What Tech Nerds Think About The iPad

The 60 days between the end of January and Saturday have given us, and other really smart people, a lot of time to think about the iPad and what it means.

The Revolution Will Be Simplified The predominant strain of philosophical thought amongst pro-Pad punditry is that it's the computer revolution we've been waiting for since the original Macintosh introduced the world to the desktop. It's the computer that's finally going to tear all of that down, a Raskian revolution of the simple, not the complex. Cue Woz, "It's like a restart. We all say we want things to be simpler. All of a sudden we have this simple thing."

Steven Levy, the thinking man's tech writer, says it's the first computer that's really made for the way our world is now:

It represents an ambitious rethinking of how we use computers. No more files and folders, physical keyboards and mouses. Instead, the iPad offers a streamlined yet powerful intuitive experience that's psychically in tune with our mobile, attention-challenged, super-connected new century.

Where's the Flash Support and USB Port? This is a far cry from what the masses bellowed, echoing our resident smarmy-but-actually-washed guy:

If this is supposed to be a replacement for netbooks, how can it possibly not have multitasking?...This is the same big, ugly touchscreen keyboard we've seen on other tablets....widescreen movies look lousy on this thing thanks to its 4:3 screen...Flash will leave huge, gaping holes in websites.

If You Don't Love It, You Don't Get It The smart guy response to anyone pointing out the lack of an orifice for USB cables is that they don't get it, as developer Fraser Speirs dismissed the wave of disappointment:

What you're seeing in the industry's reaction to the iPad is nothing less than future shock…The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get 'real work' done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the 'real work'.

Touching Is Believing The clearest gulf between believers and non-believers, very simply, is whether or not they've used the iPad. People who've used the iPad are a select group, obviously picked by Apple, this is true. But the divide is stark. Total conviction, like Dan Lyons, aka Fake Steve Jobs:

Yet my first thought, as I watched Jobs run through his demo, was that it seemed like no big deal. It's a bigger version of the iPod Touch, right? Then I got a chance to use an iPad, and it hit me: I want one. Like the best Apple products, the user interface is so natural it disappears.

Or Om Malik, from GigaOm:

The minute I touched the iPad at the Apple event a few weeks ago, I knew my world and my idea of computing had been transformed, irrevocably and irreversibly.

Just contrast their feelings with noted mobile gadget dude, James Kendrick from jkOnTheRun, who didn't handle one, but wrote immediately after the announcement:

The iPad doesn't offer anything that makes it a must-have gadget, and that's the issue that confronts Apple in driving the adoption of it for most people.

No Really, What's the Point? But it's worth asking, why were some people utterly disappointed? Why doesn't everybody see what these digerati see, that the iPad will change everything, that it's the future of computing? Well, it's not very obvious from Apple actually showed the world. You know, it looks a lot like just a big iPhone.

As gdgt's Ryan Block relates:

I'm still really excited to spend some time with the iPad, but I'm not sold on tablets as a 'third device.' And that's not even necessarily Apple's fault, I just think tablets live in a nether region where you lose many of the best qualities of both handhelds and productivity devices. Watching movies and browsing the web on tablets is great—and on the iPad I think it'll be phenomenal—but that isn't an everyone-in-the-world-must-have-this kind of experience.

Even amongst the believers, the existential question is not open and closed. In fact, most would contend (like me) that we don't know how it's really going to be used yet, but that's part of the point. As Daring Fireball's John Gruber (very much a believer) told me via email:

I don't think Apple knows exactly what the iPad is going to be popular for yet. For example, it could be that iBooks never really takes off—that Amazon is right and e-ink is the right form factor for long-form book reading. But yet the iPad could still prove immensely popular for something else, like watching movies and TV shows.

What people expected, or rather, what they hoped for, was something truly radical, a device they couldn't have possibly imagined. Even people who were at the keynote initially felt a numb sense of disappointment, a dull sensation of having really known all along what Apple would reveal, a hole in their stomach where there should've been shock and delight.

It's Very Closed in Here The iPad's potential lies entirely in what developers and content producers create for it, in other words. So the other crisis, the other philosophical BIG PROBLEM that emerged as a strain amongst the thinking nerds, is the future of computing in this vein, though a very Zen garden of natural simplicity, is one that's closed, not open. And that's a terrible loss, as Googler Mark Pilgrim puts it:

Once upon a time, Apple made the machines that made me who I am. I became who I am by tinkering. Now it seems they're doing everything in their power to stop my kids from finding that sense of wonder. Apple has declared war on the tinkerers of the world.

A corollary argument is that it's essentially incapable of being used to create content, that "For creative people, this device is nothing". The counter, proffered by our own dear Joel, "Well guess what? Only shade-tree tweakers give a flip about creating their own tools. Most people want to use the quality tools at hand to create something new." And indeed, our first peek at apps suggest there's going to be a fair bit of software toolage to create things.

Computing for Everybody, Really Which brings me to a fascinating point raised by Ultimi Barbarorum and echoed in the quote below in the Economist, ultimately looping us back to the beginning: It's the first Apple computer that's affordable to the middle class in China, which is beginning to lust after premium-styled products:

The iPad's simple, touch-based interface could appeal to people who find existing computers too complex, or people buying a computer for the first time in the developing world.

