Who is the iPad for?

iPad adoption carries mixed messages and open questions

Many have written about how the iPad heralds a new paradigm in computers. Computers today are too complex. The iPad is the device that our parents will use so they don’t have to worry about the dark, scary underbelly of the file system.

iPad CoverageDuring a recent panel at Mobile Portland, both the audience and the panelists discussed the shortcomings of the iPad as being obstacles for themselves, but that these problems wouldn’t slow the iPad because the tech-savvy audience wasn’t the target demographic for the iPad.

Despite the fact that everyone believes the iPad is targeted at those who need a simpler computer, Apple itself has never made that argument.

You cannot use an iPad without a computer. The iPad cannot:

  • Install operating system updates without connecting to a computer.
  • Back up data and software without connecting to a computer.
  • Print documents without somehow emailing or sharing the document to a computer.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a recent survey found that the people most interested in the iPad are the typical leading- and bleeding-edge adopters.

In the long run, the iPad may yet revolutionize computing in the ways that people hope. It certainly holds the promise to do so. A lot will hinge on when Apple addresses system updates, backups and printing.

If these issues are tackled in the 4.0 version of the iPhone/iPad’s operating system, which will likely arrive this summer, look for a surge of interest from people looking for a simple computer during the back-to-school and holiday season.

Until then, I keep thinking about how Mobile Portland’s tech-savvy audience—the crowd that argued that the iPad wasn’t meant for them—responded when asked if they planned on buying an iPad.

Nearly every one of them raised their hand.

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  • Ray

    The iPad is an extension of the network. It is window into the cloud so to speak. Not meant for the producers of content but for the consumers. At least that’s how I see it.

  • Hortron

    If the average household of 2 parents and 2.x kids, has more than 1 PC or laptop, it’s conceivable that they’ll stick with at least one traditional pc/laptop and augment their internal network to include an iPad. This doesn’t contradict anything posted.

    I think in my house, when either my or my wife’s laptop needs replacing, we’ll consider an iPad, but not until then. Of course we seem to keep our PCs/macs for about 8-10 years if the hardware doesn’t irreplaceably break first, and we have a seriously high threshold of what you can’t repair :)

  • Walt French

    Years ago, I built an MG Midget (2-seater roadster) out of 3 wrecks and a title to a fourth. Had to buy new piston rings & tires but everything else was examining which of the third gear gears was in best shape and putting it together. Polished and reassembled those notoriously unreliable Weber carbs so it was an incredibly fun and surprisingly reliable car to drive.

    These days, I have no clue how I’d tweak fuel injectors, nor the interface to the computers controlling the engines. Time has moved on. Our Prius gets twice the mileage and accelerates just as well or better than the MG, and more reliably bangs out the miles more comfortably. (It is NOT, however, as fun to drive.)

    Ditto for PCs (almost!). I’ve built a computer from raw parts, written compilers, database languages and word processors. But why wouldn’t I want a package as nice as the iPad that makes it easy to do my day-to-day computing? Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean I don’t want a great, reliable, fun package that’ll be with me when I want it.

  • Nick Aubert

    Is printing all that relevant for this kind of device? I’m pretty sure the iPad is intended as something you’d want in addition to a computer, not as a replacement for your computer. You may still want to print permanent records for things like sales receipts. But I could imagine a device like the iPad being a complete replacement for printing in plenty of other circumstances.

  • Jason Grigsby

    @Nick Rereading my post a few days later (there’s a lag between submission and publication), I realize that I may have skipped stating a critical assumption.

    A lot of people had been saying that many consumers–particularly people who find their current computers too confusing–would replace their computers with iPads.

    I agree with you that the iPad was intended to be an addition, not a replacement. But in the days leading up to the iPad launch, it sure seemed like that was the minority opinion. :-)

    As far as printing is concerned, I agree. It is only critical if the iPad is meant to replace computers.

    That said, there were reports that some of the jailbreak folks had found unpublished libraries in the SDK that hinted at printing. I can’t find the link right now, but it seems that printing is likely on its way. Based on today’s 4.0 announcement, I suspect it will be in Fall when the iPad and iPhone OS development is unified.

  • Roger

    I regard my iPad as a mobile extension to my iMac, it’s not intended to replace anything. Since I rarely do work while out and about that requires a full-sized computer, I think the iPad functions as an optimal “throw in your bag” kind of device. We’ll see…

    By the way, there are several apps that permit you to print from an iPad, though I don’t know why I would want to do that.

  • Ray

    I believe you are correct. After 30+ years of managing IT departments I am delighted with the iPad. Simple sync, includes a back-up, and any OS updates and app updates. Plug it in and come back a few minutes later. Then simply use it, for hours, maybe a few days, before ever going back to the plug.

    The iPad, at least in this household replaces nothing. There are 2 Powerbooks and an Air collecting dust on a shelf and two desktops when the need arises.

  • The iPad is an really great tablet. I use it daily for 1 year now. I´m close to get the iPad 2 soon :)

  • I’ve buyed the iPad 2 few days ago, I can’t wait for the next one that will come out!