Is the iPad for Dumb People?

I did not expect to like the iPad. I didn’t even expect Apple would create a tablet. The ergonomics of such a device never made sense to me. I couldn’t get over the lousy text input methods or the inevitable nuisance of holding it at all times. Plus the idea of navigating Mac OSX with your finger just seemed silly. Then the iPad was demoed, and it all made sense.

Apple didn’t set out to create a tablet as other companies had in the past, the same way they didn’t set out to create a phone the same way every other company had in the past. They set out to fundamentally change the way we interact with our computers.

More on the iPad in a bit, but first some background.

I used to build computers from parts when I was 12. I would obsess over the most stable motherboards, geek out on, finding the latest nVidia graphics cards, and study CPU benchmarks seeking the best price to performance ratio of AMD and Intel chips. All that was fun, it was a hobby, but it eventually became a chore. Reformatting and dealing with incompatibilities became frustrating once I had real work to get done. Always a PC guy, I thought Macs were for dumb people — people who couldn’t figure out computers. I overcame this prejudice when I was heading off to college and decided to buy a Mac notebook, because I didn’t want to have to deal with reformatting my windows PC every 6 months and I didn’t want to be chained to my desk anymore.

After a short time with my Mac I came to appreciate the affordances Macs makes for everyday tasks, it was as if the designers actually thought about the common things people do with their computers and really polished those flows. It was during this time that I stopped worrying about the details of my computer and worried more about what I could accomplish with it: browsing the web, listening to music, doing email, and writing papers.

Fast forward a few years and I get an iPhone. The iPhone changed the way I interact with my digital stuff. Being able to access email, music, restaurant reviews, the internet, Twitter, and the like anywhere and everywhere was surreal. I take it for granted now, but I never worry about being disconnected anymore, and I certainly don’t think about what processor powers my iPhone or when (if ever) it should be reformatted. It is natural, intuitive, and gets out of the way. I can do what I want without thinking about the “computer” that the tiny device actually is.

The iPad is the next step. It takes the ideals of the Mac to their logical end. We have been stuck with a windowing UI environment for more than 30 years. It is time for change. It is time for computing to leave behind the last remaining vestiges of geekdom. Apple has seen that multi-touch interfaces are more natural and intuitive and that with iTunes and the App Store they can deliver media and apps to people quickly and easily.

I will buy an iPad because I want the most essential way to get things done. I want the most polished and optimized experience for the tasks I want to accomplish. Apple will provide many of these, but 3rd party developers will fill the void with remarkable apps too, I have no doubt of that. I expect that all of the tasks I do at home will work even better on the iPad than on my notebook, and they will be more enjoyable to boot. It may take a few iterations of the device and software before I use an iPad at work, but I expect in time that day will come.

The iPad is where Apple wants computing to go. It is focused, elegant, and simple. It’s philosophy is centered around humans, not technology. It challenges us to rethink our assumptions of what it means to use a computer and what it takes to be productive with them. There will be resistance, of that I am sure, I expect many people will feel the way I did years ago towards Macs thinking the iPad is for “dumb people”, people who can’t handle a real computer. The iPad isn’t for dumb people, it is for people who don’t want to think about their computer anymore. And I can’t wait to join that group.