Mobile Personal Technology

The iPad: A Consumption Device

My first reaction to the iPad, as I “consumed” the uStream feed, was this:

Netbook is on “production” side of equation, #ipad is on “consumption” side. It’s a content consumption device. On steroids.

It’s more than 12 hours later, I’ve taught a class where we talked a bit about the iPad in terms of technology evolution/adoption, and I remain firmly fixed in the “it’s a consumption product” camp. But I wanted to take a few minutes and look back at the naysayers in 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone.

I saw/felt/touched an iPhone the day after it went on sale, at Seattle Mindcamp (sponsored by Andru Edwards and GearLive). Holding it, that changed my mind about its revolutionary nature, about its rightness. Exactly like holding the first video iPod — and watching that tiny movie with incredible resolution — changed my mind a few years earlier. Apple’s products are experience goods.

And that’s what I told my class — that how the iPad feels will be key to its success or failure in the market. I also think having a viable market for used eBooks would accelerate adoption — just like a converter (change that Sony or Kindle format to iPad format) would.

I’m not worried about missing slots and such. Apple has been the first major player to abandon every input device that has been abandoned: either they see the sinking ship before everyone else or they’re willing to lead the change.

But I do want to revisit post-iPhone launch commentary from three years ago. So here we go:

  • “Top 10 things to hate about the original Apple iPhone: Slow mobile data (EDGE) … Battery life sucks …Built-in battery … Touch screen … Heavy data usage … Only a two megapixel camera …Proprietary tie-ins … No video iChat …Apple chooses your mobile network… Only 8GB storage (Ok, ok, sure, it’s the biggest storage capacity of any phone on the market, probably, but 8GB is still pretty limited.)” – APC Magazine
  • “The most visible difference between the iPhone and its competitors in the smart-phone market is the lack of an integrated keyboard.” cNet
  • “Gates wants to sell platforms. Jobs just wants to make tools…Jobs, in fact, couldn’t possibly be more out of touch with today’s Web 2.0 ethos …Like the iPod, the iPhone is a little fortress ruled over by King Steve. It’s as self-contained as a hammer.” Nicolas Carr
  • “Apple TV Yes / iPhone Not So Much.” Paul Colligan
  • “The iPhone is not a smartphone.”  engadget
  • “Apple Fails to Reinvent Telecommunications Industry – Too Bad”  Fractals of Change
  • “iPhone Hype: I Just Don’t Get It”  Information Week, Mitch Wagner
  • “But in no ways could I say that the iPhone is revolutionary. Impressive yes, but not revolutionary.” Managing Dynamics
  • “The iPhone looks good, but there are some awkward questions. GMSV picks up a few — for example… No expandable memory. No support for WiFi syncing to your PC … who wants to be stuck with Cingular?” Memex 1.1
  • “While this device exceeds most rumors it does not have any 3G wireless connectivity…” MobileTracker
  • “From its birth in 2007, the iPhone has been criticized for lacking enterprise security…” PC World
  • “How do you operate a touchphone in your pocket, or under a table by feel at a meeting?” Paul Kedrosky
  • “…if you need to text, or email, or blog from your phone that using a touch screen will be very unsatisfactory compared with a Blackberry or a Treo.” Robert Scoble

Interesting that Steve used almost the same “drumroll please” delivery to share the pricing in 2007: the base model was to be $499 then, too. And then an end of the year note:

  • “iPhone made the mobile phone industry sit up and realize that Apple had made a breakthrough with average consumers in terms of design and user interface…” cNet

I’ve not yet bought a first-generation Apple product (but I own stock).

Back in early 1984, I convinced my then-about-to-be-husband not to buy the Macintosh because there wasn’t (yet) office productivity software and because it would not be interoperable with the computers at work. In 1990, I explained to my then-boss how I could get more computer for our money if she’d just let me buy a PC; she told me to go buy a Mac. Back in 2007 (many Apple and Wintel desktops and laptops/netbooks later), I desperately wanted an iPhone but could not justify the price (I’m not a “pioneer” or “innovator” to use adoption theory categorization; I’m an early adopter) and, besides, my Blackjack worked Just Fine.

But I am drawn to the iPad (despite the horrible name) like a moth to a flame. So I wait, until I can touch … (which, btw, would have been a better name).

