The iPad is real-life social

As a computing device, the iPad has some obvious limitations that have puzzled many tech-savvy Apple devotees, provoking a variety of critical articles explaining where Steve Jobs has gone wrong.

After reading one such blog post saying that the iPad was antisocial, because it didn’t have SMS or the ability to run IM in the background, it struck me this was a restricted view of what it means to be social.

The iPad is real-life social in a way that a phone and a laptop just aren’t. You really can just hand it to someone to show them what you mean: share photos, videos, writing with real people right next to you. I can see using it to learn with a child, share pictures with my mother, discuss house remodeling, and many other tasks normally done with paper. In conversation with friends last week I realized that, sat in its dock, the iPad would be the ideal cookbook. And for us geeks, a great way to consult technical books as we use our computers.

In the office, the iPad offers a middle-ground I’ve found lacking in electronic devices. Bringing my laptop into meetings puts up a screen between me and others, is a hassle to unplug and carry around, and can be personally distracting. Taking my iPhone to make notes makes people think I’m bored of the meeting and sending text messages to friends instead. So normally I choose paper, and tend to lose my notes afterwards.

The iPad is a device that will find fans not only in a family setting, but in a creative setting where collaboration and comment is in person. Criticized for not being open because of digital rights management, the iPad is actually very open, in the sense that it erects few physical barriers to sharing.

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  • Enrico Poli

    Well, the iPad *or* any other similar device.

    We know they will come, they’ve been announced, they’ve been demoed, they won’t have some of the iPad quirky limitations but they will have their own, different problems, and people will choose what set of quirks suits them better.

    We’ve been seeing announcements of iPaddish devices for months, it’s true Apple have delivered first, but let’s try to see the bigger picture.

  • Hannes

    I completely agree – most of the usage patterns I can image for the iPad I can see in using my iPhone:
    1. Lying on the sofa and reading a book, looking up some more information on something – I open Wikipedia on my iPhone and have a look. Perfect for the iPad. And I never, never do that with my MacBook Air.
    2. I never show friends and family photos on the laptop, always on the iPhone – and they love it because it is so easy and not so techie as starting a computer – aka touching the photos as with printed photos to move to the next!

  • Paul Souders

    “I can see using it to learn with a child”

    I was struck by exactly this purpose. My wife is a teacher and she imagined a dozen ways to use it; far easier than managing the Windows Netbooks the school uses now — where every lesson using online resources right opens with troubleshooting and a basic literacy lesson on whatever resource she needs them to access before they get to the Real Lesson.

    My 19-month-old son already knows how to use my iPod Touch. He knows how to find the photos app, open it, flick through photos, and find the ones he likes. It’s probably the most-used computer in our house, we hand it around to each other all the time for all kinds of daily administrivia: checking the weather, movie times, directions to a friend’s house, shopping lists, recipes. It’s not hard to imagine that in 2 or 3 yrs, after we’ve obsolesced our laptops, there will be no physical keyboards in the house at all. Apple might not be delivering that vision of the future, but they’ve set it loose.

  • Luis Alejandro Masanti

    “Criticized for not being open because of digital rights management, the iPad is actually very open, in the sense that it erects few physical barriers to sharing.”

    I think that the DRM is to “protect content owners assets” (and Apple’s revenues selling them).

    As Bogard saud “We’ll always have Paris,” we’ll always have the browser…

  • Owen

    Criticized for not being open because of digital rights management, the iPad is actually very open, in the sense that it erects few physical barriers to sharing.

    That’s a pretty bad conflation of two meanings of open. The device is open to physical sharing, but it’s not at all open to development or sharing of media. Don’t users deserve both?

  • David

    If it can run a version of MacSpeech Dictate I think it will be a hit.

  • Mikael

    Also, on the mention of social, I can see several people playing a game together on the same iPad lying in the middle of the table.

    Sort of like a digital version of board games and the like.

  • David Hall

    I completely agree. The first thing I thought about was going to conferences on molecular mechanics, tangentially related to my field. Right now, people hand around iPhones to show off videos of their work and trajectories and try to point out things on the small screen. This would be so much more appropriate and really allow a couple people to look at something all at once. It’s really quite awesome.

  • Alan

    It’s not open. What BS.

    It is open. Virtually anyone can write an App for it that does virtually anything and if that App is coded properly, virtually every App will get approved. That is open. Closed only to malware, is open.

    The exceptions to this are so small and so inconsequential that they just amount to Mr Ballmer’s rounding error.

    Apple protects their own stake in the iPad/iPod/iPhone ecosystem. You can’t duplicate Apple’s Apps. Since Apple’s Apps are damn good, that is not a loss.

    As for geek complaints about geek things. The iPad is designed for the 80 to 90% of us who are not geeks. Geeks build their own gaming machines, get their software and media for free off the internet and hack what they don’t build themselves. No one markets to geeks. There’s no money in it. As a result, geek complaints are invalid, meaningless and never taken into consideration when making marketing decisions.

    So STFU.

  • G.Irish

    Apple protects their own stake in the iPad/iPod/iPhone ecosystem. You can’t duplicate Apple’s Apps. Since Apple’s Apps are damn good, that is not a loss.

    That is a rather specious argument. If Microsoft included Office on their machines and prevented anyone from making any competing applications from being installed on Windows the DoJ would have them in a headlock in no time. Indeed, MS got in big antitrust trouble for bundling IE.

    Apple is doing the exact same thing except they are not as big as Microsoft so some people are giving them a pass where the same behavior from MS would incite angry mobs.

    By preventing anyone from making competing apps (not to mention apps that AT&T doesn’t like) Apple is preventing any newcomer from coming up with an innovative solution that is better than their own. Like GoogleVoice.

  • Enrico Poli

    Indeed, if Microsoft tried to do half of what Apple’s doing, it would be bashed to bits.

    Hot from the presses:

    «Stanza used to allow users to transfers books to the iPhone using a USB cable and WiFi via an accompanying desktop application. The latest update to Stanza removes the ability to sync books through USB, but leaves the WiFi ability alone. The version notes say “Removed ability to share books via USB as required by Apple.”»

    [ ]

    Click the links for pointers to more details.

    Yes, I know, Apple cultists will say that nobody but evil geeks want to sync books through Usb using Stanza and that Jobs is a genius who knows what’s better for us, both consumers, developers and producers of content.

    It seems that «Goodreader, the terrific app for reading large pdf’s, has likewise been crippled, and for the same reason» (comment on the above post).

    Obviously Apple will ultimately strangle itself with this behavior, while its good ideas and innovations will trickle on more open platforms and users will follow – it’s not the biggest kid on the block.

  • Brad

    I don’t remember seeing any large-visibility posts on about this yet so…

    One of the things that has me excited and even has me considering buying the 1stGen version is this… The iPad looks like it will be the “eReader” that will be a pleasure to use with Safari Books Online. Using the Safari mobile site with my Kindle DX is not fun.

  • RickK

    Finally! Someone who understands what the iPad is for. I’m looking forward to taking my iPad to meetings to take notes and not have everyone thinking I’m texting. And reading books, magazines, PDFs, etc. on a device large enough to not ruin my eyes.

  • Sara Winge

    Looks like Mike Walsh agrees with you Edd. His “IPad – What is it good for?” post looks at the iPad’s potential to change how we interact with computing and our environment. Worth a read: