People keep talking to me about the iPad. I suppose it’s my own fault for posting so many links and comments about it, but I wanted to write some thoughts that address many of the common issues that people have been bringing into question.
The iPad is not a big iPhone. Truth be told, the iPhone is actually a tiny iPad, with a cellular phone tacked on. That might be hard to come to terms with being that the iPhone was released first, but there have been many reports that development of a tablet computer has been going on at Apple for the better part of the last decade. So, even though it’s fun to say, stop calling it a big iPhone.
Sean Sperte recently posted a blog addressing the iPad in which he said:
What I’m getting at is that I don’t think the iPad is just another portable device that fills a gap. Even contrary to the way it was introduced, I don’t think the iPad fits the in-between-smartphone-and-PC moniker. I think it’s much more. I think it is the new PC — in its infancy.
Sean is absolutely right. The iPad is Apple’s way of telling us that the interface they brought us with the iPhone is really what they envision powering the next generation of computers. In the introduction video they posted yesterday, Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design declared:
In many ways this defines our vision, our sense, of what’s next.
In a way, they see their touch operating system being to the current generation of computers what the keyboard, mouse, and window system were to the text based systems that preceded them.
And yet outcries abound. Wired just posted an article called Ten Things Missing From the iPad. They point out all the usual suspects that tech geeks aplenty have been complaining about since the iPad was unveiled: no flash, multitasking, keyboard, etc. The issue is that everyone expects these things to be in the iPad, because they’re in the computers we have now.
Well, the iPad isn’t the computer you have now. Frankly many of us have forgotten how many issues there are with our computers. We have been so anesthetized to the problems of todays personal computers because of their ubiquity, that we haven’t cared enough to look for a successor.
Back in the day, I remember when multitasking didn’t exist yet. Your computer ran one thing at a time. We presume that because multitasking was such an innovation to computing, then unquestionably it’s better. It almost becomes an unspoken pillar of computer interface design. Well guess what. My iPhone doesn’t have multitasking. Sure, it’s not as feature rich as my computer, but using my iPhone is a hands-down better experience than using my laptop (and that’s a tall order considering I have a Mac). What my iPhone does, it does quickly, beautifully, and in an utterly uncomplicated manner.
Apple wants that same great experience for more general purpose computing. The things they left out that all us techies keep complaining about have been left out purposefully. Some have been left out for aesthetics, some for user experience, and some unquestionably to reach their ambitious price goal. In any case, the iPad aims to offer the best computing experience that you’ve ever had.
Another piece of evidence that proves this is how Apple feels about the iPad was their introduction of iWork. The simple fact that the iPad has a larger screen means that it can do real work, and Apple wanted to show that off. My incorrect prediction was that the iPad would ship with iLife: iPhoto, GarageBand, etc. And while I’m sure iLife applications are on the way, in hindsight, iWork helps Apple present their vision more clearly. They want people to rethink the way they make real applications. What would Photoshop look like on the iPad (heaven forbid). What about Pro Tools audio suite? Final Cut Pro? How about some video games? Madden? Command and Conquer?
The magic in the iPad will be the software. Apple has set a precedent. By releasing iWork they’re saying: ‘Look, you really can make seriously great software on this thing. What can you guys come up with?’ My excitement for the iPad is not because I think it’s the end all for touch computing. The reality is that it’s just the beginning. Again, as Sean so aptly stated, “the new PC – in its infancy.”