I heard a report on the radio yesterday which described a study of young people who were denied access to their mobile communication devices and social media sites like Facebook. Not surprisingly, the study observed that the young folks so deprived quickly became anxious, distracted, and, in some cases, depressed. It’s not news, of course, that modern computing devices can be addictive. We’ve become a society wedded to our glass screens.
The iPad is not going to help.
The original iPod revolutionized how we listen to music. The notion of carrying one’s entire music library in your pocket was, well, simply amazing. Not just the device that allowed such a capability – there were other MP3 players, after all – but the way you interacted with the iPod. Whether through luck or skill, Apple happened upon an interface that was both different and simpler than anything that had come before. It was an elegant bit of engineering epiphany. And the world of music has never been the same.
With the iPad, Apple is out to do it again. Not just with music – but with the whole broad range of media that we consume. Books, newspapers, magazines, video, music, TV, blogs, forums, online shopping… all of it. All the millions of websites behind it all. The whole nut.
Many people misunderstand the iPad. Because it sits somewhere between a smartphone and a regular computer – and because it will replace neither – they are quick to dismiss it. They point out that there is nothing the iPad can do that those other two devices, taken together, can’t. They point out that the iPad represents yet a third device to carry, not a replacement for one or both of those others. It seems, on first blush, to further complicate our life rather than simplifying it.
They are right about all those things.
But what they miss is the hidden factor that lies just under the surface of the device… the sheer convenience of the iPad. Its size itself is a large part of its goodness.
The iPhone and other smartphones, terrific as they are in so many ways, have very quick limits placed on them by dint of their tiny screens. The iPad screen, on the other hand, is big enough to blow away most those limits while at the same time being a whole lot smaller and lighter than any kind of laptop. You’re going to carry this thing with you a whole lot more often than you would your laptop. And that’s what’s going to make the difference.
Last summer I bought a MacBook Air. I wanted the smallest full-fledged computer I could find for taking on my motorcycle trips. Something I could write with. Something that would give me access to email and the internet. Something I could use my GPS mapping software on.
The Air has been terrific for all that.
But small as it is, the Air is just big enough and inconvenient enough that those trips are the only times I take it. I’d never consider dragging it along on a simple day ride.
Yesterday morning I sat outside Anita’s, waiting for my breakfast of chorizos con huevos. On the table in front of me lay the glass and metal tablet that is the iPad. I glanced up from the Safari page I was reading and gazed out at my Harley a few feet away. The iPad will never be as convenient as a shove-it-in-your-pocket smartphone. But it’s worlds better than a laptop. And so there you are. It was in that moment that I knew it would work.
People will still be confused by it. Stuck on all it can’t do.
What they need to realize is that most of what we use a computer for is receiving information. We browse the internet. We read online forums. We browse online shopping. We chat. We read emails. We check Facebook to see what our pals are doing.
And all that is the squarely in the sweet spot for all that the iPad does well.
The iPad sucks at creating content. Its faux, virtual, keyboard works pretty well for short little bits of input. But it just doesn’t work very well for anything of any real length. You can do it, of course. Just like there are book reader apps for the iPhone – and I suppose somewhere there are people who have actually read a whole book on that little iPhone screen – you can surely type your masters thesis on an iPad. But that’s not what it was intended for.
It’s a device for consuming content. Not creating it. Not managing it. Not storing it.
Remember that and you’ll be happy.
Sent from my iPad