Thu, Jan 28, 2010

: iPad: Second Thoughts

I’ve been reading nothing but iPad comments and news for the last two days and I see one clear trend: people into technology, the geeks and computer people, aren’t too excited.

Why? Because they don’t see a need for this product. They already have laptops, netbooks, cell phones, and other gadgets. They aren’t intimidated by complex technology. Some even like it. Plus, all of them have been thinking about the “Apple Tablet” for months, dreaming of what they would want in a tablet. Instead, Apple has gone and produced something unique that doesn’t fit in any existing category, and these tech people are bewildered and underwhelmed. They see all the “missing features” and think that’s a mistake.

But that’s the whole point: Apple is about reducing complexity. The key is that these idiots are not the target market! That’s right: Apple did not create the iPad for them! The iPad was created for the non-tech person. It really is the ultimate “computer for the rest of us.”

My grandfather, for instance, would have loved an iPad. He knew nothing of computers and always struggled with them. But he knew how to touch things. Babies know how to touch things. He knew how to read. He would have loved to do email and keep in touch with people, but a computer was far too complicated for him. An iPad would have been ideal. It has the form factor of a magazine, which he knew and understood. Email would have been dreadfully simple for him. No, he wouldn’t use it to write a novel or do real work: he’d use it to read articles, books, emails, watch TV. Sure he could that with an iPod touch: but a touch is too small. That’s why many people haven’t gotten one. It’s not the price. They look at the iPod touch and think, “Why would I want that? I’ve got a big screen Mac in the other room to read email on!”

But an iPad should appeal to everyone. Imagine being on the sofa watching TV. The iPad is lying on the coffee table. A commercial comes on TV or you’re not really into the show. You pick it up and it turns on. You casually flick through emails, perhaps fire off a quick response or two. You check the CNN website, maybe browse a few other sites. The interface for web surfing is amazing, so natural: you hold the thing like a magazine and flip through content the way you flip through magazine pages. Maybe you open an ebook and read. Maybe your show is on and you hand the thing to your spouse who works on the latest NYT crossword puzzle on it or plays a game. Maybe it’s so easy and convenient and handy that everyone in the family starts to use it for the occasional email. Most don’t want to bother with the big, complicated, fixed-location computer in the other room, but this handy tablet can be read anywhere in the house. Read the news while eating breakfast. The thing is a gorgeous calendar for scheduling all those doctor appointments and church commitments. The thing makes a beautiful animated picture frame, wonderful for showing a slideshow of the great-grandkids. It’ll even act as a weather station, showing you the weather coming for the next week!

Do you know how many people in the world are in that situation? Millions! Everyone complains about their computers being a hassle. I know many who respond slowly to emails (i.e. days). Why? Because it’s a hassle. You do it when you have to, not when it’s convenient. How many times a day do you think of a website you should visit (i.e. while you’re watching TV and you see an ad or mention of an interesting site on the news) but you never do because it’s too much of a pain to go to your office and fire up the computer and web browser and find the site. With an iPad, you’ve got the Internet right there in your hand, anywhere in your house!

Just like with iPhone before it was released, all the anti-Apple and supposed tech experts are predicting doom and gloom. iPhone doesn’t have a real keyboard, limited battery, the screen will get fingerprints on it, it doesn’t support Flash, won’t “multitask,” bla bla bla. Forget about them. Those people are either biased (i.e. employed by Apple competitors) or they aren’t the target market for this. I fully agree it’s not for everyone. Someone already with a netbook, or a tech guy who wants a fully customizable experience, won’t go for this. That’s fine. This isn’t for them.

Think of the iPad as an elaborate digital photo frame. It’s beautiful, handy, and narrowly functioned. It’s not meant to replace a full computer. It doesn’t do that much more than an iPhone. But it’s a bigger screen than an iPhone, which means it’s more convenient for reading, interacting with, and using. In some ways, it’s expensive: $500 for a device that “doesn’t do much.” But it’s a game-changer, a new paradigm. Your life will never be the same after you have one. Just like the iPhone revolutionized the mobile phone industry — every new phone now can do Internet, let you look up things on Google from anywhere, etc. (though few let you do it as easily and conveniently as an iPhone) — the iPad will change everything. The iPad will change the way we live our lives. In a few years, many homes will have several of these lying around. You’ll use them for reading, news and weather, checking email and social networking accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), showing off family photos to visitors, etc. No more having to remember cryptic commands, worry about viruses or crashes, or even having to “save a file.” (Like iPhone, all data is saved automatically, transparently, as you create it. You’ll never lose anything again.) You’ll integrate iPads into your life in such a simple, natural, elegant way that if your iPad was suddenly taken away, you’d be lost and confused, wondering how you’ll get along without it!

And once that happens, $500 starts to seem like the bargain of the century. Which it is.

Topic: [/technology]