After almost 2 years of speculation, Apple Inc released their first product in a new category called the iPad.
With so much hype and anticipation, it was almost impossible for Steve Jobs and company to fulfill everyones expectation of what this device could/should be. It wasn’t very long before comparisons to other products began and folks started pointing out what they saw as shortcomings of the device. Voices from all over the interwebs quickly made comparisons to netbooks and others began calling it a “Bigger iPod Touch”.
First of all, for full disclosure purposes, I am an Apple follower. My primary job (employment) is taking care of over 100 Apple Macintosh computers and servers at a private school. I also own shares of Apple Inc. stock. That said, I have not yet tried the iPad, nor have seen it other than the pictures and videos that are scattered across the net.
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” – Steve Jobs
It’s not about what’s missing.
The internet is abuzz with everything that is missing from the iPad. It doesn’t have a camera. It’s to heavy. It doesn’t have HDMI. It doesn’t do multitasking, and so on. If we take a look back at 2007, the same thing happened with the iPhone.
The internet declared that features missing from the iPhone would lead to it’s doom. The iPhone circa 2007 had no 3G, no MMS, no copy/paste, no apps. Many predicted it would fail or that announced that they wouldn’t buy one because of these shortcomings. We all know how that turned out, right? The biggest thing to remember here is that in 2007, right after the announcement, NO ONE had even held one in their hands or tried one out. The demo units were all behind a glass. There were no sample units for anyone to touch.
Today we know that the iPhone was a huge success… a 40 million sold and growing kinda success. Yeah.
iPad like the iPod?
I think what some folks are feeling with the iPad is liken to my first notion of the iPod back in 2001. When Steve Jobs walked out on stage and introduced the iPod, I thought it was the stupidest thing for Apple to do. I really thought that Apple was losing it. “Why in the world did they bring out an mp3 player? And why is it so expensive?!” were my words before even trying it out. It was only after I reluctantly tried an iPod out in the Apple Store did I understand how cool it really was. The feel of it in my hands and the way it operated were just amazing. It was simple and elegant and I just had to have it. I bought it on the spot… and eventually so did millions of other people.
Update: Read forum reactions to Apple’s 2001 Announcement of the iPod and see if there are any similarities to today.
If you read the blogs of anyone that actually had hands on with the iPad yesterday, you know how each had their own opinions of the device before the hands on. It’s what they said or wrote after the hands on that really caught my attention. Almost all of them said it’s something you have to touch and experience to really understand. They also mentioned how fast it was!
I believe that this is one of those devices you’ll just have to try for yourself in order to understand what it means to you. Not reading about it. Not imagining what it’s like. Not watching videos of it, but actually using it with your own hands. It’s not about what features are missing. The things we feel are missing today, will be here before we know it. Then folks will move on to the next thing and this will happen all over again. No one is ever satisfied with tech, right?
What folks are missing
I think there are two things that most folks missed about Apple’s iPad announcement.
The first is that they are using their very own processor, the Apple A4. Why is this important? Apple now controls all the ingredients to their pie. They no longer have to rely on anyone else’s off the shelf microprocessor that might have specs that are “close” to what they are looking to use it for. Instead, they built a custom made one just for the iPad. By fabricating a chip set of their own, they can now control the speed, the battery life and just about any of the intricacies that might have been limiting using an off the shelf processor from Intel or anyone else. Apple’s R&D will pay off because I do not think there is any other mobile device maker that actually controls all of the pieces of what they make the way Apple does. From industrial design, to the OS, then the battery and now the processor. Apple controls it all to bring an elegant user experience.
I can only imagine that Apple will be fabricating their own chip set for the next iPhone and iPod Touch. The Apple A4 was a huge step forward and probably one of the most important announcements that was overlooked yesterday.
Second is the iPad OS. Sure it might look just like what you’re used to in an iPhone but it goes even deeper now. Whether you know it or not, the iPad is preparing you for the future of computing. The iPhone and iPad do something that I didn’t even notice at first. It obscures the entire file system from you. The user experience is so well thought out that you don’t even bother to worry about where your files are stored, unlike in a regular computer. We spend less time worrying about files and more time using the device.
Thinking about this made me realize that the iPad is exactly what a lot of people want. A computer that does the things easily and elegantly; without fear or worry that you’ll mess something up. The iPad OS is so nice, I think even my grandparents could use it without much trouble. There are no discs to install, no virus to be afraid of, no files to accidentally misplace. It just does what it’s meant to do. This to me, is the future of computing… where the abstraction of the underlying “computer” is removed from the user experience. Perhaps one day, computers as we know them today will be only for professionals who need file level access to do their jobs.
Lastly, yes, I am getting one. I don’t have to touch it to know that this is the next step in mobile computing. I am not entirely sure where the iPad will take me, but I’m going to find out.
Editors note: This article originally appeared on my personal blog but i thought it fit here as well.