Update – Roundup:

  • The iPad Big Picture – Daring Fireball (John Gruber)
  • Apple’s iPad Will Come Into The Enterprise Through The Consumer Door. Again. – Forrester (Ted Schadler)
  • iPad About – Stephen Fry
  • First Impressions – NY Times (David Pogue)
  • Hands On First Impressions – Seattle Times (Brier Dudley)
  • The iPad Is Like Holding The Future.  But Only Because I Graduated From iPhone School. – TechCrunch (MG Siegler)
  • Four Ways Apple’s iPad Beat Expectations – (Jason Schwarz)
  • First Impressions – Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg)
  • Ten Things Missing From the iPad – Wired

Update – Backstory:

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

21 replies on “The iPad: A Consumption Device”

[…] The tablets as consumption has been the argument since they came out. The argument perhaps is legit when looked at from the device out of the box. It does have a consumption-based feel. When you personalized it for your needs, the tablet becomes the type of device you desire. […]

Hi, Taylor – I don’t think this one will sit on back burner like Apple TV – Steve’s too vested. I, too, will probably wait for v2 — we’ll see when I hold it in my hand!

I see your point. I do know that the iPad is more a consumption device than anything else, but beyond that I have my reservations. I knew what the IPhone was when it came out, it didn’t disappoint. I also watched the Apple TV come out and shortly thereafter fall onto the backburner, where it remains today. The iPad could very well do the same even with its beneficial perks, but I am more content to wait for subsequent versions before I go out to buy it.

LOL! I love it! I had forgotten about that scene in 2001. I use the “video conferencing” clip in classes sometimes. Hmmm. Do you know if anyone has put that scene on YouTube?

I thought about waiting for the iPad, but decided I really needed a machine with a physical keyboard and one I could input video to. So, I bought a MacBook Pro. The iPad seems to me to be more the gadget you have while you sitting around the house or browsing the web in a coffee shop.

But that’s in its present form. Who knows where it will go?

Anyone else remember this scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey?”

Arthur C. Clarke call the video gadget the astronauts watch TV on a “Newspad.” He said it was the ultimate communications device because it could display any form of communication: writing, images, sound, whatever. Maybe, 40 years after “2001,” we’re finally going to get a Newspad.

It does already have bluetooth and I’ll join the legions who predict that v2 will have a webcam. :-) I totally agree with you about ubiquity. Also, think about form factor: how much more streamlined and powerful the iPhone was in 2007 compared to the iPod just six years earlier, fall 2001. We’ll see similar evolution in this form factor, only probably faster.

We should be focusing on the potential for this device. As chips get faster, memory gets cheaper and access to the cloud becomes more readily available, where might we go with a device like this?

Live TV via the web? Sure. Add a camera and instant video conferencing. Add Bluetooth connectivity and you could import photos and video. Read anything anywhere. See content anywhere.

I see these devices becoming such a daily presence in our lives that we no longer even stop to think of them as computers. They are just there providing access to the world. Need to connect? Hand me the iPad!

That’s what gets me excited about the iPadL: the future.

Thanks, guys! I reserve the right to change my mind … after I touch it. :-)

Seriously, that’s what I was trying to get across with iPod video and iPhone … that reading about it or seeing the specs is only a fraction of the story.

I think that it’s very important that the iPad is a consumption product first — because more people consume content than create it. (And I love Daring Fireball!) I do worry – quite a bit actually – when the people who’ve developed something tell me how revolutionary or “magical” the product is, because what makes a product revolutionary is how we – the folks in the market – decide to use it.

Where Apple has been very very fortunate is that its core customer base will try almost anything once. But it’s also important to recognize that the wants-needs-desires of the innovator/early adopters are not, in general, the wants-needs-desires of the middle majority. Apple seems to straddle that divide differently than many tech companies, although its v1 products have the same “prototype” characteristics of most: incomplete, underpowered, underperforms in comparison to “the competition.”

Kathy – You’re mostly right about the iPad being a consumption device. I think the iPad really draws a line that says: traditional computers with keyboards and mice are for larger-scale content creation and content aggregation/storage (think: home server). I can see my family buying an iMac or Mac Mini for our server and for big editing jobs, but using iPads for day-to-day use.

However, the iPad is going to be a very capable content creation device, but not in any traditional sense. Paul – think beyond the keyboard. Look carefully at the iWork demo and you can see that Apple is trying to build a completely new way of creating content, one that is much more natural and human. Check out Gruber’s comments on iWork for a first-hand account.

Great list of iPhone naysayers. That really puts all the “what’s wrong with the iPad” posts in perspective.

You’re right about consumption—my main gripes were that it’s ergonomically awkward when typing (though I realize they have a keyboard dock that solves that) and that there’s no multitasking (which would seem necessary if they’re going to market it as an alternative to netbooks). If the iPad is intended solely as a casual consumption device, its design makes sense.

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