Living in a digital world

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Why the iPad is a hands-down winner

Perceiving myself as a non Apple fanboy, and a tech-loving neutral, I’ve tried to hold off entering into the iPad debate, but much of the venom directed at Apple and its latest incredible device is so ill-conceived that I can’t help weighing in with my point of view. So here are a few thoughts:

1. iPad versus other tablets/slates (or Apple win)

It would be idiotic to suggest that the iPad is the be all and end all of tablet devices. Technology moves on and at some point somebody will develop a better device than the iPad (it may even be Apple themselves). But for now the iPad is hands-down the best tablet device and will stay so for a long time (minimum 18-24 months). Why? Partly the OS, partly Apple’s superb application of multi-touch, and partly Apple’s unerring commitment to user experience over technology for technology’s sake. HP’s slates will be ponderous, heavier, less pleasant to use. Windows 7 is not a multi-touch, tablet OS. The JooJoo is doo-doo. Android/Google Chrome tablets will not come close (in the short term, and possibly ever) to creating a user-experience that will match the iPad, which leads me on to point 2.

2. The point of the iPad is the user experience

Forget technology, forget flash, forget multi-tasking (though with OS 4 that’s now a non-issue pretty much), forget any debates in developer circles. The iPad is a consumer electronic product. It is revolutionary, because it takes the most common use-cases (video, web browsing, creating simple documents, email, gaming, etc) and hides the technology – it just works, and it works beautifully. That’s all the vast majority of consumers are interested in. And so far there’s hasn’t been a device that delivers such experiences in so compelling a manner as the iPad… and thus onto point 3.

3. Screen size and the everything, anywhere revolution

Here’s the biggie. Increasingly we all want to be connected, all the time, wherever we are. We want our media, our files, our social lives delivered to us regardless of our location. The iPad is the perfect device for those who want constant connectivity. The form factor is the reason why. True the Iphone offered a pleasant web browsing experience, but it wasn’t perfect. The screen size is the core reason. And don’t get me started on watching a movie on an Iphone. I’ve done it (many times), but it’s a far from perfect solution. Laptops are too heavy. Netbooks are OK, but see points 1 & 2 for why the iPad wins here. The iPad’s screen size defines its utility. It’s a size we’re comfortable and familiar with – it feels novel like, it gives a close to full field of vision viewing experience. There’s very little I can’t comfortably do within the limitations of it’s screen size. For some reason that hasn’t been the case with netbooks – probably lack of multi-touch and pinch to zoom, etc.

4. The best mobile OS and purpose built tech

This is also vitally important. No other device has had so much love poured into its operating system. Apple has understood that mobile devices create new behaviours and demand new operating systems and new user interfaces. If you’ve ever played with a google phone, watch how that processor drains the battery, see what a leach Flash is, see how multi-tasking is a power vampire, see what a crappy, confusing and inconsistent menu system apps employ. The iPhone and iPad OS on the other hand aim to resolve such problems. Does that come with some compromises, sure (eg can’t import fonts into Keynote application), but once again the over-arching experience is very compelling.

5. The ‘it’s not a real computer’ argument.

Let’s just get over this. A tiny proportion of the population needs all the computing power of a real computer. But if you do want to use the iPad as a real computer, you can. Simply install a VNC app and the Ipad becomes a window onto your home PC or Mac, letting you run applications, open documents, and heaven forbid open a browser and browse flash sites. For more details on how to access your entire computer from an iPad see here.

6. Is it too expensive?

No, but it is expensive. In the same way a BMW is expensive, or a good coffee machine costs that little bit more. But is it value for money? I’d say yes. For now, it’s almost the perfect marriage of form and function. As I said above, at some point it will be superseded, but for a while nothing gets close to the iPad experience – and that’s what commands a price premium.

