I have no business buying an iPad. Not for what it is.
In a previous version of this post, I had a lengthy bit here explaining why the iPad isn’t the right device for me. Ultimately though, that’s not the point of this post, so suffice it to say this: I have two (2) 15 inch Macbook Pros, an OG Kindle, a netbook running OS X, and an iPhone. I always have at least three of these with me. I am not in need of an iPad away from home. At home, I want to IM and browse the web at the same time, which the iPad will not allow me to do efficiently. It sucks.
Basically, I have no need for an iPad. But it would appear that I just bought one today. Here’s why: I believe in Apple’s revolution.
It’s pretty clear why the tech community is so confused over the iPad: they’re not the target demographic. At least, not yet. This is the computer for everyone. It’s the Internet device for those of us that are terminally afraid of the Internet. It’s arguably the most intuitive user interface imaginable. You manipulate it with your hands. You don’t have to worry about what programs you’re running. You don’t have to worry about installing software. Hell, you don’t have to even know what a file is to run this thing. This (relatively) ultra-cheap machine wraps up everything a starting computer user needs in a sandboxed, on-rails experience with an insane amount of polish. And this is all made possible simply by making a larger iPod Touch.
But, of course, that’s not a legitimate reason for me to purchase an iPad. Rather, it’s the things we couldn’t yet see a few months ago, and even now can’t fully see that are so compelling.
Take print. The Kindle was a brilliant product. I own one. You can purchase a book, and in moments be reading it. You can carry your entire library with you. And yet, it does absolutely nothing to revolutionize the concept of books, or the concept of print. Indeed, if anything it’s a suboptimal experience in nearly every way. The pages are smaller. It’s got 4 shades of grey, so forget about nice images, let alone magazines. Turning pages is at times torturously slow—let alone video. And, for $10 per book, the whole experience is entirely unceremonious. It feels very much like you’re paying a somewhat unreasonable amount of money for a pile of words on a screen, simply because it’s such a bare-minimum experience. There’s little to no pride of ownership—I often bring up the fact that I like a shelf full of books to fellow Kindle owners, and it always elicits the same sad, wistful response. With the Kindle, your shelf is a list of titles.
Contrast. There are already the most amazing demos coming out of how incredibly rich the reading experience can be on the iPad. Magazines don’t just show up in full, beautiful color, with the layout their designers intended for them: they move, and breathe, and interact. Forget the moving pictures in newspapers in Harry Potter’s world. Hell, forget that demo I just linked you. Watch the “Enter Seadragon” segment of this somewhat famous demo. See what they do with print. Imagine that in your hands.
And, with design as important as it is to Apple, your books get the treatment they deserve. They aren’t just a bundle of text, they have a proper showcase. It’s simple. It’s honestly the most inane thing that I could care about. And yet, it goes such a long ways toward instilling that pride of ownership that is so important to users trying to accept digital distribution. In the end, design matters.
And I think that’s why I’m buying the iPad. There are a ton of different other things I was going to cover—the fact that, unbelievably, Apple actually seems to be succeeding in killing Flash (who would have thought, a year ago?), something which will live on as one of Apple’s top five achievements of the past decade, or the incredible experiences people are already coming up with. But they’re extraneous points. The real reason I think I bought one is because it’s the ultimate validation—nay, vindication—of what graphics and experience designers have known all along; indeed, of what Apple has known all along.