Archive for February, 2010

The iPad: A Context Changer?

February 2, 2010  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I was very excited in the days leading up to Apple’s event last week. But I didn’t get to follow a “live blog” of the event, and I haven’t had a chance to watch the presentation since. So I have been coming up to speed slowly. Looking at Reading news sites and blogs.

The experience has been quite a surprise for me. I expected some poor reviews and an unenthusiastic segment. But I never would have predicted the reception that the iPad received.

One group seems enthralled with the iPad. Count me in that corner (unashamed Apple fanboy here). But others think its an absolute dud, destined to live out its life in obscurity like the Apple TV.

The most common objections seem to be:

  • It’s just a bigger iPod Touch!
  • Netbooks are the same price, the same size, and so much better.
  • There’s no camera (I won’t touch on this one, but I do find it interesting that so many people want to do video chats with a camera that sees up your nose and show mostly the ceiling).

The one comment that seems to appear more often than others is, “why would I need an iPad if I have an iPhone and a MacBook?” Of course, you can replace “iPhone” with any top end smartphone and “MacBook” with netbook.

But couldn’t we just as easily ask, why do I need a MacBook if I have an iPhone and an iPad?

Let’s set aside two types of users for the moment. First are the large firm business users. The road warrior who needs to use Exchange and Microsoft Word while flying from one city to another (because work never stops and IT said those are the applications we have to use). The iPad won’t replace the road warrior’s laptop. It almost certainly could — someday. But not today. Windows is too entrenched in the corporate culture for most businesses.

Second are the pro design users. The woman you see editing a video in Final Cut Pro at the local Caribou Coffee. Or the man you see designing a brochure in Adobe InDesign at Panera Bread. They won’t be selling their MacBook Pros anytime soon.

Now that we have those two groups out of the way, what about everyone else? Me, for example. I am occasionally in the second group, but most of that work is done in the office.

A MacBook, iPad, and iPhone all offer the same set of fundamental tools. Email. Web browsing. Chat and social media. Address book. Calendars and task management. Games. Movies.

The iPhone really runs into a wall in two places: (1) entering and manipulating data; and (2) reviewing large amounts of data. Add those two capabilities, and a device would meet the needs of most people.

I haven’t used an iPad yet, so this prediction is based entirely on Apple’s advertising and a few reviews from people who used one at the launch event. But it appears that the iPad takes a big step in the direction of satisfying those two capabilities.

When I first read about the iPad and watched the videos, I said to myself, “that looks great – wouldn’t be be amazing if it had iWork?” I look forward to seeing how well iWork really performs on an iPad. I do a lot of work in page layout mode. Will the iPad support that? Only time will tell. But the ability to do lightweight document drafting on the iPad will really cut down on the need for a laptop on many day trips or short overnight trips.

The iPad also has a screen large enough to comfortably review much more data than on the iPhone. Large webpages can be read on the iPhone by holding it 6 inches from my face. But almost every other app uses larger fonts and larger controls, limiting the amount that can be displayed.

But there’s an even more compelling thing about the iPad. It’s simplicity! Imagine device where you can do everything you’re used to doing on your computer…without any of the hassle of owning a computer.

Many people see this as a drawback. But it’s seen by some as a tremendous advantage.

The iPad is great for people who just want to do cool, useful things on a mobile device and don’t care about the underlying technology. Many of the criticisms seem based on the notion that the desktop metaphor we have been using the past 20 years is always superior. But maybe it’s time for something else.

And maybe – just maybe – that something else is the iPad.