Sam Diaz' blog post, as well as countless others about the iPhone/iPod touch requirements at the University of Missouri School of Journalism were all over Twitter and Google News Monday. I held off posting my own reaction because, quite frankly, I wasn't completely sure where I stood.
Here's my dilemma: I own a Mac, I support lots of Macs, there are a couple of iPods in my family (including a Touch), and I'm just all Mac'ed out. The iPod Touch is incredibly cool, brilliantly designed, and lots of money. I'm tired of the added cost, the vendor lock-in, the added cost (yes, I did mean to say that twice; it bears repeating), and the stupid fn-delete to backspace.
I'm already looking forward to my next Linux-based PC and leaving the whole "Mac Experience" behind.
However (and this deserves a pregnant pause), the iTunes University infrastructure and iPod Touch/iPhone applications make them incredibly attractive devices for schools to adopt en masse. They work really well and iTunes University is a robust, vast resource for students that makes it incredibly easy for faculty to post content and students to consume it for free. The whole thing just works. No muss, no fuss, no development of new systems. There's no need to reinvent the wheel for distributing a lecture in a podcast; iTunes U covers it quite handily, whether you're an Apple fan or not.
Sure, I'd love to see something that works well on Android handhelds. However, plenty of schools choose a platform for distributing content. Why is Moodle any better than iTunes if the content lends itself to the iTunes ecosystem?
Should we be outraged that a university has forced a vendor lock-in among its students? The Register notes,
...the Missouri edict has a distinctly pro-Cupertino bent. The school's iPod Touch requirements statement, for example, could have been written by Apple's marketing department. "Yes, the device is a music player," it burbles, "but it is much, much more."
To be completely honest, I just can't get upset about this. I actually tried to feel some indignation that would do the best open source fanbois proud, but I couldn't. The school chose a platform that works really well for instruction and dissemination instructional content. Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Define needs for our students, staff, and faculty, and then design technological solutions that meet those needs?
Sometimes those solutions might be open source. Sometimes, they'll come from Apple, whether our biases like it or not.