march into greater profitability and share value, a new kind of depth of feeling has entered the tech world and I thought that on the day the iPad comes out I might as well look at this whole problem of Apple, trolling, flaming and the nastier side of Web 2.0.
The tribalism, fanaticism, fury, joy and intensity of hatred, veneration, anger, love and contempt with which Apple and its products are regarded by some must, for those who are on neither side of the sectarian divide themselves, pass all understanding. I have rarely wavered in my excitement and delight but naturally I believe my responses to be reasoned, reasonable and this side of sane. Well, I would wouldn’t I? Nobody in any realm introduces themselves as an extremist. It is only their opponents who are extremists. Some Apple devices are better than others, but I confess I am nearly always childlike in my thrilled and squeaking pleasure when the latest object of desire chugs off the Cupertino conveyor belt. What Willie Wonka was to Charlie, Steve Jobs is to me. I am pretty excited to see the latest HTC and Blackberry devices too. You would have to be very peculiar if you claimed that there was an absolutely equality in design and finish to all the gismos that come from all the manufacturers, it is of course perfectly okay not to be nuts about Apple and to choose another path to digital felicity. I would be the first to say that biodiversity is better than monoculture in the unnatural smartphone and computer world just as it is in the natural animal and plant world.