Friday, April 30, 2010

"How do you like your iPad?"

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me that in the past few weeks, I could buy another iPad!

In the month or so since I got the machine, my most visceral observation is that it has one capability that was not listed in Steve Jobs' launch presentation or any of the marketing materials or advertising. It is the ability for people who see someone with an iPad to ignore all social norms and interrupt the user with the same freaking question, "How do you like your iPad?" or the corollary, "Do you love your iPad?", or the metro version of same, "Love it or hate it?"

Let's get something straight. It's an awesome machine. But I don't know you, I'm busy, and buying this machine did not come with an "interrupt me when I'm busy" sign attached to it.

Now that I've gotten this rant out of the way, let's get down to the particulars. The iPad is revolutionary device for two key reasons:

1. Emotional connection. It provides a much more intimate and emotional connection to digital content. Even with an email program that is much weaker than Outlook and a keyboard that is almost impossible to touch type with speed, I prefer interacting with this machine than my laptop. Sure, when I've got serious email processing to do, I will chose the laptop, but for the quick scan, the quick read or the quick reply, the iPad wins hands down. Same with tweets, web, newspaper or magazine content.

2. Instant access. From thought to access is very quick. Just like the iPhone, if you think of something you want, from a Wikipedia entry to a box score to a weather forecast to a recipe, the iPad is so quick to use. And the screen size is large enough that you don't pine for the greater fidelity of a computer monitor. This is PC quality access, available instantly.

Example: I'm a lifelong subscriber to the print version of the NY Times. Since moving to California, I've just gotten it on Sundays (and pay $30 / month for it, so you know I'm committed), and I'm THIS CLOSE to cancelling my print subscription in favor of the iPad app. As soon as they release an app that provides more complete access to the paper's content, I will finally pull the plug. The iPad passed the bathroom test with flying colors and the app appears to download nearly all the content when it initially runs, so I can read later, even without an Internet connection.

Which brings me to describe what the iPad is NOT:

1. A replacement for the TV. No way. I downloaded the Netflix app on the day the iPad launched, but I have yet to watch more than five minutes of streaming content through it. Who would want to hold a device to watch long form video? This is not a light device either. It's heavier than it looks and you don't want to hold it upright for more than 30 minutes.

2. A better book reader than the Kindle. Viewing content outside is challenging. The heaviness of the device is also very limiting. If you want to curl up with a book for a couple of hours, you'll end up with carpel tunnel. The page turn is cute, but doesn't make up for these consequential shortcomings.

3. A carry everywhere device. It's too big for any pocket or small purse. Also, that outside viewing thing is a drag. Even with 3G, I think the iPad should be rooted to place. Right now, I'm using it at home, taking it to work during the day, and occasionally bringing it with me in specific instances where I'm going to be inside and forced to occupy myself for longer stretches (i.e. waiting at the DMV).

What people by and large don't understand yet is that this is a new form of digital device that will someday be common and viewed as necessary for living the digital lifestyle. As more of our lives are accessible online, we will need more than an all purpose computer to serve our needs. I want the deniers to read and heed. You will have a multi-touch tablet in your home and consider it essential.