Apple Changing Everything Again?
When the iPad came out I wanted one (like a lot of people did,) but I figured I could live without it. After all, I have three computers on my desk, my current iMac and two older Macs on swinging pedestals which are mostly out of the way but accessible if I desire. So if I'm writing something and need to keep a thesaurus or dictionary or spreadsheet or whatever and don't want to constantly toggle back and forth I can do that. Who really needs yet another screen floating around somewhere?
But having more money than sense, I ended up buying the iPad2 a few weeks ago, and now understand that I was wrong. Very wrong. As has been written by others, it's not really "another computer", it's a whole new animal.
There have been a few things in the last couple decades which changed everything for me. On-line access (first with CompuServe, then AOL). I recall when broadband was first appearing, one of their evangelists (Milo Medin) talked about how great it was because it was "always on" and you didn't have to go to the computer and wait for the dial-up modem squawk and laborious sign-in and all of that. I discounted that because it didn't seem such a big deal - and yet that (and the speed, obviously) changed everything about how, and especially how often we approach the machine. It's become much more casual, for lack of a better word.
TiVo is another one. It's just a box that sits on the shelf, but it totally obliterates the relationship between the networks and the user, liberating us from the network schedulers and putting us in control. We pick and choose what we want when we want, and we don't sit through junk because "there's nothing on."
I find, after only a couple of weeks of ownership, that the iPad is doing the same thing for me in other spaces. I have it with me at the table at lunch (occasionally to Mrs. Goofy's chagrin), and I flip merrily from New York Times to Washington Post to Slate to my local paper, I use Zinio to find interesting articles from magazines I wouldn't even bother opening, even if I were at Borders and could do so. The BBC has an app, as does NPR and PBS, and I find myself checking into Google News with far greater frequency simply because I'm that much closer to a "one button" solution and not tethered to a desk.
I sit with it in my morning coffee chair and look at the market, or research a stock I've heard about, or just look through some pictures somebody sent me of their house or dog. The iPad truly untethers me from my office chair in a way that no laptop ever could. I take the laptop with me when I travel, of course, but not when I just sit in a different place in the house.
But wait! Mrs. Goofy, a true test case since she's what you'd call a late adopter, often grabs the screen first thing in the morning and peruses her Facebook posts, or (at the moment) checks out new car models (hers was destroyed in a hailstorm), or reads her e-mail at casual times rather than the "Now I will go sit at my computer" meme which existed previously. She looks up what's on Oprah that day, or catches a Daily Show clip she missed, or, as earlier this morning, oohed and aahed over a friend's daughter's prom dress.
I can see this changing habits, no, not just "changing habits" but changing the way media is consumed again. The destruction of "computer location" may be almost as significant as what TiVo did to "schedule", and what "always on" did for convenience. It's not just "easier" (but it is that) it's also "more convenient" and, thanks to the proliferation of media outlets vying for screen space and user time, it's more compelling, particularly with the gorgeous display.
I don't game a lot, but I have little doubt that it will impact those markets as well, and as for Skype and similar, how could it not? Given the amazing number of apps in every other dimension (weight loss, music identification, picture recognition, carpentry tools, online shopping, etc.) it's clear to me that this isn't just "a cool new toy." This is a box which changes everything. Again.
Steve Jobs described it as "magical." It is. The hype is justified. It's another leap, a paradigm changer of high order, which is why everybody in the "computer" business, suddenly, needs to be in this game. Competition will come, surely, it has to. Whether they will unlock the code for success remains to be seen.