I think we’re looking at the iPad through the lens of technophiles, an audience that isn’t the target market for the product. Rather, the iPad is bringing internet and media to the general public in their living rooms, much the way the iPhone brought smart phones to the masses.The iPad is as easy to use as an iPhone but is capable of most functions of a laptop, without the mess of configuration, installation or connection issues. It recognizes that 30% of hours spent with TV are shared with computers and so provides gaming, video and easy web surfing. Moreover, it has the potential to replace the TV, video game console and computer for a large audience.
Changing of the computer metaphor
iPad simplifies the operating system to only the most essential elements. For example, settings across both applications and the OS are relegated to one infrequently accessed application: Settings. Minimal configurations and no customization (like Ford’s black Model T) provide the easiest on boarding of new users, broadening the target market. Consequently, the iPad isn’t a power user’s device like a MacBook, but a pick-up-and-use-it-without-any-effort device.
iPad is primarily a device for the technology unaware, who will constitute the vast majority of the user base
iPad was designed for the masses and will bring the internet into the living room easily for the first time. In the book Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean, Roberto Verganti describes disruptive products as anticipating meanings for their users. Today, 30% of users’ hours spent watching TV are shared with computers. Responding to this clear user need, the iPad brings the internet to the couch effortlessly for the first time.
In contrast, for the technorati, the iPad is a technical marvel and a complement to an arsenal of gizmos. The iPad won’t replace laptops. It won’t replace a mobile phone either. It will belong in a briefcase for travel and otherwise inhabit the living room, for sharing, browsing and emailing casually.
New modes of interaction are exciting but will be a long time coming
My experience at the Disney Museum gave me a taste of the powerful combination a decoupled touch screen and large display could provide. To have my PowerBook, Droid and iPad interact seamlessly would be jaw dropping. I’d like to manipulate documents open on my PowerBook with my hands using the touch screen of the iPad. While I’m asking, I’d like to do the same with my TV. But what I’m asking for is tangential to the vision of the device and would only serve to complicate the simplicity demanded by the target user base.
The web from the comfort of your sofa
Overall, I believe the iPad is a transcendental device not for it’s technology, but for the abstraction of the technology to a very high level, enabling millions of new Apple customers to enjoy the richness of the web from the comfort of the sofa.