The iPad as a Blank Slate

Back in January I wrote this piece about the yet-to-be-announced iPad. I was trying explain why everyone was so excited about the iPad, the following bit sums up the point of the piece:

people are interested in the tablet because it is literally a clean slate (pardon the pun). The tablet isn’t about the hardware, it’s about the software — a new way of computing — done right this time (not like Microsoft’s tablet initiatives). After countless rumors about the display, the technical specs, whether or not it will have a webcam, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the software — how we will interact with the device in new ways.

Adam Engst continues this thought in one of his recent articles on TidBITS. Where my piece focused on why we were excited about the iPad, his spends time talking about why people would want to buy one.

Here’s my favorite part of his article:

No matter what you do on a Mac, the keyboard and mouse and window-based operating system make it impossible to ignore the fact that you’re using a Mac, and it’s often equally impossible to ignore the fact that you’re using a particular program. In contrast, the iPad becomes the app you’re using. That’s part of the magic. The hardware is so understated – it’s just a screen, really – and because you manipulate objects and interface elements so smoothly and directly on the screen, the fact that you’re using an iPad falls away. You’re using the app, whatever it may be, and while you’re doing so, the iPad is that app.

As much as the criticizers want to call the iPad a device for grandmothers they really need to re-think that concept. The iPad isn’t for grandmothers (although I’m sure many of them would be incredibly happy with one), it’s for anyone who wants an easier simpler way to interact with their stuff. So much of our lives are stored on computers and current desktop operating systems seem to do everything in their power to make it difficult to do anything.

And, as stable as my MacBook and iMac are, the iPhone is still the most stable computer I’ve ever used, not a single app has crashed on me in the past six months and I can’t even remember the last time I rebooted it. On the desktop side of things I reboot my computers at least once a day and applications quit unexpectedly about 4-5 times per week. As low as that may seem it is still 4-5 times more than I’d like it to be.

I still haven’t had the opportunity to use an iPad (I ordered mine on day one but chose to pre-order the 3G version), but Adam reminds us all that the most important aspect of the iPad is it’s ability to get out of your way when you try to do things on it. It doesn’t matter what application your running, when it’s open, the iPad becomes that app.