Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Reflections on the iPad
For the last two weeks or so, I have in fact been glued to my new iPad. In fact, I'll probably be reading on it as soon as I'm done here. So obviously I love the darn thing. But why? 90% of the time I use it, I'm within 30 feet of a computer. Typing is undoubtedly slower, although I do have a wireless keyboard I can use with it. The games are good, but I have more advanced games on my Wii and the desktop. It doesn't add any major capability that some other device in my life doesn't have.
But, unless I'm completely irrational (no comments, please), there must be something that has driven me to spend hours a day with the darn thing. So here are three bits of speculation on why the iPad has wormed its way so deeply into my life, and the psychological drivers that have made it so popular.
1) Casualness: Nothing about the iPad feels like work, even when I'm doing something like capturing notes. The ability to pick it up and put it down, to switch to some other task, to close its cover like a book, all give it a less formal feel than plunking away at a laptop. Its weight and size also allow me to take it more places, allowing me to spontaneously use it when I have a need (or a free moment).
2) Bite-sized-ness: Everything feels stripped down and simple, and that translates in part to making it feel like you're not making a big time commitment when you start using any particular application. I can waste hours on a game, but it is not some elaborate epic that requires my whole engagement for long stretches. The successful games offer relatively quick levels or challenges that are almost endlessly repeatable, so each "five minutes" leads into the next, and soon you've lost an hour.
3) Utilitarianism: The iPad is a newspaper, a web browser, a video game console, a camera, an video phone, a notepad, a GPS, a TV, and a bunch of other things besides. People, and men in particular, like feeling that they have s tool for every need. The iPad is an electronic Swiss Army knife.
I'm sure there are other reasons people fall for the iPad, but those are the three that are most important to me. It is a transformative technology that sits at the intersections of productivity and entertainment, of simplicity and power, and of phone and computer. As these devices continue to advance, we will see more and more people experiencing the virtues of having so much of your life always at hand.