iPad: a Huge Leap Forward for Regular Folk

Posted by on Feb 3, 2010 in UI | No Comments

Apple iPadThere’s been so much reaction since the release of Apple’s iPad, a lot of it strangely underwhelming. Not that everybody needs to be an “Apple fanboy suckling at the teat of Steve Jobs” (as some people have put it) but the iPad is more than “just a big iPod Touch.” (As an aside, I realize nobody likes the name “iPad” —  The Onion’s comment “Awkward name enables Twitter users to make the same joke over and over and over again” points out the obvious jokes — but why don’t IBM ThinkPads get the same treatment?)

On his blog, Mike Monteiro suggested that “The iPad isn’t the future of computing; it’s a replacement for computing.” I think he’s right, which is why so many people who “do computers” (geeks) are underwhelmed — or worse — by the iPad. It’s not going to replace computers for geeks, but it’s going to bring computers to the rest of the world.

So many things that it doesn’t do or have are actually perfect for non-geeks: The iPad has no file system, which is good for people who can’t find files they’ve saved. There’s no multitasking, so people who don’t realize that they left 10 applications open won’t wonder why their computer is running so slowly. And another big improvement is software installation.

Right now it’s pretty simple on a Mac — just copy the application from the disk image to your Applications folder — but even that can be confusing to novices. (How many non-geeks have run their newly downloaded application from the disk image?) iPhone and iPad app installation is easy: find the app you want to install, the icon appears, you move it to the screen you want. This simplicity alone is a huge step in the right direction for the non-geeks.

The iPad isn’t for everyone (I certainly can’t see it replacing my regular Mac) but I believe it is for a lot of people. The geeks may not be impressed (how could a UI designer not be impressed? Simplicity is not simple!) but perhaps the iPad isn’t supposed to impress them. It’s not for them; it’s for the regular folks.

Related reading:
– On iPads, Grandmas and Game-changing
The iPad Is For Everyone But Us