The iPad is a Toy

"Apple said Monday that it sold more than 300,000 iPads on the day of its launch, ushering in a new era of people buying things to find out what they are." -- Seth Meyer for Weekend Update on SNL.

I knew that it would be much more like an iPod Touch than a Mac netbook. But what I didn't know until I "found out what it really was," to quote Seth Meyer, was that it is for me better and more than I want from a netbook. I have a netbook. I use it so rarely that I ended up just tethering it to our second TV in the house. The iPad I use daily, because it is fun and it replaces my computer for a lot of things.

Yesterday I came across yet another article saying iPad wasn't serious enough and that Apple would fail, as it did the PC market. There are a lot of articles on this theme, attempting to mostly compare it to laptops and netbooks. They said the same thing about the iPhone as well. I don't think these people get it.

Last night I tweeted, "I've been reading articles dismissing iPad as a toy & not a tool, as if to say toys have no value. Guess what? Toys are fun."

Michael Surtees replied, "interesting @konigi —have you read the next big thing will start out looking like a toy at cdixon.org http://bit.ly/6MZqQR"

Chris Dixon's blog entry, "The next big thing will start out looking like a toy" nails it on the head. This is a disruptive device that people don't seem to understand and appear to be dismissing without really experiencing it long enough to know why it's interesting. These are the people that focus on the feature set only, and don't think about the bigger ripple this will make in expanding people's use with both the personal and networked experiences. The similarities in the confusion the iPad is creating among people who don't get it are similar to those initial reactions with the Wii, Twitter, iPod, and iPhone.

For one thing, the experience (the interface and interaction) is the product. You don't get it until you live with it. It was the same with those examples above. And when you get, you get it big. There's the same gratification of understanding the multi-touch gestures. Two year olds get that. I even caught my 9 year old son trying to swipe the LCD on our camera last week. Then slowly you get that it's useful in ways you didn't expect and that most importantly, it's more fun than you thought it would be. The apps help there. You like it. You like enough that you bring it everywhere and because it's bigger than your iPhone, you realize it's more usable for things like watching movies or playing Plants Vs Zombies.

Yes, there are limitations. After years of believing and playing the feature wars game with Windows Mobile and Palm, I had a hard time with the iPhone initially. But I used the iPhone more and more and never regretted that I can't use Excel or whatever else I could do with those smart phones that really were "tools" crammed into a PDA disguised as a phone. This is the longest I've stuck with one brand of phone, and you want to know why? It's because I enjoy using it.

The iPad is no different to me than the iPhone when it comes to the experience of the apps. There are tools on it that I'm going to make an effort at using. By tools, I mean those that aren't just media consumption apps. I'm making an effort to try to use OmniGraffle, Sketchbook Pro, and Pages. They won't be replacements for my Mac versions, but they will be stand-ins when I'm away from the desk. In those situations, it is good enough, and I think with time I will learn to work simply and it may turn out to provide better experiences. To speed my adoption, I'm experimenting with leaving pen and paper at home.

iPad is brutally selective on features, and comes up short compared to the world of user expectations. There is no camera, there is no 3G yet, there is no multi-tasking yet, and there is no printing. It builds off the experience of the iPhone, and it expands it to include the utility of the apps for simple productivity and creativity, while keeping the size and weight lean, and the battery life satisfying for an entire day. It even excels providing simpler experiences than those the tool-overloaded laptops and netbooks can provide. It's an everyday experience, it's a conference device, it's a commuter device.

Yes, it is a toy to me, but I don't say that to put it down. Toys make me happy. I can't remember the last time a tool really made me as happy.