Computer pioneer Alan Kay says the iPad has “been dumbed down so far it’s distressing”

by: Mike StengerMarch 29, 2013

Computer pioneer Alan Kay says the iPad has "been dumbed down so far it’s distressing"

Apple’s iPad may get outsold by Android tablets this year; according to mobile computing pioneer Alan Kay, the iPad isn’t even that impressive. Kay recently spoke at a Churchill Club event in Silicon Valley and shared his thoughts on Apple’s tablet. Here are a few of his choice words:

“The iPad’s been dumbed down so far it’s distressing. And Microsoft of course followed suit with its interface.”

Kay claims the iPad is an anti-personal computer and not only is difficult, but doesn’t allow for symmetric creation. Instead of personal computers being designed “as a place where people are going to spend a lot of time and different people can exist there”, their design is based on marketing and the most number of devices being sold to the largest number of people.

Kay has a vast experience working with mobile computing devices dating back to the 1970s when he worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) which developed the first graphical user interface and personal computer. It was from there that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got their ideas for what would become the two largest operating systems on the planet, Windows and Mac OS.

When it comes to true innovation in the tech industry, Kay believes it’s been lacking over the past 30 years to the point of being mundane. There is much room for debate in that area and although many manufacturers are just meeting the status quo, devices like the OUYA seem to push the boundaries.

What do you think?

  • Instead of forking apple every way , we should look in our devices, why still chrome crashes on nexus 10, why there are uneven icon , slow battery charging , and most of all apps fragmentation .

    • Cornstarch

      If you have ever use a galaxy note 2, you’ll know what real media consumption and media creation is all about. Just check out the tons Youtube videos on this device and you’ll quickly find out that the Ipad were made by the Flintstone

      • yeah , i had note 1(awesome but akward) but,10 inch vs 5Inch ,plz ,there are somethings ios does better specially in tablet,and nexus 4 rules waiting android os 5.0

        • Cornstarch

          of course music creation has never been a strong suit of android but that will change when Key Lime Pie will be release with MIDI software support to tackle the latency problems. But that’s when the galaxy note 3 will come out with 0.S 5.0, then you’ll have the ultimate PORTABLE content creation tools for video/pictures, music and art (using Wacom spen)

  • impulse101

    Apple is for retards and sheep

    • jusephe

      Apple is for anyone, even you.

      • MasterMuffin

        Apple is for people who aren’t allergic to Apples

        • harrold


  • JLishere

    The iPad may be “dumbed down” but tablet apps are still way ahead compared to Android, and this is coming from a Nexus fan.

    • MasterMuffin

      Because if the super simple Os

    • Cornstarch

      can you tell us what way ahead means as in quantity of apps, quality of apps or variety of apps? please give examples and why you think so instead of using the apple propagandas that’s been drilled into your head. Use the internet and your own brain to educate yourself. Apple prey upon the ignorance of some people to fatten their wallet.

      • f.ex. Googles own Youtube App :(

        • Marvin Nakajima

          Is it still true that the iOS version of the YouTube app still filters out YouTube videos that are in a format unviewable on those devices? I guess if you don’t know what you’re missing you won’t feel shorted.

      • JLishere

        Go ahead and call me brainwashed. I don’t care. I own a Nexus 10 and iPad 3 – I’ve used them extensively side by side (have you?). When it comes to TABLET apps, the iPad wins hands down. The truth is Android is getting better tablet apps each month, but the gap is still considerable. First example: gaming – no comments. Second example, the 4 biggest TV networks where I live (Canada) are CBC, CTV, Global and CityTV. All 4 have iPad apps with on-demand video and live streaming. None of them have Android apps yet. This is a huge letdown for me. Third: there are many apps that work on both platforms, but overall, they still look better on iPad. Just try using Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Yelp or TripAdvisor side-by-side – if you think the interface looks better on Android, you’re the one who’s brainwashed. I know that developers are working hard to improve Android tablet apps: CBS Sports, Accuweather, Evernote, etc – they are great on Android. Flipboard is one of the few apps that I think is excellent on both platforms. They released version 2.0 this week, but again, on iPad first. I’m not saying there’s no great tablet apps on Android. I’m saying there’s not enough right now.

        • Dicy2012

          It is increasingly difficult for apple to justify their insane prices for the iPad in the wake of improving Android tablets.

  • poop mcguinness

    Nothing new here.. All apple products are dumbed down. In fact, if someone switches from a windows pc to a macbook lets say. Within 6 months. They won’t even remember how to use the Windows pc. It actually makes them more stupid.

    • AvoidDroid

      Once you use a Mac you WANT to forget the nonsense that is Windows.

      • Jillxz

        Not me. I would never get a Mac

  • RickRussellTX

    > When it comes to true innovation in the tech industry, Kay believes it’s
    been lacking over the past 30 years to the point of being mundane.

    If he truly thinks that, then he’s become a curmudgeon who is losing touch with reality. That’s sad because he was so crucial in the formative years of personal computing.