7. Phone, netbook, laptop, desktop… why do I need a tablet?

This is a tough argument. The only answer is to hold the iPad in your hands, perhaps borrow one from a friend for a weekend (if you can prise it from their fingertips), and see how quickly it becomes your default device. My iPhone now seems puny, my netbook is in the cupboard, my laptop is now just my desktop, and my three year old girl refuses to play with her mother’s iTouch anymore – she simply says, “I want Daddy’s big phone.” Relegating other excellent devices to the sidelines is surely a triumph in this respect.

OK, that’s me almost done. In my view anybody who has a childlike fascination with the way technology is changing our lives, can’t possibly fail to appreciate how amazing the iPad is. It is like a vision of the future, here today. It is a triumph of invention. And most importantly it is a challenge to competitors. If the iPad forces others to make more compelling devices then excellent (I’d love to see Microsoft’s Courier become a reality), we’ll all be the better for it.

Comments as always appreciated, but please let’s try to avoid a flame war.

April 20, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


  1. this comes as something as a relief to me. as i have been optimistic about its launch.

    this is not for tech reasons, but just because of how i use the internet. i watch videos/films, i read articles, i learn. they described it as ‘like holding the internet’ in the keynote and that was me sold right there and then.

    if it is the future redefined, then (wild-baseless-theory-time) i would imagine that apps start to become more important than websites. if i want to find out about unicef, i would be more likely (personally) to download a free app than visit a website. if that happened, then i think perhaps the nature of search might change for good too. i would search app stores rather than default to google.

    but speculation aside, i can’t wait to get mine.

    Comment by robbierae | April 20, 2010 | Reply

    • @robbierae – think you’re right about apps v browser/websites. Internet is starting to become invisible. Internet of things will only increase this. And growth/popularity of Facebook (almost 7% of all US web traffic last month) is also starting to suggest that as digital channels become the default mass media, a more curated conversation (be it through apps, facebook, the cloud or something else) is what people are seeking. Implications for search are huge, but I suspect search will simply evolve into something more complex. Along the way I think Google will increasingly try to diversify. One thing is for sure, ubiquitous mobile broadband connectivity changes a lot of the rules and conventions we’ve become used to. Interesting times.

      Comment by riksta | April 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. Can’t believe you didn’t pick me one up from NYC😉 !!

    Comment by Dan | April 20, 2010 | Reply

    • Sorry about that Dan. Maybe next time:)

      Comment by riksta | April 20, 2010 | Reply

  3. Congratulations Rik on getting your hands so speedily on Apple’s latest toy and sharing your optimism with us. It is indeed a lovely device and as with the iphone a triumph of style, image and marketing over value, use and utility (but not usability).

    It’s not how big it is…

    I personally am not fussy whether the novel I am reading is hardback or paperback, my news is gathered from broadsheet, tabloid or blogs, and believe I can write the same rubbish with my trusty biro or imaginary Mont Blanc pen – in short it is not the medium that is important but the message.

    A new old channel

    Given that Apple sees the future of interaction be primarily through Apps purchased and controlled by it’s app store as they give “a richer and more interactive experience” than the web, and the web experience on Apple devices is currently crippled by it’s lack of Flash (and Silverlight and Javascript/DHTML) then the iPhone and iPad should be considered as a separate channel to the web. Admittedly one that is far more easily moniterised and controlled which is why the troubled old print media newspapers are scrambling to create apps and a subscription model of payment that frankly will not work on the IP rights neutral web proper. Whether you subscribe to this old model of paying for the privilege of being fed pre-digested and filtered news and info or you buy into the web view of “information democracy”, user generated content and consumption (getting stuff for free) is up to you.

    Advertising to the iPeople

    Although the percentage of people with iDevices is quite small compared to the penetration of the rest of the web, and you will have to persuade them to download your apps they must be a highly valuable segment in terms of disposable cash and a penchant for novelty (based on previous purchasing decisions) and they may well be “trend setters” and likely to tell people how good XYZ is. Issues surround what apps are acceptable to Apple and I am sure they anticipate getting a slice of any advertising revenue gained from their platform.

