Really, I don’t know why this is so hard to wrap minds around. But then again, we are dealing with media and perspectives that aren’t open much to change. I’ve made this mention here and a few other places a lot lately, and frankly speaking, its about as simple: the iPad (and any tablet PC expertly done) is a blank canvas to the owner/user.
I don’t really want to go into my history that much, and its almost easy to hear and see once people have gotten hold of an iPad or other tablet. The power of this kind of form factor (and the software experience designed around it) is that it allows the person using it to mold it to whatever they want. This is the power behind Steve Job’s declaring that the iPad is his greatest innovation. And its literally a call back into every other type of innovation that he’s done in computing.
Let’s take the small trip back to the graphical user interface (GUI) that made Apple Mac such a cult device. What was it that made it exciting? One could argue that it was colorful and that the hardware was just a bit different than the rest. One could even argue that the applications were the tipping point. But, we miss the genre of life that was most effected by the Mac – creatives. People who knew very well that mastering the canvas and its tools meant that beauty could be expressed in ways that others would eventually benefit from. Is it then any doubt why some of the most beautiful creations on computers for many years (decades?) we done with an eye and finger to a Mac?
Personally, I’ve had and enjoyed tablets in all types of iterations for years. I’ve done the PDA thing with my various Palm devices. I’ve had a HP tablet for work – even when it didn’t appear that having one made sense for someone who mainly dealt with front-end and support issues for various websites. I even had the Nokia Internet Tablet and explored uses that were PC like (blogging, IM, Skype) and things that weren’t (I used my N800 as a work folder and replacement for nearly every type of document/collaboration need because of SharePoint). And now I use an iPad not only as a folder, not only as a presentation assistant, but also gets to play an art canvas (see the image to this post, it was created on an iPad sans pen/stylus).
This device, whether there’s an app or not for it, is a blank canvas. And why many people can’t get it is because they are used to being told what computing tools work best for them. They aren’t using to having curated flexibility that makes it possible for them to simply just enjoy life and let the tool serve what should work best.
It is almost possible to do this on mobiles (re:smartphones). There are compromises and inadequate abilities (screen size, access to certain apps, performance, or even instable software). And there are communication and task-specific items that actually lend very well to this communicator-centric canvas such as connecting, annotating, documenting, and even presenting. Its very well suited there, but it doesn’t push the canvas analogy but so far (though the iPhone’s iMovie, N8’s camera, etc. come close in aspects).
A tablet – a well engineered tablet – is simply a blank canvas to the owner/user. Whether they want to make it an office platform, reading library, music discovery, production, or tracking tool its up to them. And the way that Apple has been able to culture the applications ecosystem, their publishing points via iTunes, and subtle integration with other Apple products, means that instead of thinking of whether their mental pencil is sharpened, they only need to think about creating the next great experience.
Its blank, and up to you. That’s Job’s intention of this refinement of an old invention. What can you do with a blank canvas? And whatever you do, is it something that can change the world around you?
Is that really too hard to understand? Or, are we afraid of taking responsibility for what we make the world to be? If I listened to much of the media analysis and surprise about the iPad’s success, I’d have to say the latter – because you can’t do computing controlled like it used to be. With the current versions of tablets, it’s now shown that there’s a world out there for you to design and interact with. How hard is it to see the appeal and success of that?