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Curious About… the iPad

August 9, 2010
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It’s been a few months now since the launch of the iPad, a product Apple has been touting as “magical” and “revolutionary” since its keynote reveal.

The cultural impact of the iPad has certainly not been limited to gracing the world with the smuggest email signature ever (“Sent from my iPad”). But has the device — not quite a laptop, not quite an iPhone — fulfilled its “magical” and “revolutionary” promise?

Well, we’ve been keeping score. Here’s our Magical/Revolutionary Tally for the iPad:

  • 99% of its users have no idea how it works. Magic! +1
  • We’ve forgotten about all naming associations with that other kind of pad. +1
  • The iPad hasn’t exactly penetrated the masses. Wired.com reports that iPad owners are six times more likely to be “wealthy, well-educated, power-hungry, over-achieving, sophisticated, unkind and non-altruistic 30-50 year olds.” That deserves a -1.
  • Everyone’s iPad predictions were wrong. In the months approaching Jobs’s keynote, most people were anticipating the release of a “tablet computer.” In fact, no one’s really sure what the iPad is, other than a category unto itself. As @hopkinsonreport addresses in a mid-airport tweet, “is the iPad more laptop or giant iPod touch? They don’t make you remove it at airport security. Verdict: giant iPod.” And we think this is a plus– a big plus. Apple understands what it means to be innovative. Apple gives us products that we didn’t know we wanted, that spur categories unto themselves, that are incomparable to other products. The iPad was supposed to be a tablet computer, and it’s not, and it’s not an iPod, and it’s not an eReader. The iPhone changed the way we interact with phones, and we think the iPad will change the way we interact with digital media. The iPad isn’t exactly transforming the way we interact with the digital space, it’s just making it easier and more fun to do it better. So, not knowing exactly what the iPad is? +3
  • It’s kind of hard to hold for a long time. -1
  • If “revolutionary” means transforming the competition — forcing everyone else to keep up — we think Apple’s succeeded. Since the launch of the iPad, Amazon has sold more e-books than hardcovers, which speaks volumes (pun!) about the growth of the e-reader category. They have also recently rolled out two lower-priced Kindles, a obvious attempt to differentiate themselves from the iPad and remain competitive. Win-win for consumers. +2
  • In terms of the iPad’s potential to be truly revolutionary, what has captured our attention from the beginning is the way that the iPad will manage to bring print media (magazines, newspapers, books) into a digital form in a way that is truly flawless and intuitive. As the NY Review of Books explains, the iPad is a device perfectly tuned to consume media a la a book, as opposed to producing media (like a laptop or blackberry). Sure, there will never be an experience that perfectly mimics the feeling of turning down the corner of a page, but the iPad takes us a whole lot closer than the laptop did. The iPad is a device for reading in bed, for holding next to your morning bowl of cereal, for flipping through blogs on the subway. Subscribing to magazines just got a whole lot cooler. We believe in print media, and we love that it is eager to evolve and is being given the tools it requires.  +1 for newspapers, +1 for magazines, +1 for books.
  • How magical is the iPad? Since no one seems to know exactly what it’s for (we think this the biggest challenge in marketing the device to the masses), it’s impressive how much it can do. In our opinion, the most magical thing about the iPad is its ability to transform. The iPad is a blank slate, which makes it a tool akin to a magic wand—it can pretty much do whatever developers ask it to do. Want some birthday candles? Here they are. You can even blow them out. Want to play the piano? Voila, a keyboard. Magic: pretty close. +3
  • Magical means that it can do anything, right? Yes, the iPad has the compelling ability to transform into just about anything you need it to be. But if the iPad is Superman, Flash is its Kryptonite…and Flash is everywhere. Let’s get personal for a minute: in the next month, we’re moving to a new apartment, and we’ve set aside a $500 entertainment/technology budget for our new digs. It’s no secret that we’re tech-obsessed, and for the past 3 months, there’s no device that’s seemed more appealing than the iPad. But now that it’s time to make the purchase, it comes down to iPad vs. television, and we’re not sure whether the iPad as a primary entertainment device would be worth it– even though we’re used to watching movies and TV exclusively on our computer. Almost all the websites that we use for video use Flash, not to mention it’s a major website design tool (Flash really is amazing—take a look at our www.umww.com for proof!) The lack of Flash support is a big enough problem that it might be a dealbreaker: -3

Totals:

+13: The iPad is as revolutionary as the iPhone, and as magical as a wizard named Harry.

-5: The iPad is as magic as Team Edward fans are vampires, and as revolutionary as LOLcats are memeworthy.

What do you think? Is the iPad as magical and revolutionary as it seems?

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