iPad: is it good or bad?

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I have had an iPad since it first came out. I use it a lot. I read books, papers, and news papers. I watch movies on it (particular now I am here in Japan by myself). I plan to use it for my teaching tool as well. I take it whenever I travel — now I don’t have to carry a pile of papers with me.

However, I am surprised to see still so many negative reviews — people often say it is too closed and does not provide enough features. (One of the most recent ones is by a friend of mine, Joel West). And, I can understand why they say that. That is, when you look at it as a computer.

But, I don’t see it as a computer. I see it as a replacement of books, newspapers, magazines, and many other things. When you see it as a computer, it is a terribly closed system. You cannot program on it. You cannot add new hardware. Apple dictates you how to use a computer. And, that is not right. After, a modern computer is supposed to be open, allowing you to do whatever you want to do. An iPad is completely closed, yet very successful — which puzzles those who believe in the principles of open computing architecture.

However, if you see it as a newspaper, a book, and a magazine, it is amazingly open and flexible. It allows you do a lot of different things: it communicates, memorizes, calculates, etc, etc. You can add new functionalities and it is incredibly flexible: simply add new apps.

I don’t think Steve Jobs introduced iPad as a Tablet PC. He introduced it as a smart appliance to replace many of these familiar everyday things. And, iPad makes them incredibly flexible and open. As an illustration, just see what iPad is doing to Kindle. Rumor has it that Amazon is hiring mobile app programmers to make Kindle more open and flexible. Instead of making computer industry more closed, iPad is making other industries more open. What users are experiencing is not computing experience, but everyday experiences with hidden digital capabilities. This is what I argued in a paper recently published in MISQ. No wonder, iPad does not have a keyboard, mouse and any extension board. Any appearance that links it to a computer has been deliberately eliminated from it.

We will see which interpretation of iPad will survive. My bet is that people who are inclined to hack their own computers are likely to see it as a computer. However, a whole bunch of non-hacking folks (those who do not set their VCR clock or struggle to program their TiVo machines) will not see it as a computer. Instead, they will see it as a welcome sign of mundane stuffs becoming more open and intelligent. It is a “non-computer” computer that Apple introduced. As long as you see it as a computer, you are missing the point.

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4 thoughts on “iPad: is it good or bad?

  1. Youngjin, I am not surprised that as bleeding edge technologist, you have and love an iPad. You are a true believer (http://blog.openitstrategies.com/2010/04/ipad-credo-ergo-sum.html), and the iPhone true believers were also right — while I was somewhat skeptical.
    However, it is clear that the iPad is just the first implementation of a larger class of products — tablets — that may or may not catch on. These are Sculley’s Knowledge Navigator, or Kindles on steroids, or the planned HP webOS tablet; they have nothing to do with Chairman Bill’s Tablet PC abomination.
    Will tablets find a niche faster than smartphones or netbooks move to close the niche? That’s question I’m asking, and I think the jury is still out.
    Your friend,
    Joel
    PS: Eat some sashimi for me.

  2. Does everyone have a smartphone now? What if you dont want the electronic tether and an email longer than 2 sentences is not part of your life, the ipad fits the bill. My girlfriend has it in lieu of a computer and couldnt be more happy, movies, e-reader, facebook etc. and email with GPS navigation and apps out the wazoo. If you dont have the iphone (which many dont due to the crappy network) this may be the 1st foray into Apple land and that will open up many doors for Mr Jobs to peddle his wares.
    Sent from my iloungechair

  3. Professor Yoo! It’s an interesting analysis for me. In marketing, I learned about the marketing for people’s lifecycle. The innovation of information system may need to aligned with the needs of people. Steve Jobs or Apple is too good at pinpointing what’s the needs of customers or people and making the innovative products in a wholly new way from the view point of customers. Although many say that the market will move from supplier based to customer based market, the main trend in Korean IT market may not be synched with. The reason may be that many IT newbies are excited about iPad and Appe’s new approach.

  4. However, it is clear that the iPad is just the first implementation of a larger class of products — tablets — that may or may not catch on. These are Sculley’s Knowledge Navigator, or Kindles on steroids, or the planned HP webOS tablet; they have nothing to do with Chairman Bill’s Tablet PC abomination.
    Will tablets find a niche faster than smartphones or netbooks move to close the niche? That’s question I’m asking, and I think the jury is still out.
    Your friend
    Jim

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