A lot of people are saying a lot of things about the iPad. It’s revolutionary! It’s too compromised to be useful! It lacks important features like a phone, multitasking, camera, Flash support, etc. What’s certain to me is that the reactions—pro and con—are pretty much meaningless right now. I was trying to think last night about previous Apple product launches and how I felt about them. As I recall, there have been two Apple products in the past ten years that, when introduced, immediately prompted me to say, I want that! One was the Titanium PowerBook in at MacWorld in 2001 and the other was the iPod with video in 2005. Both products were updates to existing product lines. In the case of the PowerBook, it added a design unlike any other that I had seen before. In the case of the iPod, I thought that video would be a great feature that was worth waiting for. (Everyone knew it was coming once Apple had introduced the iPod Photo.) But here’s the thing, I’ve ended up not using the video feature at all during the past four years, really. I watched one movie on a plane once, and that was it. It wasn’t until I got an iPod Touch with a larger screen and better battery life that I really bothered to use an iPod to watch video.
The greater point here is that no one disputes that the iPod and iPhone were both game-changers—products that people now love and that redefined Apple as a company and a brand. I can safely say that when they launched, I didn’t want either one. I didn’t have anywhere close to enough of my music in MP3 format to make the iPod useful, and it was expensive too! The iPhone was even more expensive when it launched, and I remember thinking that there was no way I would get one because it would never handle email as well as my BlackBerry did. Of course, I did eventually get one, and it still doesn’t handle email as well as my five-year-old BlackBerry. But I don’t care because it does so many other things that I value. I can read the newspaper—several newspapers—in formats that are actually useable! I can listen to Internet radio. I can listen to live baseball games. I can listen to NPR on demand. I can browse the web. I can read stories from the web that I started reading on my laptop. In short, I can do a lot of things that I either didn’t know I wanted to do or whose value wasn’t properly contextualized for me until I actually had and lived with the device for a while.
I’m not saying that the iPad will succeed, but I am suggesting that the factors by which people are predicting its success or failure are, more than likely, incorrect because they are captive to our previous experiences. Who knows that developers will come up with for the device? Who knows what features a second or third generation update might add? Who even knows what it’s like to live with an iPad in your bag or on your desk for even a week? If anyone can take a product for which I feel I had no need and make it desirable, it’s Steve Jobs and Apple. As usual, I’ll be rooting for them. More →