I can’t think of any product about which more has been written, both before and after its announcement, than the forthcoming Apple iPad.
So I might as well add to the flood.
The speculation before Steve Job’s announcement of the iPad on January 27, 2010, had reached hysterical levels. Hysterical in every sense of the word -absolute madness, and absolutely funny. I was secretly hoping that Jobs would stride onto stage that day and tell the world that Apple had no intention of producing a tablet, just to see what the reaction would be. He did acknowledge the silliness of all of the speculation by throwing up a slide showing Moses on Mt Sinai and a quotation from the Wall Street Journal:
The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.
What is even more interesting, really, is the almost equally hysterical commentary about the Apple tablet after the details were released. This seems to range from near fury on the part of some commentators due to disappointed (I would say misguided) expectations and what they see as the shortcomings of the device, to sensible and thoughtful comments from people like John Gruber.
Now I am not an Apple fanboy, far from it. I’m basically a Windows user and a Windows programmer, and I have been for a very long time. But I remain fascinated by Apple and by Steve Job’s strategic approach. And I’m a huge fan and user of the iPod and the iPhone.
Personally, I think the iPad is an absolutely brilliant device, and more importantly it is an extremely clever strategic move on Apple’s part.
Much of the negative comment and outright hostility to the iPad seems to be based on the concept that this thing is meant to replace a laptop computer or a netbook and that it doesn’t have what it takes to do that. Paradoxically, I think this is both very true and at the same time very misguided.
I think that the iPad will replace (actually, displace) laptops and netbooks for some people, for some usages, in some circumstances. Circumstances alter cases.
Think about it. If you are in what I call ‘couch mode’ – you want to sit and relax and maybe read a book, or surf the web, or look through your email, or admire your photos, or play a casual game, or watch a movie or even attend a lecture – all of these things can be done much more comfortably on the couch rather than at your desk. And if you are in that mode, a laptop is a damn uncomfortable device. It weighs too much, it’s hard to handle, and it gets uncomfortably warm. A netbook would be better in some ways, yes. But an iPad would be best of all.
So for many, many people who like to go into couch mode (surely almost all of us), the iPad would be a brilliant device to have on the coffee table.
I myself wouldn’t be interested in using an iPad to sort out my taxes, or edit video, or develop software, or update my web site design. But Apple isn’t suggesting that you would.
The genius of Apple is recognising that there are millions of people (like seniors, for example) who are uncomfortable with computers in general, and who have no other use-cases than those I mention above – accessing the Internet, reading and answering email, admiring photos, being entertained. People who might not today even have a computer could easily pick up and use an iPad as a simple appliance, as Farhad Manjoo identified before the announcement.
Apple are into re-inventing the whole idea of computing.
And the real sting in the tail for companies like Microsoft is the fact that Apple will sell versions of its iWork applications – Keynote, Pages and Numbers – specially designed to work with a touch interface – for only $9.99 each. Think about this for a moment. For only $30 you will be able to buy the functional equivalents of Microsoft Office to run on your iPad.
Sure, you probably won’t want to write a novel that way.
But can’t you see the pathway? Someone who is a reluctant computer user gets hold of an iPad and really enjoys it. They decide to use it for writing some family history stories, perhaps, so they pay the trivial $9.99 cost to get Pages on the iPad. Then they decide they are confident enough with computers to get really serious. They are now familiar with Apple products. They are now familiar with Apple software. If they are in the market for a laptop, what are they going to buy? A Windows-based machine, with expensive Office applications? No way. They will buy a Mac.
I am predicting that the iPad will have a slow start, but then become a roaring success.
Oh, and it will kill the Kindle stone dead.
Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless arrant:
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant.
– Sir Walter Ralegh