The reaction to the iPad has been largely negative, which isn’t too surprising given the out-of-this-world hype that preceded its unveiling. Many are dismissing it as a giant iPhone and nothing more, while some morons, who apparently get off on spec-sheets, are already calling it a failure because of it lacks Flash, an e-ink display, and support for multitasking.
Now let’s get one thing straight – the iPad is not the second coming, and isn’t nearly as revolutionary as the iPhone was when it first debuted. But that misses the bigger picture, namely that the iPad may very well be the perfect device for the large group of people who not only don’t know how to use computers, but who lack the desire and/or patience to learn.
To anyone with a modicum of technical savvy, this all might seem a bit silly, but it’s easy to forget that the vast majority of adults have but an elementary understanding of how to use computers outside of a few basic tasks. The iPad, with its impressive screen and intuitive and easy to use UI will instantly make computing a more welcoming and friendly experience for the large number of users who probably couldn’t tell you if more RAM is a good or bad thing.
Fraser Speirs writes:
I’m often saddened by the infantilising effect of high technology on adults. From being in control of their world, they’re thrust back to a childish, mediaeval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges.
With the iPhone OS as incarnated in the iPad, Apple proposes to do something about this, and I mean really do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it, and the world is going mental.
One of the more frequent memes to emerge in the wake of Apple’s iPad announcement has been, “The iPad would be great for my parents”, a sentiment which implies that the iPad fills a much needed void for users who need a basic computing machine, but have no need for a full powered Mac running Final Cut Pro.
As a fan of Apple products, I’ve led my fair share of PC users over to the greener pastures of the Mac. But every so often, and I’m sure other Apple users can relate, someone will ask me what kind of computer they should buy and I can’t, in good faith, tell them that buying a $1,100 iMac is what they need when all they really want is a machine to check their email with and browse the web on. For these users, the subpar user experience on a cheap Windows PC or netbook is hardly a consideration when comparing pricetags is the extent of their market research.
Now, out of nowhere, comes the iPad. It’s relatively cheap, easy to use, and offers a range of functionality that far exceeds any device at a comparable price. At its core, Apple’s iPad provides an intriguing alternative for a group of users who want as seamless an interaction with technology as possible.
Some have referred to the iPad as an appliance, and I think that it’s a fitting title. Consumers want their appliances to just work, and they couldn’t care less about the underlying technology that drives them. A toaster, an HDTV, a video camera – people use these items for specific tasks and simplicity is often what sells. And just to be clear, simplicity, as Apple’s products exemplify, does not necessarily imply less-capable.
Remember back in the days of VHS when recording one TV program while watching another required one to pore over a users manual while haphazardly pressing an assortment of buttons in the hopes that you’d figure it out? Nowadays, DVR systems are so simple that the average 10-year old can watch a Baseball game while simultaneously setting up a series recording of 30 Rock. The technology is not only easier to use, but a helluva lot more powerful, and it’s that balance that drives Apple’s products. The iPad embodies that balance for the large group of consumers who get their tech news from CNN’s cable channel instead of from Engadget.
Think of the millions of hours of human effort spent on preventing and recovering from the problems caused by completely open computer systems. Think of the lengths that people have gone to in order to acquire skills that are orthogonal to their core interests and their job, just so they can get their job done.
If the iPad and its successor devices free these people to focus on what they do best, it will dramatically change people’s perceptions of computing from something to fear to something to engage enthusiastically with. I find it hard to believe that the loss of background processing isn’t a price worth paying to have a computer that isn’t frightening anymore.
The iPad obviously isn’t for everyone, and it’s by no means even close to a replacement for a MacBook Pro. But it serves a demographic of users that for the most part have been ignored or overlooked – users with no serious interest in technology.
The appeal of the iPad obviously extends beyond the technically uninterested crowd, and will undoubtedly be a rich gaming, video, and print media experience as well. But it’s appeal to the average consumer who could give a shit about multitasking and who has no idea what CES is might be the trick up the iPad’s sleeve, and is probably why Steve Jobs reportedly views the iPad launch as being on a similar plane as the Mac and the iPhone.
The Macintosh was advertised as the computer for the rest of us. The iPad may very well be the computer for the rest of them.