Happy New Year to everyone! As we gear up to start 2011, I thought I would share a holiday story about Apple’s tablet device - the iPad! When it first appeared on the market last April, critics derided the device as being an Apple gimmick – it was, after all, basically a larger version of their popular iTouch and iPhone devices. As I’ve mentioned before, I like gadgets, so while I wasn’t one of the first people to buy it, I got one fairly early on and I’ve been in love with it ever since. This gadget makes me smarter – I’m reading more, I’m writing more, and I can be more productive.
Over the holiday week, I convinced my parents that they could benefit from this type of device. They’re modestly computer-savvy (they use the internet and some basic applications), but generally find PCs to be technologically intimidating. They’re retired and like to travel. They want to stay connected, but don’t want to drag laptops or other equipment around. In addition, my father recently had eye surgery and was having trouble reading during the healing process.
I showed them how the iPad would be better for travel than their laptops, that it was actually simpler to use than their computers, and that the ability to quickly adjust the backlighting and font size would help my dad read more easily. Mom can listen to her audiobooks, keep in touch with family and friends, read books on the Kindle app and play games. There is a common theme here – flexibility, simplicity and usability. For adults who didn’t grow up with computers (probably anyone over the age of 35), PCs can often be complicated, intimidating machines. iPads represent a new class of computing devices that are simple to use and understand. While the iPad still requires a PC for “sync-ing,” newer devices will likely be more self-sufficient. As tablets become more ubiquitous (and cheaper), they will enable a class of users left behind by more traditional computing tools.
From a corporate perspective, businesses have not only a new group of potential customers, but a new way to reach out to and interact with customers. There is a trade-off: The more things that we do as consumers online, the more businesses will be able to track our preferences, analyze our habits and predict our needs in real-time. On one hand, I’m working with applications that have a pretty good idea about what I want to do and make it easy for me, and on the other hand, I have limited control over the information those applications capture and how it’s used. As we become an “always-on” society, we must be thoughtful about balancing instant gratification with protecting our privacy.
As I ponder the existential and ethical aspects of this new world, my mother is gleefully sending e-mails, shopping on Amazon, posting on Facebook and reading her Kindle books. Wait, I think I hear the phone ringing….gotta go - my mom is stuck on level two of Lego Harry Potter.