I happened to be on vacation when the iPad was announced. I was in Florida for a week of R&R. Being this far from home (3000 miles from Portland, OR) and leaving my laptop at home afforded me two unique perspectives on the device.
The first perspective had to do with my 83 year old grandmother. For years when we came down she would ask if she should get a computer. Finally last year we bought her one. I thought she’d use it for two main things: Skype to see her great grand daughters and a browser to read the blog I write about my girls. The computer, when I arrived last week, was sitting exactly where I left it the year before. Even though I wrote her detailed instructions and practiced with her, she’s still afraid of it.
And honestly I can’t blame her. When I turned it on all these dialog boxes popped up, upgrade notices, app upgrades and the like. Even I felt overwhelmed.
I think, in the not-too-distant future, the iPad will be perfect for her. Initially it’d be a great device for seeing the web site. And later, as Apple adds a camera, it’ll be perfect for video conferencing. It’s simple to use: no right mouse clicks, no dialog boxes popping up at her, none of the things that makes computers so scary.
The second realization occurred on my way home. We had a 5+ hour flight home and I usually pack multiple books, mp3 player, etc. I’ve also been working on both product and business plans. The ability to conveniently carry all the things I need in one system that could go the whole trip is extremely exciting to me. No guessing what I’ll be in the mood for 3 hours in, I’d just have it! Feel like reading? It’s there. Have a product idea? I can write it down. Burned out? I can watch a movie or play a game.
I’m very excited. I’ve wanted a device like this for a decade, seeing it as a great way to read books and PDF documents. I thought about Kindle but it doesn’t handle PDF well and… well, I didn’t know why.
Now I do. Kindle felt like a compromise. The iPad, based on spec and videos, is so much closer to the right device. I’ll be in line early when it is released.
A side note: Clayton Christensen writes about disruptive and sustaining technologies. When a new product enters an existing market, often times that new product feels like a toy to the incumbents. Compared to laptops — for people who are in the tech business — the iPad is a toy. But to those not in the market — many consumers who are either frustrated with the experience of PCs or those who haven’t bought one — the new product is extremely appealing. And over time that new product gets more and more powerful. This is how DEC, IBM and the like felt about Microsoft, Apple and Intel in the beginning, too.