The iPad and immersive computing

Multitasking on the iPad could prove to be a limitation, not an asset.

Do you remember the first iPhone? Only a pathetically slow EDGE cell network, no GPS, 8 GB max, and worst of all, no app store? And still it changed everything about smartphones, and was the first step in what seems to be a new industry war. Would you buy one today? Oh, so limited — never!

iPad CoverageI thought about that while reading Marco Arment’s post about everything the iPad doesn’t do. The iPad today isn’t a perfect device; developers haven’t yet figured out how to make it really sing; it doesn’t yet occupy an indispensable role in many of its owners’ lives. It’s the first step, and I believe it will continue to grow. But I’m amazed by some of the things I already love about it.

Probably the strongest of these is the focus the iPad creates for me. The lack of multitasking is a feature. I thought I’d miss this, and thought Android’s work on multitasking might be a strong counterpoint. It’s not. I love how focused I am using an iPad, versus working on a laptop. New mail isn’t constantly arriving; tweets aren’t Growling into view; I don’t even have an RSS reader installed. Instead I’m just reading a book or just playing a game or maybe just working. This is a huge relief, an antidote to interruption. (I’m sure having more than just one app running, as promised in OS 4.0, will be a benefit in some ways, but for today I love not having it.)

That focus, plus the direct manipulation interface that loses mouse and keyboard in favor of pointing and tapping, makes the experience of using an app more intimate than on a laptop. I think now of personal computing and iPad computing as significantly different. It’s not just a different form factor, but a different kind of work that I do on the iPad. Put simply, it seems to produce a flow state much more easily for me, and once I’m in it, I fall out into distraction much less easily.

The apps and features that I most look forward to on the future iPad are those that make this immersive computing experience more ubiquitous and useful.

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