Does The iPad Change Everything?

Apple’s marketing machine aside, there is a lot to say about the iPad: sleek, hip, cool. And after it went on sale today, at least 300,000 people feel their wait was worth while. But is it useful? It has no multi-tasking ability, no camera, no flash support and no USB support. Yet, as an Apple skeptic, I was impressed with the iPhone. I am less impressed with their DRM, and avoided their iPod music player for that reason.

But this HBR blog raises a good point: Do we need to shift our understanding of how our interactions with computers are moving?

Some key quotes:

“It is likely that the computer you’re using to read this is actually not very well suited to the task.”


“Over the past 15 years, due to the increased penetration of the Internet, the percentage of computing use spent creating documents has plummeted. Instead, most time is spent either communicating (originally just email, then adding IM, Skype audio and video, and social networking) or consuming media (text, images, and video). However, our computing tools haven’t appreciably changed.”

The article asks what assumptions businesses make about their customers and their needs.  Kodak got buried because it failed to follow digital photography. Southwest Airlines took off (horrible pun) because they catered to their customers’ actual needs. The author is right. People still print off reams of paper because they cannot read off a PC monitor for any length of time. But is the iPad right for the office? I just don’t see it replacing a workstation for heavy spreadsheet use, for example.

But maybe it will make online reading easier. The publishing industry hopes it will be its saviour. While old media might think so, the HBR article delivers this  zinger:

“This unwillingness to accept customer behavior change lies at the very heart of the struggles that media corporations are facing. They are hell-bent on squeezing every last nickel out of their old models, instead of wholeheartedly embracing the changes that are clearly coming.”

I am pursuing an MBA in DIT, and our class was asked recently by a lecturer how many people bought the Irish Times. No one put their hands up. Yet that outfit wants to start charging for content on the internet.  News is just a commodity. Why pay when I can get the same thing plus a multitude of actually insightful comments from places like (albeit with a lot of shoutin’ an’ roarin’), (very bearish, but will they call the upswing?), or

But back to the iPad. What does it change, if anything? I’m old enough to remember the Mac in my first career, journalism. Back then, we had to bring type-written papers to a woman who typeset it for a printer. Then, one day, we got to see a local newspaper using a Mac to typeset their stories. What an eye opener! Apple was behind that piece of technology. But their price was always too high, and that is what allowed PCs to take over the market.

Does the iPad to it? We already have things like Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader. Will a device without the basics like USB, camera and flash, take over? And competitors are lined up. The office market could be Steve Jobs to lose again.

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