A lot of my readers have been asking me whether they should buy an iPad, and while I can offer that advice, it’s not the kind of article I would normally post at MacGuruLounge.com. This question and many others, however, has convinced me to post articles on Apple-related topics not strictly confined to troubleshooting. Helping Mac users solve their problems will always be the primary goal of this blog, but I hope that informative commentary can also play a role. Apple’s fantastic new device, the iPad, is the first topic I would like to cover.
When Apple announced the iPad on January 27, technology geeks everywhere immediately divided themselves into two camps: those who loved the device and those who hated it. Granted, very few people who offered opinions on the device’s viability had even held one in their hands, and those who did could only use it for a few minutes. Thus, the opinions we have heard stem from an author’s idea of what the device is and how it functions. Advocates and detractors state their opinions based on their personal computing philosophies rather than empirical evidence. My opinion is no different.
Technology writers have offered opinions generally praising the device (David Pogue), dismissing it (Gizmodo), or deciding the jury is still out (Engadget’s editorial staff). All of these reviews are written for computer people by computer people. While the news media tends to discuss Apple’s announcements for about a minute on the day a new device debuts, technology geeks pour over a device’s details for days and weeks after an announcement. This type of fascination is interesting, but it is far from normal. Regular people (meaning those not obsessed with technology) are not asking whether the iPad supports multitasking. They either do not know that Apple announced an iPad, or they know nothing more than its name.
The distinction between a normal person and a technology geek is important. There are many people who were going to love the iPad regardless of the features it offered. If Apple makes it, they want it. If it’s a new technology, they want to own it. There are those who simply believe it is a tool that can help them and are interested in purchasing one. At the same time, there are technology geeks who hate the device. Some hate Apple. But I suspect that most people who dislike the iPad do so because they either want the iPad to replace their laptop/netbook or because they don’t see how the iPad lets them do anything more easily or efficiently than they do now. These are perfectly reasonable (if not shortsighted) criticisms, but they come from people who already have well-defined technological needs, for which they have determined reasonable tools to fulfill their needs (and for which the iPad is not one).
The iPad is not going to succeed because people with great technological knowledge see it as a revolutionary device to meet their needs. It is going to succeed because regular people want an easy and enjoyable way to access technology in a way they cannot currently access it. When Apple released the iPhone, critics dismissed it as a toy that was not a “serious” phone. They often make that argument today, saying the device is great if you want to play games but not if you want to do “serious” work on it. Critics simply ignore the iPhone’s tremendous growth and broad appeal to both men and women because, if they took it seriously, they would have to admit that Apple is making the smartphone that regular people actually want to purchase.
Admob recently conducted a survey that showed Droid users skewed much more heavily towards male users. Is this any wonder? The Droid commercials are basically dripping with testosterone and proclaiming to be tougher and better than the competition. Is this appealing to women, seniors, parents, artists, students, and the like? I certainly don’t think so, and Verizon and Motorola seem content to appeal to the “hardcore” technology consumers, which they seem to feel are technologically savvy males, age 15-35. Most of the criticism of the iPad has come from these same hardcore technology consumers (whether male or female), and if Apple were trying to design the iPad to be a cool netbook on steroids in order to appeal to these consumers, then the iPad criticism would be warranted.
Luckily, Apple is trying to foster the same broad appeal the iPhone enjoys with the iPad. When the iPhone OS was at 1.0, the device did not enjoy broad appeal, as the built-in applications were not sufficiently interesting to many types of people. Only when developers could submit their own applications did the iPhone take off. In any coffee shop, you can hear iPhone owners discussing their favorite applications, and this social marketing fosters desire for the device. The same will be true with the iPad, which should cause us to revisit one very important lesson: the killer applications for the iPad–the ones that will “wow” audiences and create excitement–have not yet been written. Ingenious developers will use the iPad’s size and unique features to create a user experience unavailable on any computer or on the iPhone. It is this new user experience that will allow the iPad to flourish.
Within two years, I predict that parents and seniors will be as excited about the iPad as teenagers are about the iPod touch. Can you think of any demographics more difficult to excite with technology? That’s how impressive the iPad is.