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The iPad was not made for you!

Posted by DK on January 28, 2010

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying the iPad will be a successful product, despite all its limitations.

Sure, I'm bummed about the lack of multitasking, expandable memory, OS X-like file management and program installation, camera, etc. The thing is, none of that really matters: the vast majority of people, probably on the order of 90%, consume media and do not create it. Particularly not on the run. Power laws are in effect here, just as they are when you look at contribution statistics for Wikipedia, profit contribution by client, or any other type of endeavor. The vast majority of content is created by a small number of people or institutions. Sure, there are social networking messages, status updates, tweets, etc. that generate data. But even in those environments, what is the ratio of followers to leaders?

Apple's mobile technology caters to the physics of mass media. Its products make it easy, even fun, to consume almost all the media you could hope to consume (ok, ok, you got me on the lack of Flash support). From this perspective, does the lack of multitasking really matter? Most people, particularly when on the move, really can't do more than one thing at once anyway (although you should be able to listen to music while doing other things, just as the iPhone can). So as a designer, would I rather eek out some more battery life or allow people to multitask, or maybe videoconference? Does the lack of expandable memory matter given the expected life of the product? Again, the vast majority of people are not looking to optimize their use of hardware, they just want it to do the things they do every day with panache. A lot of that crap will probably be in the second or third generation iPad within the next year or two anyway, but that still doesn't mean all of it is necessary now.

Just as domain specific languages are really good at certain tasks, Apple has created a platform that allows developers to create highly targeted applications that work exactly as you needed for particular purposes.
And that's why devices like the iPhone and iPad are kicking ass. I don't understand posts that ask "What's the point of the iPad?" What's the point of the Kindle then? That defunct CrunchPad/Joo Joo Bear thing? Or any other mobile device? Of course there are other devices that can do everything the iPad does. I could also lug my iMac around like that guy who plays WoW at Panera with a MiFi hotspot and a car battery.

Apple is striking a chord in the marketplace (as judged by its market capitalization and cash balance) because it has the ability to make tradeoffs that ultimately help define the product. It understands that 90% of the people are going to spend 80% of their time on these devices CONSUMING media, not creating it. And for the 20% of the time you need to shoot off an email, edit a document, or update your facebook status? Well, you can do that too…likely with ease. And finally, while Apple's marketshare is still small, it's now large enough to exert some buying power on it's suppliers. Putting out something like the iPad likely wasn't done earlier because achieving the needed price point wasn't feasible.

So, yes, I agree the iPad is a bloated iPhone, but without the phone and camera. But it does come with a bigger screen, so you can enjoy your media a bit more and be a little more productive while you're on the road. Apple's formula is taken straight out of the Clairol playbook: Nice 'n Easy, That's My Style!

Those of you that love your three monitor setup and, even now, are plotting to get that python interpreter running on the iPad? I'm sorry, but the iPad was not made for you.


One Response to “The iPad was not made for you!”

  1. Matt Marko said

    This whole iPad thing is so interesting, particularly since most of the tech community and Jobs-fawners seem to feel an obligation to vigorously defend Tablet 2.0 before it’s even out there, that’s what happens when you have such a powerful brand and relatively small group of cultists. As far as whether it will be a successful product, that depends on how you define success – iPod success that breaks through to change/define an entire category and the way people use technology, or success converting the already converted gadget-happy techie niche? My guess, iPad goes Dean Kamen. I’m in the camp they should have gone after re-defining the netbook category rather than trying to create a new category between netbook and smartphone. Am I really expected to be willing to haul around an iPhone, iPad, and netbook? And, yes I wish Apple did more than just create a bigger Touch…too often we see successful innovators next “innovation” being the same as the last…but this one goes to 11, comes in red, is bigger/smaller, etc. I’d expected more from Apple, but it’s really not surprising. There’s a reason you don’t see disruptive or game-changing innovations come from the same place often.

    Also, I think you’re looking too narrow with your point on consuming vs creating media “multitasking”. What if I want to listen to tunes while I’m surfing the web or playing an app? Hey, I’m a fat distracted American – I want to CONSUME multiple things at once! AT&T seems to think people want to talk on their phones and be on the web at the same time (though admittedly that doesn’t seem to be working out too well for them).

    Finally, while there’s no doubt Apple has struck a chord in the marketplace, is it because it has had the ability to make tradeoffs, or in many ways in SPITE of it? Design, marketing, and well-integrated supporting applications (forced march through iTunes) have created ease and consumer demand in a category that in its infancy was scary and complex. I grant you, feature tradeoffs are a part of that – but I sure wish my ipod had an AM/FM tuner and the ability to record, which is why my next mp3 player wasn’t an iPod. So many aspects of Apple’s products are consumer un-friendly from the battery irreplacement to iTunes monopoly to charging a 35% margin on brand. They are becoming evil – if they were a health care company there would be a congressional investigation!

    And no flash are you kidding me?

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