Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I don't have an Ipad, yet

I got my wife an ipad for her birthday. It is a rare thing in our household that she gets gadgets before I do, so it seemed like a good idea, and I figured that at the very least I could see her use it and decide if I wanted one of my own or if I would, instead, use the money to replace my old netbook. It took about a day to convince me that I wanted one for myself, and a few days more before I decided I *needed* one for myself.

I have only gotten to use the ipad a little. The temptation to rush in and install everything under the auspices of "helping" my wife is strong, but doing so would sort of ruin the whole point of the gift, so I have been restrained (as much as it pains me). That restraint has allowed me to watch my wife use hers, which has given me some interesting insights on it.

My wife is a very technically savvy woman, but her expertise is outside of the field of gadgets. If she must have a widget, she errs on the side of the very utilitarian. She has her phone (which is as simple as it can be and still do what she needs) and her work laptop and with that, she's done. Or at least that had been the case. A while back she ran out of books and I, in a gesture of goodwill, downloaded a stack to the Kindle for her. The only reason I got my kindle back is because she discovered that my ipod could also display my ebooks. The gift of the ipad was, at least in part, an attempt for me to get those devices back.

So, if I had an ipad, it would live in my bag (as gadget do) and never be far from my hand. In contrast, my wife has a far less addictive pattern of use - it's found a permanent home on the bedside table, and in the evening she uses it to play mahjong, read books and watch Netflix, as the whim strikes her. It is not a lifestyle item for her (in fact, she has yet to take it into work to show off despite interest from co-workers) but rather a simple appliance.

Or perhaps not entirely simple. She is, at her own pace, dipping her toe in the app store form time to time to see what looks interesting to her. She's got an SSH client and a few games, and she's willing to try out new things when they're not a hassle, but she's not in any rush to do so.

I contrast this with another friend who has an ipad who, I think, would not object to being described as a power nerd. He had all his apps pre-bought before the ipad arrived, and he's shelled out for commercial apps from Apple and Omni and others, and has specifics plans for using the ipad at home and at work (at least when he can steal it back from his wife, who insists she doesn't need one, but is hooked on big screen popcap games). I played a little with his too, and it's got EVERYTHING.

Comparing those two usage profiles (along with my imagined self-profile) was really interesting to me. It's cool that someone's mom could use this, but I think that's ultimately unimportant compared to how many different ways people can use the ipad to suit their personal needs. When we talk about it "just working" (because it does), it's easy to assume that ease of use is directed at the absolute novice, but that misses the picture. The novice isn't even aware that Netflix streaming exists or of what twitter is. The ipad might be a gateway for someone like that, but the reality is that it's for the nerds, albeit for more of the nerds than most any computer to date.

And by nerds I don't just mean computer nerds. Another friend of mine broke down and got one when it became clear that the pdf organization and reading capability was good enough to handle all his scientific papers. Other folks have talked about how fantastic it is for reading scripts. The possibilities for boardgames and RPGs are obvious and huge.

This is, ultimately, why I think the ipad is going to be a winner. It's not for everyone, but for people who have particular passions, the ipad is going to provide unprecedented tools to help with that passion. It's not a universal tool, nor is it going to offer something for every passion, but when it lines up it's going to be fantastic. What's more, I think it may also be useful for discovery - your ipad may help you with your passions, but it may also lets you find other things to be passionate about.

A bit hype-y? Maybe. I acknowledge some genuine excitement as well as lingering pissiness at the crowds looking for cred in bashing the ipad because it's not how they would do it. I'm willing to be wrong.

But I'm damn sure going to have a good time until the jury comes back.


  1. Oh. Honey. It hasn't gone to work because folks will want to touch it and I am just not ready to share as yet. This is the first new gadget for which I am an early adopter in - actually, ever, as it turns out. It is a mark of deep affection and strong trust that you got your fingerprints on it at all. Count yourself loved because there was a strong disconnect between my face and what I was really thinking while you were doing that.

    Face: *patient indifference* "Take your time."
    Face: "Cool, hunh?"