    Comment by Max Jalil | April 20, 2010 | Reply

    • You might be surprised to find that I agree with many of your points. Closed ecosystem, not a good thing. Web experience isn’t the full web. Free info democracy definitely is a preferable model. But I’m just not convinced that the mass market really cares about those things – ie many people just want a polished experience – that might be sad (and limiting to some extent), but it’s a truism (as we see in preference of movie going public for blockbuster films, rather than arguably more compelling art-house productions).

      I’d also prefer there were dozens of competing devices on more open standards that did an equally good job of thinking about user experience as Apple has with this device.

      I also do believe that the medium is vital. Marshall McLuhan would probably agree too ( – the message is the medium and all that. I wouldn’t go quite so far. But a harmonious marriage of message and medium is IMHO the most compelling experience – it’s why moleskin notebooks are so popular for example.

      Comment by riksta | April 20, 2010 | Reply

  4. As soon as there is something that is credible in terms of measurement, it certainly becomes ‘Valuable’ for the advertisers and ad agencies.

    Focusing on iPad’s ‘marketing Potential’ – it could be an effective platform for marketers to engage and stay connected with their audiences.

    I agree with your point of ‘customer experince’ and beleive this is what will make iPad a total revolution, same as iPhone and iPod.

    Rik – the way you have segmented the potential of iPad forces me to think of it not just as another tablet but a whole new way for consumers to interact with the things around them.

    Imagine the number of people with open books in tubes and all those ‘paper’ newspapers creating mess all over. Consider gaming and movie on the go without needing to find horizontal surface to place your laptop. Try flicking through magazines without damaging the environment and using apps in a ‘life size screen’ (Apps – an industry with revenues crossing $4 billion mark). Or just taking your iPad for an impressive client meeting instead of all those writing pads, laptops, boards etc –

    The possibilities of iPad are endless (both for B2B and B2C markets)and the sooner we realise this the better it is for all of us. Competition is tough and if we don’t do it someone else will.

    Comment by Waqar | April 20, 2010 | Reply

  5. I think a lot of response to the iPad has been irrational just because it represents all that Apple-lovers love and all that Apple-haters hate, and the two sides drive one another to take more extreme positions, so it’s refreshing to see a more objective point-by-point list like this. Personally I think points 3, 5 and 7 (screen size, ‘not a real computer’, phone/netbook/laptop/ipad) sit together and are the key to understanding what it represents.

    The underlying desire here is that we want to have all that’s great about computers and the internet with us at all times – while travelling, while socialising, while sitting in front of the TV, or anywhere else we are away from a desktop computer but would hesitate to lug a laptop with us.

    The result of this desire is that the two devices closest to it have evolved to meet that desire – laptops evolving into netbooks, mobiles evolving into smartphones (and the iPhone in particular).

    The pad/slate form factor seems designed to jump straight to the point both of these trajectories are trying to get to, without any of the hangups of the previous architecture – keyboards on netbooks, the tiny screen on mobiles.

    The strangest part is that this form factor might actually be most useful to a traditionally late-adopting audience, but they tend to only try something once the early adopters have forged the path. Can a device for later adopters ever succeed if early adopters don’t like it? The Apple catnip is actually a very plausible way to cross that obstacle.

    The key thing to watch will be the ‘second generation’ purchasers – the people that buy an iPad after being shown one by an early adopter. Who are they and what will they do with it? I think that is what will determine if this is a viable form factor.

    Comment by Tim Mannveille | April 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Comment by robbierae | April 21, 2010 | Reply

  6. […] Why the iPad is a hands-down winner ( […]

    Pingback by iPad in Business: It’s All About Utility | April 23, 2010 | Reply

  7. If i want to find out about unicef, i would be more likely (personally) to download a free app than visit a website.Apple-haters hate, and the two sides drive one another to take more extreme positions, so it’s refreshing to see a more objective point-by-point list like this.

    Comment by Personal ISA | June 8, 2010 | Reply

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