Voici une des dernières couvertures de l'hebdomadaire The Economist qui illustre, depuis la sortie de l'iPad, le vif intérêt de la part de la presse pour Steve Jobs. Le Guru de Apple, dont la firme à désormais des pouvoirs quasi divin sur le marché, déchaine les ardeurs.
Nous retiendrons, entre tous, un article paru dans le Guardian, qui nous gratifie d'une approche "d'anticipation" montrant Apple comme un des organismes de contrôle les plus puissant du monde, prêt à nous faire rentrer dans un cauchemar mi Orwellien, mi Huxleyen.
Même si cela nous envoi dans l'univers geek de la conspiration à grande échelle, je trouve plutôt fascinant l'idée que des entreprises comme Apple, Google, Microsoft,...prennent de plus en plus de pouvoir politique, en douceur, au risque de voir les démocraties nationales dépassées par l'échelle globale de ces univers entrepreneuriales surpuissants...

"WATCHING STEVE JOBS unveil the Apple iPad, what came to mind was something that Neil Postman, the most influential media critic since Marshall McLuhan, once said. Our future possibilities, Postman thought, lay on a spectrum bounded by George Orwell at one end, and by Aldous Huxley at the other: Orwell because he believed that we would be destroyed by the things we fear; Huxley because he thought that we would be undone by the things we love.

As the internet went mainstream, the Orwellian nightmare has evolved into a realistic possibility, because of the facilities the network offers for the comprehensive surveillance so vividly evoked in 1984. Governments everywhere have helped themselves to powers to read every email or text you've ever sent. And that's just the democracies; authoritarian regimes are far more intrusive.

Until recently, the Huxleian nightmare seemed a more distant prospect. Then, two years ago this month, Jobs launched the iPhone, a product that was initially underestimated by many commentators (this columnist included) but which has radically transformed the mobile phone market.

What was revolutionary about the iPhone is that it's a powerful handheld computer that can also be used to make voice calls. But it's the computing bit that matters – a fact implicitly confirmed by Apple when it launched the iPod Touch, which runs the iPhone operating system but doesn't make calls. A year after that launch, Apple revealed its strategy for harnessing the device's computing power by launching the app store – a marketplace for small, mostly inexpensive, programs that could run on the phone. This generated a perfect storm of software development: there are now more than 100,000 apps available, and more than 3bn have been downloaded since the app store launched. At a stroke the consumer software business has been transformed. As ever, the New Yorker's cartoonists are tracking the change in the zeitgeist. In one recent cartoon a depressed-looking man arrives home and is greeted by his anxious-looking wife: "Bad news, hon," he says. "I got replaced by an app."

The iPhone evokes powerful emotions. Users gibber lovingly about it and become dependent upon it. They buy lots and lots of apps. And, most significantly, they find that they use their PCs less – sometimes a lot less. They discover, in other words, that the phone has become their de facto gateway to the internet.

Which brings us to the iPad. Critics and naysayers of all stripes piled in to complain that it was "just a bigger iPod Touch". Spot on: that's exactly what it's intended to be. Good though the iPhone/Touch was, it has one drawback — the screen's rather small. The iPad's screen is bigger and better. And it has a beefier processor, so it handles graphics brilliantly. It's a racing certainty, therefore, that the possibilities of this improved display performance will lead to another explosion in apps.

As with the first release of the iPhone, there has been lots of carping about alleged deficiencies: no camera, no physical keyboard, no USB slot, no removable battery, no memory card slot, doesn't do Flash, etc. Some of these probably don't matter much. Or, in Stephen Fry's words: "They all fall away the minute you use it ... No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects."

Which is where I begin to think of Huxley and Soma, the hallucinogenic, hangover-free drug in Brave New World that makes users contented with their (subjugated) lot. If the iPad takes off as the iPhone did, then it will have as disruptive an impact on the computing and media industries as the Apple phone has already had on mobile telephony.

And if that happens then we will all have to take a long, hard look at the company that has made it possible.

For the implication of an iPad-crazed world – with its millions of delighted, infatuated users – is that a single US company renowned for control-freakery will have become the gatekeeper to the online world. The iPad – like the iPhone – is a closed, tightly controlled device: nothing gets on to it that has not been expressly approved by Apple. We will have arrived at an Orwellian end by Huxleian means. And be foolish enough to think that we've attained nirvana."

John Naughton

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