1. iPad: A shift

    brian on 2010.01.29
    at 12:40 am

    The Apple iPad

    There’s a lot of talk every time Apple releases a new product. The vast majority of that judgement comes without ever having seen or touched the new product. Hey, I can do that too.

    I almost wasn’t going to share my thoughts after reading Jeff Croft’s blog post about the iPad this morning. But I’m hardly one to be shy.

    I think the iPad is the future of the PC. Period. Looking at the specs, it’s easy to dismiss the iPad as just an up-sized iPhone. The fact of the matter is, it basically is. So how is “now” equal to “the future”? The answer, lies in Japanese mobile phone habits.

    In Japan, a majority of people count their mobile phone as their primary computing device. Their phones are typically capable of many more things than your typical handset. Until the iPhone went on sale in Japan, non-Japanese phones sold very poorly in the that market, because they couldn’t handle the day-to-day computing that people had become accustom to. For the past ten years, the mobile web has been a part of daily life for many Japanese.

    Phone use varies quite a bit from culture to culture, as this fascinating Economist feature discusses. The Japanese culture has little personal space, and has strict social rules on where you can talk on your phone. People were practically driven to their handsets for their personal computing and communication needs.

    The American market is very different from other markets, for several reasons. Compared to Japan, we’re not constrained by the same societal norms. Plus, mobile data plans have been expensive here, when compared to Japan. Landline telephones which are generally more reliable and less costly than mobile phones are near ubiquitous. Many households have multiple computers with high speed connections, and many people have high-speed connections on PCs at work, as well. Up until now, people haven’t seen a need to use the mobile web.

    Then the iPhone hit. In the nearly four years from its initial release, the iPhone’s success has been phenomenal. Currently, by my math, one in every ten new phones sold in the U.S. are an iPhone. A mobile web has sprung up almost overnight in the U.S., and the iPhone gives you able access to most non-mobile sites. My mother-in-law, someone you would not expect to have a mobile computing device, bought one today. She joins all three of her daughters with iPhones.

    The U.S. is following in the steps of the Japanese market, although for different reasons. People here are slowly moving to mobile devices as their primary computing devices, they just might not yet realize it yet. One big draw back is screen size. There are many applications where mobile screen size really puts a crimp in your productivity. The iPad, with its 1024×768 resolution, shown with a 163ppi display density, addresses this. Unless you are editing video, audio or photos, or are a hard core gamer (most people are not), you can probably accomplish all your daily computing on an iPad. And then, Apple has added in the capability to replace any newspaper, magazine or book habits you may have in a manner a traditional PC can’t quite match.

    This change over dawned on me earlier today when I was reading someone’s dismissal of “all the things an iPad can’t do”. This thought entered my mind,

    Most people need less done well, not more done poorly.

    Yeah, a netbook can run a full installation of Windows (and all that comes with it), and some can even be hacked into running Mac OS X. But that doesn’t matter. Most average users don’t need all that, they probably use 5% of their machine’s capabilities… and most of that is email and web surfing. The iPad can do all that with applomb. In fact, the consensus report from the few people who have touched an iPad is that it surfs the web with startling speed.

    Some geeks are complaining that the restrained iPhone OS is running the show. But Apple doesn’t care because this device is not intended to be as flexible as a PC. It’s meant to be a computing appliance; it turns on instantly, does a few things very well, and is immensely convenient and comfortable.

    My prediction is that in 5 years, many people with simple computing needs will use an iPad (or like devices) as their primary computing device. This is a large part of the general population. They may have full-fledged PCs at work, but for their basic needs, an iPad will be plenty.

    The U.S. has many, many multi-PC households. In the next five years, you’ll see many of those move to a situation with one main computer, perhaps an iMac, and several iPads for the family. These families will include people who take a lot of video or photos as a hobby, who have a need for an editing machine. The savviest families will have all their media in a central, networked place, easily accessible by other household devices. But much of the time, they won’t need a lot of processing power, large display or a full-fledged operating system. They’ll just want to check their email, Facebook or look up a recipe. For that, they’ll have an iPad handy.

    The iPad follows the Apple recipe for cultural success. It combines existing technology, expertly curated to accomplish specific tasks very well piped through unbeatable interface and experience design. The package is wrapped in impeccable industrial design, which belies the complexity inside. The result is another device an average person can comfortably curl up with.

    With apologies to HP’s recent marketing, Apple has again made personal computing more personal.

    Posted in: Apple · Technology


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