Saturday, April 3, 2010

The iPad is Not a Computer, and That's Okay.

I will buy one eventually, but not because it is a computer (it is not); I will buy one the way I would buy a TV or a iPod, as an entertainment device.

Some people are freaking out, it seems, because Apple made something that is not a computer. That's cute. Apple made really amazing computers for years, and struggled. It wasn't until they started making entertainment devices that they began raking in the big money. Those hot little devices are keeping Apple alive and strong and still producing the best computers in the world (imho). It's fair to say that Apple is mainly known, now, as the company that makes the iPod and the iPhone (far more than, say, the MacBook). This new Pad fits right in with the Pod and Phone.

So, here's the hard truth: There are a LOT of people currently using computers who do not need computers. That is a simple fact. All they do is check email, shop, get directions from google maps, and play farmville on facebook. They never make things. They don't design books, or record songs, or make movies, or even put their cats' faces in the place of holy angels with Photoshop.

This is reality: there are LOT of people currently using computers who don't need to own a computer at all. It's useless to them. Wasted capacity. They've got the computing power to run a backyard mini-NASA rocket mission taking up space in the guest room, and all they're doing is shopping on amazon. Devices like the iPad are a blessing to these people: they can now shop in the living room while watching TV using a device that sits in their hands like a magazine. Lovely. And the guest room just got bigger.

For those of us, on the other hand, who are constantly making things, we need computers, and -- good news, everybody! -- real, powerful computers are not going anywhere. They still exist. They will continue to get stronger and better and more useful. Isn't that great? Me, who uses Photoshop and Dreamweaver simultaneously on a regular basis, I've got a computer that I need and use. My mom, who just wants to find low-priced tickets to Ohio, forward on pics of her grandkids, and read the latest Dan Brown novel? She should trash the computer and get an iPad.

I think the real cause of the consternation is that this is a device that starkly divides the creators from the users. Creators are offended by it, because they see it as a really pretty "computer" sapped of all the things THEY actually use and need (it's almost like they targeted creators for exclusion!!), but then it's so shiny and super-cool, everyone wants it. ...but it's useless! (To creators.)

You would think non-creative people, the users, would be the offended ones: here's a device just for you, which means you can't do anything awesome. Ha-ha. But the really funny thing about non-creative people: most of them don't care that they're not creative. They're perfectly okay with it. And they're going to think the iPad is perfect. And creative people should be okay with that too.

The real question for me (and all electronic girls) is, are there would-be creators out there (and I'm especially thinking of people too young to make the purchasing decisions here -- 8 year olds, say) who will end up non-creative end-users because the devices handed to them at a young age don't facilitate creativity? That's the danger.

But creative people always seem to find a way to express themselves, even if they have to do it via swizzle sticks and coffee creamers. Maybe some people will find a way to be creative with the iPad too. If not. No biggie. It's like getting creative with your TV. And, again, computers still exist. They'll get less common when only creative people need and use them, but they're still here. And so long as there's an army of non-creative end-users clutching iPads and demanding content, they'll be needed.


Brian S said...

I think you're right that the loudest resistance to the iPad comes from creators who are offended by its existence, a computer as appliance. But it's not like computers you can dig around in and sealed systems haven't co-existed before. One person--can't remember where I read it--noted that when he was a kid, working on an original Apple, the one that came complete with schematics in case you ever had to solder a connection, he also had an Atari 2600, which he recognized as a completely different kind of computer.

His point was this. Techies seem to fear that the iPad will dissuade kids from wanting to explore how computers work, and that we will see a stagnation in advancement as a result. But we didn't before, and I doubt we will now, simply because there always has been a divide between creators and consumers, and I suspect there always will be.

Also, I think a large number of techies are snobs, and want the cool toys for themselves, because they feel that only they can truly appreciate the awesomeness of new gadgetry. They feel offended that someone who can't tell the difference between Flash and HTML5 will get to experience the new stuff at the same level they will.

Amy Letter said...

I think that last part is really it. How dare Apple cater to ordinary boring people, instead of we precious geniuses? But there are a lot more ordinary people in the world, and if they've got dollars...