A Missive to the iPad Haters
30 January 2010
I wouldn't call myself an Apple fanboy, but I like to think that I've mellowed a little bit in my old(ish) age. The face melting vitriol which I normally reserved for shiny Web 2.0 sites in beta invitation mode has been funnelled into more productive pursuits, and I feel like I'm ready to approach Apple product launches in an appropriately objective state of mind.
I wasn't excited about the launch of an Apple tablet; the fervor with which the media and wannabe tech pundits prognosticated about the exact form of the second (third, fourth?) coming of Jobs always had me puzzled. If you could predict so much about it, why was it going to be so revolutionary? It's no wonder that the product itself was a letdown – no physically producible product could ever have met your expectations.
But now that it's out, I can actually say that I'm excited.
I didn't think about it too much before, but seeing the iPad immediately made me realise it: we're at one of – possibly the most – exciting points in time since the induction of interaction design. And it doesn't even really matter what the product that Steve Jobs showed on Wednesday is like.
The iPad could be a complete failure (though I think that's almost impossible given Apple's current pedigree), but it's guaranteed that within the next two years consumer touch computing will become ubiquitous (if the iPhone hasn't already). It could be under the Apple brand or it could be someone else's, but either way that ubiquity is what has gotten me excited.
The iPhone gave us a taste of what a touch computing world could be like, but using your index finger to jack into cyberspace is the equivalent of jabbing a piano with a stick. Microsoft's Surface gave us the first inkling of what full touch computing could be like, but the fact that you could only use one if you happened to stroll past it at a conference booth has shown that they totally dropped the ball on that one. Not to mention the fact that all applications designed for the Surface were purely there to show off touch interaction, not make something useful out of it.
The iPad, then, is the first real multi-touch platform where we get to have a go. Where developers and designers get to actually make something that people can touch, stroke, fling, twist and flick. There's still so much of this area that has yet to be explored and if you were hoping for Apple to drop a fully formed <insert revolutionary consumer gadget here> into your lap, then you totally missed the point.
The iPad will be what we make of it. And that's what Apple is counting on.
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