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.