Lets get one thing straight: if, after todays press event, you still think the iPad is an oversized iPhone, you’re being stupid.
The iPad is Apple’s reconceptualization of what a computer is to a regular person.
Therein lies the challenge of todays event, and one of Apples two biggest failing with the iPad launch. First off, in the iPad, I feel even more strongly than I did Monday that what Apple has on its hands the 2010 vision of the 1997 iMac, or the 1984 Macintosh. It is basically the computer most people should own. It’s Apple’s first computer in a long time targeted at regular people with average computing needs, and the price really drives that home.
But that was also the first hurdle they needed to get over that they didn’t. Today’s event was the first time in a long time that Apple has launched a product that not just not targeted at core Apple customers (the kind that watch these events), but actually the type of product that the core would be predisposed to both not understand and not like. If you work all day making videos, working as a photographer, making websites or designing products, the current interaction models for computers either works pretty well, or you’ve invested so much time in learning it, that it’s hard to see another vision of a computer. But for most people, the metaphors a lot of us take for granted are not just non-obvious, they’re downright confusing.
As I pointed out Monday, something as seemingly basic as the file system is a total mystery to most people. And forget keyboard commands. For the vast majority of computer users, keyboards are for typing and nothing else. In the iPad, Apple has a product that addresses the idea that in 2010 everyone has – or needs – a computer in their lives, but almost all of the interaction models we have are based 30-year-old concepts of keyboard and mouse as primary input devices. Why? Keyboards are, again, really about making words, and a mouse is a legacy pointing device that is mostly not ideal.
So, Apple has this device, this “new” computer.
This fresh way of seeing the world.
This third option.
And what do they do?
They spend the entire presentation NOT saying that.
This was, without a doubt, the single worst product drop I’ve ever seen from Apple.
I came into this morning so clear on what the iPad could be, and by the time the event was over, all I could think was “Jobs did everything he could to make this sound like a giant iPhone.” In my mind, what he needed to do was come out, explain the issues surrounding computers in 1984 and how the Macintosh overcame them. Talk about the issues facing computers in 1998 and how iMac overcame them. Talk about the issues facing computers in 2010, and then spend the rest of the presentation explaining how this is the new Mac, pounding the message: “if you need a computer for your LIFE, this is the one.” The price should have come much earlier, and should have been much more tied to the product’s reason d’etre. “Thinking about buying that shitty Acer laptop for $700, let me show you this Apple for $500.”
This needed to be an event about the concept of the iPad, not the specific features.
Maybe he’s been pitching to fanboys for too long, I don’t know, but this is most assuredly NOT a spec sheet device. From that point of view, it is basically an over sized iPhone. But in re-concpetualizing the computer, size matters. Simplicity matters. Access to both content and software, easily, matters. iPad is about the computer in your life, just like the Macintosh, just like the iMac, and I feel that Jobs totally failed to bring this concept home.
Literally nothing else mattered…
…and he missed.
He set out to reintroduce a product category – the computer designed for home life – and he failed to bring that single point home.
What makes this critical is that while you can rev the hardware and software feature set, as we saw with the iPhone, you can’t rev whether or not people believe in the idea. The brilliance of the iPhone introduction is that while people could and did rip on the initial features, or lack thereof, every single person knew exactly what the iPhone meant conceptually. That didn’t happen today, and I’m worried it may be fatal. If the average person – not the person who watched today’s event, but the person at whom this device is targeted – can’t understand why this for them, they’re probably not going to come back to it. At the very least, that is a profoundly more steep hill for Apple to climb than explaining or revving the object specifications.
The second huge flaw, and single point that broke my heart about the device itself, is that for everything I just stated above, Apple seems to also view this as an accessory. What this needed to be was a computer. A new, better, more relevant computer, but a computer. That Apple expects people to sync this to another computer is either profoundly short sighted, or just stupid. Neither of which feels like the Apple I know. By positioning the iPad as peripheral, Apple took what should have been a really cheap, amazing computer in a world of terrible cheap computers, and instead positioned it as a really expensive toy.
My mom, my dad, Megan’s mom and step-dad, they all want Apples, but always felt like they were too expensive. To be fair, you have to either buy into the Apple aesthetic or understand computers in a deeper than average way to justify a $999 13 inch MacBook in a world of $700 17 inch Toshiba’s. But with the iPad they have a chance to charge right into that space. It’s the exact same price point, with a totally different, and in my mind, clearly better experience. That concept has been severely damaged by leaving the Mac as the center of the Apple universe. Im guessing that you may not need to sync the iPad, but it says a lot about how Apple will position this and it feels like a terrible choice: it reduces the importance of the device, and again, muddles the ecosystem for the average person.
Anyway, it’s done with now and we’ll see how things shake out. I still love it, and I’ve talked to a number of people who are genuinely excited by it. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that today was a critical day for iPad, and what should have been easy, breakaway slam dunk, instead put up as many obstacles as it took down.
NOTE: This was originally posted on thisisviolence.net