Imagine computing for the masses, on a brand new scale.

Truth be told, the real masses could be thinking something else entirely, come Saturday. But that's a whole three days away.



    there are still two things wrong with the Ipad:

    firstly, it is just missing features for no good reason. like flash and multitasking. make no mistake, Iphone OS is and always has been a fully fledged multi threaded, multi tasking OS, they have just hid the interface to manipulate multiple apps at once. this may be justified by the small screen but that justification somewhat diminishes when you get something the size of the ipad. it has windows and everything now, there is really no reason not to have it. sure, it adds complexity, but no one is FORCING noobs to use it! why not just have it there! also, "it adds to much complexity" sounds like a cop out to me for the apparent 'interface kings' figure out a way to make it not complicated!

    and not having flash... why not? it should be more than capable of running it, and again, ok fine, so some flash objects are dodgy and crash, and it reduces battery life, but fine! still give us the option!! let us click on the blank space where the object would be to activate it!! why not???

    the second issue is, no matter how good it is, its still just a tablet with a good interface, there is nothing revolutionary about it. the closest thing you could call revolutionary about it is the price. with the advent of fast mobile chips, you can now have one of these for a good price. but still. do you really need a tablet? more to the point, do you really need a tablet when you are the target audience Steve is after? someone who already has a laptop and a smart phone? I'm fairly certain the answer is NO. don't get me wrong, you might WANT one. but do you NEED one? you NEED a laptop, and you NEED a phone a lot more than you need an ipad. it is, at least for these "3rd device" people, a luxury item, no matter the cost.

      I completely agree. However there are some larger, corporate issues when it comes to Apple and Adobe. It's all pretty lame...

      Bring on the Courier and HP Slate!

      Excellent post.

      I think a lot of haters are haters because they look at the device and see it as crippled for no good reason.

      Like I've said before, I'll wait for version 2.

      The version where they add all the things they said they you didn't need and tell you how awesome they are to have included it now.

      Pay up!

    I think the problem is viewpoint. If you are a techie and lust after dimensions, bigger, better, more powerful, more lifelike. You will not find it here.

    My iPhone does not do all the things a 4 year old Windows Mobile does, but what it does do it does 50 times easier and better than Windows Mobile. So much better that the first time I picked up one I was like, forget multitasking, this thing is a new paradigm in usability. Forget MMS, who needs it when e-mail works and is integrated properly. Who needs copy and paste! I still barely use it now. It makes the interface more complex and harder to use. I think they should have left it off. I think it was better before.

    I am pretty sure I could give an iPad to my Mum, who can barely work her Windows Vista computer, and to her it would be a revelation. You mean I don't have to squint and remember 50 repetitive mouse clicks to reply to an e-mail?

    The iPad will not replace laptops, it will not replace phones, not for everybody. It may replace them for a vast number of people, more likely it will create a need all of it's own.

      Leaving out features does not always make a device simpler or easier to use. Aside from the obvious issues running OS3, Apple's choice to not include USB ports sucks! It's simply Apple disregarding the standards of computing in favour of proprietary connections.

      All this will result in is a complete slew of third-party adapters, splitters, etc. This is not a easy or simple solution. It's a much easier and simple solution to include two USB ports and let people plug in what they want.

      Reading your comment sort of highlights the bizarre viewpoint of Apple consumers.

      Why forget multitasking? Why forget MMS? Why forget copy and paste?

      These are all genuinely useful features.

      Sure doing things Apple's way is great, but, what is the reason for giving up genuinely good features that we've been using for years.

      The way I see it, if they included the best from existing ideas, Apple's way of doing things wouldn't be great - it'd be awesome.

    Stuff the eBooks, comic book reader!!

    You NEED laptop. Actually, you don't. You MIGHT need a netbook, but if all you want to do is browse the internet, then even that is a little over kill.

    If your major amount of internet is email, facebook and twitter (or instant messaging), then you certainly don't need a laptop...maybe a life, but not a laptop. Hell, most decent phones now days do most of this, but something about a laptop size would make life easier.

    Sure flash would be nice. But to be frank, I'd be happy without it (a lot less ads to start with...hmmm, now that makes me think...).

    I don't think the ipad is so much about a hardware revolution as it is about a interface resolution (I don't mean the UI, but the way we personal interface with technology).

    The ipad is missing alot, but it's suppose to, as has been shown here, no one actually knows what people will do with it. Apple is waiting to see what people really want from it and then, as they usually do, will produce upgrades for it.

    Personally, I'd like to see a SD slot built in, but I also know many people who simply won't use it, but it would at least free up the 30 pin dock for other things...what IR built in!?

    The only other tablet that might be of interest is the HP tablet, but this could simply be jerk knee reaction on the part of ms and hp to apple and poor ms has not had the best history with these type of devices.

    What would really sell me beyond anything else, is the freedom to install on it what I want to, without been interfered with by some other vendor or the need to be tied into a single jack of all trades, master of none, market place.

      Ahh... The HP Slate was confirmed waaaay before the iPad...

      HP Slate was announced quite awhile before the iPad.

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