Thoughts on the iPad

After yesterday’s excitement my brain was swimming with information and thoughts on the iPad. Last night I didn’t feel like I could be coherent enough to write up my thoughts, so I thought I’d take a crack at it this morning. I feel asleep last night starting to write this blog post in my mind. I woke up this morning to find that Jeff LaMarche had already written up a good part of what I wanted to say on his blog. Because he already wrote it up so well, I won’t go over his points in great detail.

When the iPad was announced at yesterday’s Apple press event the internet was swift and brutal in its condemnation of the device. Why is it that this happens with every Apple device? Reactions yesterday seemed to range from: “It’s brilliant!” to “I’m very disappointed” to “The iPad is stupid and anyone who thinks it isn’t is stupid!” I can understand the people who are disappointed. If you were expecting it to be a MacBook with a touch screen, it’s no wonder you’re disappointed. The anger I don’t get at all. Just because Apple didn’t build exactly what you wanted doesn’t mean the device sucks. Personally, I think it’s brilliant. Here’s why…

One of the main criticisms of the device is that it’s “just a big iPod”. I’m reading this statement all across the internet. However, I think there’s a big flaw in this statement, and that’s the word “just”. One could argue that it’s “a big iPod!” I think what people are missing is that making an iPod bigger doesn’t get you the same device. No one’s had a consumer device with a multi-touch screen this size before. The size of the device will drastically change the user experience on it.

Watch Apple’s promotional video for the device. Look at Safari running on the iPad and compare that to Safari running on an iPhone. It’s a vastly different user experience! I love how amazing Safari is on my iPhone…for a mobile browser. But I don’t like surfing for any amount of time on it. The screen is too small and cramped for it to be a really enjoyable experience for any length of time. As soon as you double the screen size, the way in which you interact with the software totally changes and becomes a different experience.

The biggest thing that will differentiate the iPad from the iPhone and MacBooks will be the software. You can already see that with Apple’s built-in apps. They’re completely different from their iPhone counterparts because of the big screen, but also totally different from their Mac counterparts because of the multitouch. Just looking at iWorks for iPad you can see what kind of amazing things you can do with, let’s face it, fairly boring software. What will be really amazing to see is what 3rd party developers do with it. With the app store integrated into it from day 1, consumers are going to have incredible choices in software. People complain that they prefer their PC to a Mac because there’s more software available for it. Just wait until you see what developers do with the iPad!

I want to touch on Jeff LaMarche’s main point, because I totally agree. This isn’t meant to replace your MacBook. This isn’t targeted at the guy who wants 20 Unix shells open and is running Vim instead of Pages for his text editing. This is aimed at people who want a no nonsense computer that “just works”. You don’t have to worry about where you put your files, you don’t have to worry about how to install an application, you don’t have to worry about how much RAM it has, or how fast the processor is. You don’t have to worry, you just buy it and it works. An article on CBC News about the iPad launch stated: “…interest was split roughly 50-50 between males and females, and the average age of potential buyer was 34.” That’s unheard of in the launch of tech gadgets. What this means is that they’re going after a totally different market than everyone was expecting. What I find even more telling is that CBC filed the story under “Arts & Entertainment” not under “Technology”.

So those of you who are thinking about this in terms of a technology aren’t seeing it the way Apple wants their target market to see it. This isn’t a computer, this is something you need in order to do the fun things you want to do more easily.

I called my dad last night to talk about the launch and he had an interesting point. He said that he pictured people treating it like a book. You generally keep it on the coffee table and pick it up when you want to look something up on the web, or play a game. You carry it into the dining room or kitchen when you want to look up a recipe. You take it to bed to read a book. It’s always there and you don’t think about it like it’s a computer…it’s just something you always use.

Personally, I think this is a big step in a new direction about thinking about personal computers that started with the iPhone and iPod touch. I think that as developers start creating amazing apps designed specifically for the device, everyone will start to see how important this could be. As Apple releases future versions of the device, we’ll start to realise that things are changing and that personal computing isn’t about technology, it’s about how you use it.