Why I was Wrong (& a little bit Right) about the iPad

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Now that the iPad3 “new” iPad has been announced, I thought I’d take the time to reflect. Back in January of 2010, when the first iPad was announced, I, like many tech early adopters was skeptical.  See my original posts here and here.

My initial skepticism around the iPad centered around:

1. Terrible name

2. Awkward to hold

3. Too much overlap with other devices making it a nice-to-have but not a must-have device except for specific niches.

4. Various issues with the iOS ecosystem – no background apps, onerous approval process for the App store that excluded competitors, etc.

After speaking with some of my friends and reading other opinions, I conceded that I may have been too quick to judge and that perhaps the baby boomer generation would embrace this device.

My observations from the last 2 years:

1. The name has turned out to be fine other than the confusion with saying iPad and iPod. I will say that Apple’s continued inconsistency in naming new models (e.g. “new” iPad) leads to confusion, but it seems like a much lesser issue. Shows what I know about naming…

Conclusion: I was wrong

2. Awkward to Hold -This has proven to not be a big deal as I expected.  I will say that it’s slightly heavy and awkward to hold at times, for example while lying down to watch a video.

Conclusion: I was wrong

3. Nice-to-have vs. Must-have: I still think this is true in some ways.  Clearly the iPad has been a massive commercial success. However, I contend that many (most?) of us that have bought one use it occasionally enough for it to be considered a “toy”.  There are some though, mostly baby boomer generation folks who use it as a primary device.  In my observation, these have largely been people who didn’t use a laptop before, at least not in a portable/couch type of way. Additionally, the iPad has taken hold in certain specific commercial applications, like for doctors and Point of Sale transactions. As the iPads become more and more capable, they may start to replace laptops for more and more use cases. Input methodologies are still a big issue though for a full replacement.

Conclusion: I was half-wrong

4. iOS ecosystem: Some of this has been rectified.  Apps can now run in the background (kind of). Regulatory scrutiny has meant that Apple has approved some apps from their competitors (like Google Voice) but not others (like real Google Maps (as it exists on Android with turn-by-turn directions,etc.). However, the closed ecosystem and other limitations have largely not been a big issue. It will be interesting to watch this play out as Apple attempts to close off all of their ecosystems, including Macs.

Conclusion: I was wrong

So in summary, I was mostly wrong.  The iPad has definitely been transformative/disruptive on a number of levels.  For many people, it has changed their lives and their interactions with computing/the internet/consuming media. However, for me and for many of my friends, it’s still a luxury/toy (a fun one though…).

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