OK, I admit it, I don’t see why the iPad would be an useful device. For me. On the street, I have my iPhone, at home, I have my Mac. So why do I need a third device? For nothing, probably. But that’s me.
What I find paradoxical is that most people who are buying iPads are the ones who need it less. It’s the people who love gadgets, and those people already have everything – iPhones, laptops, desktops, you name it. What will they be able to do with an iPad that can’t be done with every other piece of electronics they have? Nothing.
But, as many people said and wrote between the iPad first announcement and this weekend where it finally started to reach the buyers hands, the iPad may open the computing world to a whole new class of users. Those are the users who do not use computers. The older people, the computer illiterate people, or those who simply don’t have patience or will to learn about operating systems, files and folders, network configuration, installing software and updates, and all the stuff needed to use and maintain a computer. iPad opens a new range of possibilities for those folks, allowing them to consume and create content and sharing it. Or does it?
Unfortunately, this amazing possibility is set aside by one simple fact: iPad needs a computer to work. In fact, according to the early reports, the very first thing you are required to do as soon as you fire up your iPad for the first time is to hook it up to your computer. Which means you must have a computer.
But… why? The iPad is a computer by itself. Technically, there’s no reason at all for it to need any help from an external computer. It can boot. It can connect to any wireless network, download whatever it needs from the cloud, and install it. What the heck, my Mac does that on it’s own. Why won’t the iPad do it?
Of course, there’s another problem: the data. The main reason the iPad (and the iPhone) is required to be plugged to a computer during installation is to create the necessary bond between both machines so data can be synced and backed-up. If only there was some autonomous device that could talk to the iPad and backup it’s data… well, there is. The Apple’s very own Time Capsule, of course! And with 150 Mbps of wireless bandwidth between them, there’s more than enough horsepower to provide a seamless, continuous backup of the data stored in the iPad flash drive.
What made me fall in love with computers when I was a small kid was the fact that computers enabled. They enabled people to do so much more that could be done previously. They enabled me to write good-looking reports on my Mac Plus that stunned my school teachers. To edit images and sounds in a way that could only be done by artists with expensive equipment. To build simple applications and games with Hypercard that actually worked. To reach other people and talk to them, and to have passionate arguments about mostly everything. To download software so I could do even more stuff. To post my own websites with information I created to help other people, and ultimately, my software, that would enable others to do what they needed and wanted.
So… my suggestion: reach those who can’t or won’t use a computer, and tell them there’s a new way to enter the digital world. There’s a new way to create. There’s a new way to enable and be enabled. A way they can understand, a way they can feel comfortable with, a way they may even end up loving. Give them an iPad that flies solo. Give them a magic box that they place somewhere in their house that keeps their data safe. Give them what you gave me on that day my father brought that strange beige expensive box home. Do it!