Apple’s stock has tanked since the iPad announcement. Apparently too many people were expecting a surprise or a miracle beyond the leaks. Even without having seen or touched an iPad I’d argue that the naysayers are missing the big picture. I too wish it had multitasking (possibly coming in a software update this summer), front and back cameras and a few other features. But that’s my techie self speaking. This is not a techie device (at least not in version 1.)
Computers today are too complicated. Think about it. With Mac or Windows you’ve got to learn what applications and windows and browsers and files are. You have to keep track of what you are doing and what the other distracting elements are. What’s unique about the iPhone (and Android)? It has no files. While it has applications, they are each focused on a single task. And when you start one, the whole device transforms and becomes dedicated to that task. This was Jeff Raskin’s (one of the inventors of the Macintosh) vision.
It’s a marvel of ease of use. There’s no help system, it’s not needed. Everyone can figure it out immediately. You don’t have to remember where you stored a file, each app takes care of it’s own data. Photos? They are in a database. Same for email. Sure it’s limited and can’t replace a desktop computer, but for many people it’s all they need.
So why is the iPad going to be successful? As TechCrunch points out this is your mother or father’s computing device. Its not particularly useful for day-to-day computing. But its going to be fantastic for carrying around the house.
Picture someone sitting in their easy chair with a iPad. Read a book. Check email. Look for something on Amazon. Play bridge with someone across the world at a web-site. Use it as a remote for your TV. For each of those tasks, this device is perfect. Easy to use, no learning curve (well, maybe for bridge) and if you do get confused, press the Home button and start over. It only ever does one thing at a time and when it does that one thing, the whole machine is dedicated to it. And it seems that the iPad is crazy fast and responsive which is incredibly important for a morphing device.
It won’t be long before more web-sites have iPad/iPhone/Android specific interfaces that take advantage of HTML5 and browser databases to provide services that are tailored to this experience replacing current Flash interfaces, unless Apple and Adobe work something out. By next holiday season, I predict this will be the top gift for parents (for people who can afford it of course).
For techies, the iPad will come into its own in future versions as the missing pieces, cameras, projectors etc are added to it. That’s normal. By the way, everything here is probably the true for future tablets that will come out running Google’s Chrome OS. They won’t be as polished of course…
Here’s the really wild prediction. I believe Apple’s true long term vision is to migrate this user experience back towards their larger computers. Steve Jobs talks about Apple being the world leader in mobile computing devices. These devices need a different user experience and Apple understands that if they want to migrate people up from iPods to iPhones to MacBooks, they need a seamless experience. This is a consumer version of Digital Equipment Corp’s strategy in the 1980’s and I think its going to work, again.
What do you think?