North Korea has fired another shot in the battle for gadget sales. The Democratic People’s Republic company Ryonghung is now advertising its latest product, called the “IPad”. It’s a product that captures the imagination — imagination of what sort of politico-economic environment could have produced such a thing.
Gizmodo reported a NK News (subscription required) story saying the tablet/keyboard combo device has “a quadcore 1.2 GHZ CPU, 1GB of RAM, an 8GB hard disk, an HDMI cable connection and comes with a keyboard and network connection capabilities.”
The report added the IPad device comes with 40 different applications, many of which come on SD cards. It can also “perform a range of functions such as reading different sources of digital information, office work and documentation.” Its operating system is unknown, though Gizmodo speculated it’s the same limited version of Android that has appeared on similar North Korean tablets in the past.
We should note that NK News is not an official North Korean news source per se. It’s a blog produced out of South Korea, U.S. and U.K. featuring reports by North Korean defectors and other outsider commentators.
However for the sake of this piece we’re assuming the IPad is indeed a thing, and is being marketed outside North Korea.
It’s hardly worth mentioning the blatant violation of Apple’s trademark. Apple — even if it could be bothered — would have little chance of defending its intellectual property in a country that enjoys making threats to both the U.S. and Chinese governments. With that and the device’s low specs, the target market is probably somewhere Apple is not active.
How Do We Get a Product Like This?
All we can do is look at the device itself, and marvel that it exists at all. Because it comes not from a profit-driven free market where companies provide consumers with desirable products, but one where there’s no choice and central planners decide what features you should have.
That’s the reason the Ryonghung IPad looks more like a kids’ toy from the 1990s than a modern computing device.
Whether it’s news reports, claims of military prowess or gadgets, it’s hard to tell if North Korea is ever being serious.
North Korea’s output seems comical, almost a parody of itself. That’s what happens when you live an entire life in your own echo chamber. People are (literally) compelled by force to believe you, so there’s no need to refine your message to make it sound convincing… or even plausible.
It works on the local captive audience — but not those outside your sphere of influence. Sometimes, in the cases of North Korea and Iraq’s former information minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, the end result is so bad that you become an international joke.
Simply releasing a crappy tablet would have brought North Korea little attention, but also no ridicule. But calling it “iPad” invites comparison between it and the real iPad — cruelly highlighting its many inadequacies and sad attempts to establish a DNA connection between them.
North Korea Style Choices
The Ryonghung IPad is the iPad you get when there’s all government, no profit motive, no competition, and no-one asking questions. In North Korea, that’s everything.
However even in Western countries we can find plenty of government monopolies that suffer from lack of competition. They include everything from authorities that make you wait hours to obtain a certain permit or license, to subsidies for favored companies that fail, to our central banks and propped-up financial system.
Even in the developed world, there are plenty of Ryonghung IPads.
This site reports on alternative financial systems and choices in assets, investments and currencies. Not all these alternatives are great (some of them are terrible) but all have the chance to prove themselves, to see if they offer anything better than the status quo.
Would you use the Ryonghung IPad as your main computing device? Tell us why not in the comments.
Images via Gizmodo/NK News/Ryonghung