    • Rick, can’t say I’m too far behind you. Hell, just a decade ago we had mobile devices not much powerful than a graphical calculator. Now we have mobile devices more powerful than some desktop computers. And that’s just one example.

  • carlisimo

    The OUYA has pushed the boundaries and the iPad didn’t when it came out? That’s a strange assertion to make.

    • I never said the iPad didn’t. None of us can deny how big of a deal the iPad was and still is. There was no successful tablet before it. And as much as I hate to say it, it’s still the gold standard, but I think the Nexus 10 is the first true iPad killer.

      • carlisimo

        I guess my post was confusing because it was combining something Alan Kay implied with something you said. I guess we both disagree with Kay. I’m not sure how I feel about the Ouya; it’s interesting in its business plan, but from a tech standpoint it’s just another game console.

  • Jason Gregory

    OUYA is considered boundary pushing? Lowering expectations considerably for cool tech ever again then. :-(

    • As with Alan’s assertion, it’s simply a matter of opinion. I happen to see OUYA as innovative despite it not exactly being anything extraordinary per say. There’s a massive market for low cost gaming devices and with new games for the PS3 or Xbox 360 costing 60 bucks a pop, OUYA fills a solid niche.

      • Because of this 60 bucks we are getting quality games, mobile gaming is destroyed by IAP , its not developer fault but the cheap prices of games so , people will complaint even at .99$ price,and mobile games are no match to console games.

      • Agreed – but I think that folks that focus on OUYA as JUST another gaming console are missing its full potential impact. With XBMC, Plex, Flixster as backers and apps for Music, Netflix, Comcast and other cable providers, this device is a very inexpensive media monster in your living room – Heck, for the price of one traditional console you can put a few of these around your house. For years I have had to set 6 XBOXs on their ears with Tversity/PLEX to get my massive media collection to all corners of my home. Android(iMito)/Plex did it with ease for me for less than $100 bucks per TV (one time with no monthly for ‘LIVE’). Plus my family’s phones and tablets get to share in the fun. Forget the smart TV – get the best ‘dumb screen’ your money can by. OUYA, if marketed correctly, brings smarter than smartTV functionality, packaged for the masses at a price that makes it almost disposable after a few years when the OUYA II comes out.

  • It is easy to criticize other’s one work, but it is hard to create a better work. If he can do better then apple products, he is more than welcome to do so. The more choices the better. I use apple and android devices. Nothing beats apple products. They simply work, others keep on crashing, sorry but that is my experience.

    • marco ortiz

      Apple products also crashed and have really bad bugs and errors, the 2k dollars macbook retina overheats so bad that you can burn your fingers by only browsing, when the IOS 5 and 6 were released they had major wifi issues that will only allow 1 ios5 product to connect, so dont tell me apple doesnt make any mistakes or just works, Android is not 2.3 anymore, use a high end android phone like the note 2, nexus 4, and you will see the difference.

      • Hello

        You need to actually use Apple product before you bash them. These problems have already been fixed and were way over exaggerated to begin with.

        • Badong

          On my iPad4, facebook, skype often crashes…only if android tablets are smooth like my nexus 4, Ill consider moving to android f tablets…. By the way, it bothers me much that ipad cannot connect to a wifi network when two wifi have the same name. cannot distiguish the two networks… In my office two linksys wifi available, one protected while the other is open, ipad cannot distinguish the two, only one name appeared and alternately shows the protected and open wifi. Android can easily display the two networks even having the same name and connect easily, on ipad I have all day trying to connect with no success.

        • marco ortiz

          I have used, troubleshoot and repair them, so i know what I am talking about, and no, those issues were not exaggerated, the macbook retina still has this issue, IOS bugs are there and they even have security problems, there has been lots of articles and analysis about this, yes, apple does work on them but tries to keep them quiet so people still think they never have this issues.

      • Jillxz

        That phrase, “It just Works” so often used by Apple fans, is nothing more than parroting Steve Jobs favorite phrase. He trained them.

    • raindog469

      Really? Did you really just invite Alan Kay, the man who invented the mouse, tablet, and object-oriented programming to “do better” than a company that’s spent the last 30 years imitating his work?

      Alan Kay doesn’t have to do better. Google already has.

  • Magnetic1

    You only have to know how to play music, like the electric guitar among others, to realize ipad is light years ahead and non-ios OSes are musically illiterate to put it kindly. As great as android has been with updates, music apps are still pathetic.
    Sorry but I guess android does not do music and since dropping MIDI from Java, pretty much everyone in the music industry have invested in apple.

    • Arguing about toys

      It’s light years ahead in a useless gimmick. Serious music work is not done on any mobile toy, be it android or iOS, nor will it ever be. Wan’t a serious “music app”? Try CuBase for example.

  • Magnetic1

    Sorry to ruin the party, but why do so many non dumb or non ipad users here can not play a simple tune. Because music has nothing to do with having skills??? I think not. Just because you don’t know how to use it, don’t be a hater I say.
    Granted I use android for things ipad chooses not to do, but I hardly think it’s fair to put down ipad without knowing how to use some of their capabilities.

