iPad as usable, non-programmer-oriented computing

January 30, 2010 — 4 Comments

I don’t particularly want an iPad. I do use macs – macbookpro, iMac and iPhone – but that’s because I do video editing and a lot of writing, and my favourite applications (Marsedit, Sohonotes, Quicksilver, Fluid, Scrivener, Omniplan, Final Cut Studio) make what I do a lot easier. But the main reason I don’t want an iPad is that I’m not the target market.

I use an iPhone because it does everything I need for a mobile computing device – phone calls, email, IM, social networking, note management, audio recording, photos and music. I prefer the iPhone keyboard to Blackberry because I have big hands, and the touchscreen works better than the cramped Blackberry. The interface makes sense to me better – the Blackberry interface is awful.

A lot of the criticisms of the iPhone strike me as a bit odd. Sure, there’s no multitasking – but apart from a few cases like running a chat client, that’s actually not really an issue. I have a dozen apps open at all times on my mac when I’m working, but I don’t do web development on my phone. The battery life is crap but manageable – and substantially better than a netbook.

That said, I have three main computing needs: mobile device, mid range video/project management/writing, and heavy duty video/compositing. The iPad doesn’t fit into that matrix, all my needs are taken care of. What I’m finding is that a lot of the critiques of the iPad are coming from people whose computing needs are covered – which is not where the demand for the iPad is going to come from. It’s going to come from people whose computing needs are not covered – people who are not technically oriented, who want a usable, simple, trusted computing option that is easy to use, easy to install software on, and one that doesn’t have to be concerned with viruses.

While some of Joanne Jacobs’ critiques are valid the demand for the iPad won’t be comparable to the smartphone market – the demand will come from the market identified here: people who’ve been sidelined by computer design by nerds, for nerds.

Far too often the demands for computer freedom have been dominated by a notion of software freedom that only make sense to programmers. Computer freedom is also about the freedom to use the technology. That’s the market the iPad is going to serve. Computing pundits and free software advocates need to start thinking about how people actually do use computers – or, in many cases, simply don’t. It’s indicative that people are condemning the lack of multitasking when people who are interested in buying one don’t care about multitasking.

If the iPad and its successor devices free these people to focus on what they do best, it will dramatically change people’s perceptions of computing from something to fear to something to engage enthusiastically with. I find it hard to believe that the loss of background processing isn’t a price worth paying to have a computer that isn’t frightening anymore.

I can actually see my parents using an iPad. And that is revolutionary.

4 responses to iPad as usable, non-programmer-oriented computing

  1. 

    You may be right, but I’d argue that *Apple* think you *are* the target market. They are dividing their product range by:
    -Communication devices (iPhone)
    - Productivity devices (Macbook + desktop)
    - Peripherals (highest growth area including everything from docks to usb conversion devices)
    - Content devices (iPod, iPad).

    You have all the above *except* the iPad. What Jobs wants is for Apple fans to accumulate more and more devices (and to update frequently).

    My bet is your parents won’t use that iPad you buy for them. They’ll rather buy a paper and watch a tv. You, however, will find your iPod Touch is not as good as the idle iPad sitting at your parents’ place for reading the latest copy of some tech mag. You will suddenly find the iPad in your possession.

    And THEN you’ll hate the lack of multitasking a pain as you read your blogs and can’t even tag posts to Delicious.

    Cheers,
    jj

  2. 

    > only the first two
    > maybe, but remember that the iphone’s success was reaching a market that was 1) not mac fans and 2) not necessarily smartphone fans
    > well, maybe. But they don’t have a computer, and they’re interested in this newfangled ‘email’ thing.
    > http://blog.delicious.com/blog/2008/01/using-delicious-on-your-iphone.html

  3. 

    Well said Barry. I’ve read some right tosh from Geeks on twitter and elsewhere over the last few days on the subject. By their comments, you know they want it, but they want it on their terms. Unfortunately, their terms are not something which can be sold to the ‘masses’

  4. 

    Thats me either. a non programmer class but need powerful toys.

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