Saturday, September 17, 2011

The iPad Zen

The buzz that the iPad is generating is unbelievable. The skeptics diss the iPad for being a toy and not being a "real" computer, but the public doesn't view it that way. Even groups who are normally overly cautious about trying new technology - like education, business and government - are jumping on the iPad band wagon.

Despite its enormous success, all the critics want to change the iPad. "Sure," they say, "it's pretty good now but it would be REALLY great if they just made it more like a desktop computer! But isn't that what everyone said before the iPad made its appearance? And isn't that why all the tablets sold prior to the iPad failed?

Despite the iPad being a mega-hit and despite the fact that it's been on the market for 17 months, analysts, pundits and competitors still don't understand it. Customers seem to get it, but I think that they get it at a visceral level. I doubt that they could cogently articulate exactly why they like it.

I think this is the genius of Steve Jobs at work. No one else would have made the iPad because its shortcomings are so obvious and it's strengths are so subtle. Even now I struggle to explain why the iPad is such a success, yet Steve Jobs intuitively grasped why it would work. He knew then what we still fail to understand now.

The iPad's success reminds me more of the iPod than of the iPhone. Remember how everyone said that the iPod lacked features and remember how every competitive product that added those "missing" features - then failed and failed miserably?

People - especially the high priests of "open" - always talk about how choice is good. But is it always so? When it comes to government, choice is good because there is only one government and it has a monopoly on power. You can't pick and choose which government you want. You can't really choose to ignore government edicts. When you have a monolithic government with a monopoly on power. The power to vote - to choose one's government is good. Rights - which is the power to keep the government from imposing its will on certain aspects of one's life is good.

The free market is nothing like that. The advocates of "open" don't get it. In a free market you get to vote with your dollars on which products you like. You get a choice between products. The advocates of "open" believe that one should have "choices" within each company - that each company should provide an endless supply of different products for our consumption.

The iPod didn't provide us with choice, it restricted out choice. Choice comes at a price. For every new feature, for every new way of accessing those features, we pay a price. Things take a little longer. Things become a little more complex. The iPod worked because it walked that fine line between simplicity and complexity. It gave us some features and it empowered us. It removed some features and it empowered us. The ability to empower us by taking away features is a seeming paradox that baffles people even to this day.

The iPad is like the iPod. It has some great features but not so many features as we think we would like. But the features that the iPad has are uncompromised. They all run beautifully. And those features which could only be done by half, which would entail compromises, are eliminated.

Could a child use an iPad if it had a task manager? Could a senior citizen? Will the power that a Windows 8 tablet provide make up for it's complexity, it's loss of intuitiveness? The power user will say yes without hesitation. They are willing to put in the time and effort to learn a complex machine in order to do complex work. They don't see why everyone else would not be willing to do the same.

The iPad is not for the best of us - it's for the rest of us. As hard as it is for the technoratti to grasp, we don't want to work on our computers. We want our computers to work for us.

We want to write letters not learn how Word works. We want to surf the web not learn how our browser works. We want to watch videos not learn how downloads and codecs and file types work. We want computers to enhance our lives, not complicate our lives.

The iPad works, but it's far from perfect. Every time you have to think how to do something, that is a failure. Every time you pause before accomplishing a task, that is a failure. The iPad works when it allows you to do something once and you never have to think about HOW to do it again. Instead you can focus on WHAT you're doing.

The iPad is not a pyramid that you keep piling feature after feature upon. The iPad is a high wire act - a delicate balancing between complexity and simplicity

This is what people don't get about the iPad. They look at the added value of the features and say, "Why doesn't the ipad do that?" Apple looks at each feature and says, "Does it increase the overall user experience?" For non-Apple thinkers, every additional feature is inherently good. For Apple-thinkers, it's a balancing act -features are only useful if they're not outweighed by the burden imposed on the user.

Why do people in the Enterprise crave the iPad even though it can't do everything they want? Because they want everything they to be as easy to do, as the iPad is to use.

No comments:

Post a Comment