  • I think the iPad is the top consumer product of this millennium so far…not sure what got up this guys butt!

  • chris

    All i can say is the man was there from the 70s in the begining in computers, so his comment has far more credability than the oh so common i know everything! About everything, on these forums big LOL to the beginners

  • Mikesphoneandtab

    I think what he is saying is that the iPad has been purposefully dumbed down and while that is a good for a tablet that your grandma can use or whatever, the UI lacks the depth and flexibility that would make a useful home computer. Android being more complex in that aspect would make a better home computer. He never said anything about the apps. We all know iApps are better than Android apps but it comes at the cost of being on an Apple UI.

    • Jusephe

      How much time you are in Apps ? How much time you look at the UI ?

      • Mikesphoneandtab

        The UI is how you interact with those apps. Having a bunch of really good apps that are not joined together by a comprehensive UI is not the perfect desktop experience. From a non technically point of view, although having polished apps is an advantaged, it is not very enjoyable to navigate a device that is comprised of a grid. I am just making mention to the fact that there is another side to this coin.

  • Courtney C.

    I have galaxy note 2. I just bought the iPad with retina display for my wife. The galaxy does offer more in terms of customization. It also has more things you can do with the programming due to its open source (provided you know how or someone who does). On the galaxy I have noticed many many glitches in not only the apps that I download but the operating system as well. It freezes up more than I would like and it randomly shuts off even with full battery life.

    What the ipad offers is quality. The operating system works flawlessly. Not much for customization but that does not concern me. Nearly all apps are bug free (at least from what I have experienced). Everything is really polished with the ipad. The ipad does everything I want to do and more with out all the hassles.

    With that said the galaxy was much cheaper than the ipad. In my experience I got what I paid for. To each their own though. Every experience is different as with every device. So no two experiences will be the the same

    The ipad has quality in each of its

    • marco ortiz

      Apps crashing and OS system issues can be isolated to carrier, user or phone issues, it depends on the use and what are you installing and how are you installling it, Thats the problem with android, the carriers are just loading bloatware and causing several problems with the phone, Im pretty sure if you install a good stable rom you will get rid of all the problems, and will enjoy the beauty of the galaxy note 2. Ipad does offer a good OS and quality, however they still have issues and can cause apps to crash as well, It depends on a lot of factors.

  • This guy is just jealous. I love my ipad mini, it does everything I want plus it makes me put my htc phone down when I’m at home.

    • kunai shuriken

      You DO realize that this is Alan Kay, the guy who INVENTED THE GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACE? Without him, you wouldn’t even be holding your iPad, you lowly plebeian. Apple wouldn’t exist.What does he have to be jealous about? Do you even realize how stupid your statement sounds? Do PEOPLE realize how stupid they sound when they think perfectly valid criticism is “being jealous”?

      Probably not, because you sounded really idiotic there.

      From the Wiki itself: “Alan Curtis Kay (born May 17, 1940) is an American computer scientist, known for his early pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface design, and for coining the phrase, ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.'”

  • Darryl M.

    What does “mobile computing pioneer” supposed to actually mean? Kay worked for a company that developed the first GUI and from there Steve Jobs and Bill gates “got their ideas for what would become the two largest operations systems on the planet, Windows and Mac OS.” So basically this guy has nothing concrete to do with Windows or Mac. What kind of article is this?!?

  • Kevin Hodson

    He’s a freaking idiot trying to get publicity.

  • fas_nj

    If you Alan was able to experience a voice interface where he was able to issue the command ‘clean the house’, would he consider this to be “dumbed down”? I can’t even consider his comments opinion, they are just irationale.

  • yalequ

  • William

    Granted that the Ipad has some great apps but the ipad IU is pretty boring to me. YAWN!

  • appal

    I used to have an ipad that I received as a gift. My dog peed on it and destroyed it. Now I’m afraid to buy another one because they are so expensive. My dog is really smart. He only uses android devices.

  • amportfolio

    I own an iPhone and an Android Tablet. I have to be honest and say I can’t fathom going iPad simply because of the flexibility I get in how I use my Android tablet.

    One can make the claim how iPad gets new apps first and has more, but in day to day use I grow frustrated in how restrained I am in my iPhone for simple basic things. Sharing is a big one. I like in Android I hit “share” and am handed a list of apps that I could use. In iOS I’m given a few choices based on who’s playing nice with Apple.

    I like that I can set my own default apps for functions in Android. I can use the Gmail app as opposed to the included email app. I can use the Android browser, Chrome, Firefox, and have them as my default. I also like that I have a file structure so I can put files easily into my tablet without dealing with the insanity and restrictions of iTunes. Before someone says “cloud”, my tablet is WiFi only, and I’m not always where I can get access.

    In all honesty, if Apple would just loosen the death grip and give the user more control on how he/she can use their devices, then I’d buy an iPad. I want widgets, ability to delete included apps and set new defaults, and a better sharing system for social media.