Apple released their much anticipated tablet on Wednesday and the blogosphere and Twitterverse are still feeling the aftershocks. The response has run the gamut from exuberance to total disappointment.
I will happily place myself in the excited camp but first a bit of background; I would not consider myself a convert to the cult of Apple as I have only ever owned an iPod from the Apple family of products. I’ve happily been a PC/Windows/Linux user since the early 90’s. Apple just didn’t provide enough flexibility for me, or game support, during my formative years. However, since they have entered the consumer electronics field with media players and more niche purpose devices with wide open capabilities I have found myself inching ever closer to their side.
I bought myself the second gen 15Gb iPod when it came out and haven’t bought one since as I don’t like their lock-in model and am much happier with the more open media players. However, I have purchased at least 5 different iPod devices for others as gifts. Why would I buy this device for others when I myself, as a techie, don’t like the product compared to other options? Because they work. Because I knew I wouldn’t spend hours supporting it after the wrapping paper came off.
To all the technophiles out there complaining about the lack of a built in camera, flash support, multitasking, or any of a hundred other wished for technological inclusions. YOU ARE NOT THE TARGET MARKET! Apple is brilliant in its ability to bring the least possible viable device to market. They make sure that what they do deliver is a well designed, well executed experience. They have released a device that will meet the 80% need and they will monitor developers and popular opinion to plan their iterative product development cycle so that we will happily buy the next version and the version after that. The iPad will be hacked in short order and those who want custom software will be able to have it. Like the iPhone, the iPad will sell to those who want a better [experience] than they currently have.
This is where the iPad will succeed. It will start out with the Apple faithful and, as new versions come out with the features that were wanted by the 20% at launch, older versions will make their way to the end tables of parents and grandparents as massively underutilized digital photo frames.
Last year I bought my grandparents a 10” digital photo frame for Christmas. The ugly, clunky user interface did barely more than allow me to navigate the file system. I will be very happy – in a year or two – to hand down my iPad to them so that they can see new photos as I upload them to Flickr instead of having to put them on an SD card and manually insert it into the frame.
The iPad will likely be the device that gets my grandparents to use email. They will still need some help with set-up but afterwards it will be intuitive. No more powering on, booting up, logging in, etc…
I see the iPad as a bridge device. A platform for innovation by the creative developer and a dead-simple media consumption device for end user. I see it as a way to open up digital access and media to an entire population of users that had previously given up on the Internet as too complicated.