Apple iPad – Home Run or Strikeout? Part 3: Criticism

If you have been following the coverage of the iPad announcement, you will have noticed quite a bit of negative commentary regarding the iPad – along with the positive reviews to be sure. Some people are surprised by this, considering all the hype leading up to the iPad introduction. Certainly, many more people now pay attention to the tech market than they did when the iPhone was introduced. They likely don’t recall the same type of negative press that the iPhone received 3 years ago. Now, as then, most of the negative remarks seem to be coming from people who are not the apparent target market of the new device or who simply don’t get what the new device, in this case the iPad, represents.

I’ll admit that as the iPad was being introduced, I was disappointed that it would not run Mac OS X applications. I was hoping the iPad would be a hybrid Touch OS/Mac OS X device. That was the technical user in me doing the thinking. But as I kept listening and began to grasp what the iPad could do and how people will make use of it, I realized that this was not a real issue at all.

The first thing to understand is that the iPad is not going to be a suitable replacement for many users’ desktop or laptop computers. It should be pretty clear that the iPad is a new type of device. While it is a computer, it is not a “general purpose” computer like we know today, but rather more of an “appliance”, as I described in my previous article. For most users, the iPad will do everything they need and a lot of what they want. But for other users, especially highly technical users, the iPad can not (at least not yet) do everything they need and want.

Now keep in mind that these types of users are not the target market of the iPad. However, they are the ones complaining the loudest about the iPad. Because users who are more technically-inclined are also more likely to write articles or post complaints on the Internet, it seems to slant a lot of the coverage of the iPad in a negative fashion.

The same thing happened with the iPhone. A lot of commentators downplayed the iPhone and many technical users focused on perceived flaws of the phone. Of course, none of that mattered as the mainstream public fell in love with the device and the rest is history. It seems very likely that the same thing is going to happen with the iPad, especially considering that the new device already has the momentum of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the Apple App store to begin with.

Ironically, many of the technical users who are complaining about the iPad simply don’t get what the iPad can represent to them. These users appear to have the perception that Apple is trying to convince them to replace their existing computers with iPads. As I explained above, this isn’t the case. And by taking this attitude, they are blinding themselves to a very important idea. The iPad can be a great augmentation to their existing technology – if not for themselves, for their families. Consider a household with a general purpose computer for the more technical needs of a family and then a few iPads for the rest. The iPads can be picked up for quick use, satisfying the Internet needs and other digital media functions that most average users need a computer for. I predict that even highly technical users will begin to appreciate the iPad for those impulsive computing needs where their desktop or even laptop is not convenient or accessible.

For example, my wife and I for years have talked about some sort of computing device that would live in our kitchen. We often have wished we could look up recipes while in the middle of meal-making. While a laptop can sort of fill in that need, it is not an ideal device to have in a kitchen environment. Aside from the risk of spilling food or liquid on an expensive device, the keyboard and mouse interface is simply not convenient when your hands are busy preparing food. Consider an iPad that is mounted on some sort of arm and/or protected in a food-proof case similar to what is available for iPhones. This could be exactly the device we’ve been waiting for. Certainly I am a highly technical user. I’m not considering replacing my laptop with an iPad. However, I can certainly see myself using an iPad in many situations, such as the one I describe in the kitchen.

Finally, there are those users who are going to resist change for any reason and fight tooth-and-nail against it. While I don’t agree with their viewpoints, I can understand that many people feel threatened by change and also the idea that much of the knowledge they posses in the current computing environment may be made irrelevant by new advancements. I could write a great deal about this, but instead I direct you to this article that sums up my thoughts on the topic almost exactly. The author basically lays down an argument that the “old world” of computing (i.e. computers as we know them today) are giving way to a “new world” of computing (in which he basically describes my idea of appliance computing). I especially like the way he describes that new world computers are focused on the 80% of the 80/20 rule. This is precisely why the iPad will be successful. The 80% will love the device, no matter how much the 20% complain about it. I highly encourage you to read this article.

So bottom line, if you hear or read negative comments about the iPad, keep in mind the viewpoint of the commentator. Are they a technical user who fits the above profile I describe? If so, take what they say with a grain of salt. While it is often a good idea to listen to people who have more knowledge about a particular topic, in this situation their old world 20% viewpoint may not be relevant if you are a new world 80% user.

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