The iPad is not a computer
I waited a few days before writing about the iPad. Apple product launches tend to contain some surprises and I wanted a little time for reflection before commenting.
My considered opinion: the iPad is a revolutionary device, because it's not a computer. The iPad isn't for writing, it's for reading. It's not for making films, its for watching films. It's not for developing software, it's for using software. The iPad is a consumer device. What makes the iPad revolutionary is its single-minded focus on media consumption.
I imagine if I had an iPad I might use it to read a book in bed, or maybe to watch a movie. I might take it round to friends too show them my holiday snaps. I might use it to check my emails while making breakfast in the morning, and to read the newspaper in the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon. And, of course, I'll use it to keep up to date with my friends via Twitter and Facebook, and maybe read a few blog posts. I might even play some games on it. All of these are tasks that the iPad is well suited to.
It's worth remembering that many families, particularly in Europe and North America, have one or more computers at home. Many of these people don't make anything with their computers, they just consume content. For such people, an iPad is far more useful than a computer. It's small, it's light, it's simple, it does everything they need, and it just works.
Well, almost everything. I think there are a couple of things missing.
- How do I get my content onto the iPad? I have CDs that contain music, I take photos with my digital camera and video with a video camera? If I need a computer to get this content onto the iPad then I can't buy an iPad instead of a computer, I have to buy one as well as a computer. The minimum requirement is a USB connector and a SD card socket.
- The iPad doesn't appear to allow any web plug-ins. Plug-ins are fundamental to how the modern web works. Without plug-ins I can only use part of the web from my iPad. It'll be fairly easy for some sites to provide alternative solutions using HTML5, and there will be plenty of games available through the app store, so it may not matter much. But there's also a lot of good educational content on the web that is accessible only through Flash or Silverlight. If I have a family, I'll want my children to use this content from my iPad. I should be able to download plug-ins from the app store, just like any other software for the iPad.
I think the iPad will be very successful. Hardware add-ons will fix the connector issues. As for the web plug-ins, I wonder whether Apple will be forced to allow them in eventually or whether the web will be forced to adapt to the iPad. Only time will tell.
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