It’s been long overdue, but I’m going on the record here and now to say how I think about the matter. I think the Apple iPad is a great idea. Do I own one of the first 300,000 iPads? No, I do not. Do I plan to get one? Probably not. So why do I say that a product I do not own, nor do I plan to purchase, is a great idea?
Two words: Star Trek.
One of the reasons I love sci-fi is that the genre (be it the written word or in film/tv) is an opportunity for the thinker to wonder, “What if?” with a technological angle. What would life be like if….. and you finish the thought. You throw in technology there, and it’s a chance to dream about what the future could be.
Remember the 2002 film MinorityReport? Everyone loves that holographic touch interface that Tom Cruise used. Pretty neat, eh? Well, scientists and engineers at Oblong have been working on a gesture-based interface right now. Check out the sample videos in the previous link and you’ll see Oblong’s interface in action. And don’t get me started on the personalized advertising, the changeable newspapers, and other technology in that film, because companies have been yammering about that for a while.
Remember cars in the pretty-forgettable 1993 movie Demolition Man? Sandra Bullock was riding that electric car that actually drove itself? With the built-in radar and self-parking features in cars today, the electric car industry in nascent stages, and heck, I read people are testing cars that have computers that will drive them all safely in close proximity, isn’t that eerily similar? Is it decades from now? Probably? But you can imagine that we might be heading towards that path.
There are countless others to mention in the annals of sci-fi literature and film, but you get the idea. Now, the iPad. Uh, yeah, call this a dumb reference, but Star Trek afficionados have seen a computing tablet (original Star Trek series) or PADD (TNG, DS9, VOY) in various Star Trek movie or series. It’s a great concept, and you could easily see yourself using something just like it in real life.
So back to the Apple iPad and the year 2010. Granted, it’s basically a table PC, but sleeker and easier to use, which makes it leaps and bounds better than the Windows Tablet PCs that have not been popular with consumers. Is the iPad perfect? No. I think it should have multitasking, but lo and behold, Apple announced today that multitasking (via a software update) will be available later this year.) It would be nice to have a webcam, but that might be featured in Generation 2. The price is high, but those may come down in successive generations, much like the iPhone did.
So why didn’t I get one so far? It’s too expensive, and I can live without it. However, that doesn’t mean I would never get it. I love the surfing-from-the-couch ability. The idea that I could read my favorite magazines on the train or bus or airport all in one slim tablet. That I could watch movies and shows easily and in a larger screen. It’s all about the versatility and how this device and form-factor can fit into your life and improve it.
From what I’ve read and seen videos of, it’s not geeks or adults who are enjoying the iPad the most. It’s people’s kids who are using it, and are fascinated with some piano app and the vibrant colors of the drawing apps. When you as an adult see some kid enjoying it, you start to be awed, and begin thinking about getting one for your kids too. The entire viral marketing campaign and word-of-mouth interest has been less geek-driven, and more family-oriented. That makes me think, “Wow, cool.” Not only have I read about it, I have a perfect example. My old coworker and friend Jenny Cu got one for her young son, and the kid loves it.
Finally, below is a CNET video of Dan Ackerman showing off the new Netflix app for the iPad. I think it’s pretty fantastic, and after seeing this yourself, you tell me how you wouldn’t enjoy Netflix in your lap in your free time.