    On technical savvy: I tend to think that some folks want to *use* their tools. They want to understand the backend, leverage every feature, integrate it into their daily life, *live* with it. On the gadget, by the gadget, for the gadget.

    Some folks want their whatchamacullit to simply make life less involved. They don't want to have to understand who to integrate, convert, migrate, etc. They don't want to *think* about the damn thing. This isn't laziness. This is efficiency. Solve my problems, little gadget, or get out of my way -- and having to know you well enough to build you is not what I mean by 'solve my problems'.

    I do okay at my job. My job involves machines and a lot of jargon. I'm cool with that. I am the kind of user who does not want to integrate that into her life. I want a whatchamacullit that makes life easier with very very little effort on my part - which really, in my opinion, is what the ipad does well. Escapism in the palm of my hand: addictive mahjong, check. Netflix, check. Kindle app, check. Goodreader, check. Map with traffic, check. Email, check.

    Turns out I can get work email on it. My lead (who also just got one) and I sat there for five minutes, staring at this fact, wondering if we should go ahead and set that up or not. On the one hand, it means the work laptop need not go where my little ipad goes. On the other hand, escapism + 'oh let me answer that question for you' not so much.
    The reason it lives where it does is not because I am not breathing with wist about it right now. The reason it lives on the nightstand (and note that it got a permanent home, displacing a bunch of stuff and quietly rearranging your bedroom to suit it, within 1 day of its arrival), is because that is where I go to unwind at the end of the day, when I want my brain off, when I want to relax, when I don't want to just quickly answer that one last email.

    To me, the ipad is a portable bubble bath.

  2. Well put, both of you. Knowing you, Deborah, I know how high a complement your last statement is.

    I, too, don't tend to be an early adopter, but my experience with the iPhone prompted me to not only want the iPad on day one, but also to vote for future iPad development with my dollars.

    I also bought one for my girlfriend, for her birthday. I am watching her reactions and usage closely, as her expectations are much different from mine. She's enthusiastic about using it with her niece, for example, so she's been looking at art apps, so they can fingerpaint together.

    I even hope it may be the computer my Mom never knew she wanted, but that remains to be seen. It isn't for everyone, but I hope it breaks the stranglehold that old-think hardware and software have had on us for the last twenty-five years.

  3. My husband bought his wi-fi only model with the express intention of getting me hooked so he could upgrade to the 3G model when it launches. I love my iPhone. I definitely see the uses of an iPad. I'm just not convinced I *need* an iPad. I admire your allowing your wife the honor of the new gadget and your wife's patience in letting you play with her newest toy!

  4. I admit it... I read this on my iPad. In a rare bit of unbelievable luck, I won one in a drawing. Now, I'm just trying to decide what software I should write for it.

    At the end of the day, I will always need at least one true laptop, because you can't really code on this puppy. An SSH client plus keyboard would at least let me code on a remote server, but if I'm toting a keyboard with my pad, I may as well be hauling my laptop around.

    That said, there might be some ergonomic advantages to using this with a Bluetooth keyboard over using a laptop. Having one's keyboard attached to one's screen tends to do really unpleasant things to one's body, over time.

  5. @tess You should have seen the look on Deborah's face when she fired up her SSH client and realized she had neither Tab nor up arrows on the onscreen KB. Pure betrayal!

    That said, ipad + keyboard is still definitely less stuff than a laptop - more in the range of a netbook, so I think it can still qualify as minimal (especially if you get one of the folding bluetooth KBs)

  6. Also, in spite of being delightfully petite, my laptop is almost useless without a power outlet, since its battery only lasts me about two hours, at best, if I'm only doing light duty. The iPad is a far better device for non-laptop-friendly environments.

  7. @tess @rdonoghue I should remark here that I found the tab and arrow keys - they're not where you'd want them (if you are me) but they are there.

  8. @tess The 2 hour battery is the same problem with my netbook. Curse of early adoption. The new ones have gigantic battery life, and I'm sometimes tempted to make the leap.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.