The iPad: The Device I Would Have Purchased Before The iPod

I just recently purchased an iPad. I chalked it up to, “Well, I do user experience. I should have one.” I didn’t need one, but after hours of watching people use one in that Apple Store over on Stockton Street in the heart of Apple-dom, San Francisco…

I had to have one.

Sure, it’s over priced (well, not compared to the Kindle).

Sure, it looks like a toy.

But I’m telling you, Apple and the developers that are building applications for this device are going to change the world in a way that we can’t even dream of. I can’t even dream of all the possibilities, and I do software design for a living.

Here are my thoughts.

What the iPad is great at

Surfing the Web

Flash aside, if you want something to read web pages, the iPad is wonderful. Pages load fast, clean, and re-size to the direction you reading. The display is crisp and clear and totally makes users rethink the limitations of resolution. As much as Adobe likes to tell everyone how much content is Flash-based, I didn’t miss Flash at all.

A lot of sites now have HTML5 videos (YouTube, for one), and once site owners see how many of their users are using iPads to access their content, Flash will become less and less the only game in town.

Watching videos and listening to music

The iPod is a great portable device, but if you spend a lot of time on planes, buses or any other mode of transport where you can access the Web, this is a wonderful time waster. Netflix and play at such a high quality, you forget that you’re watching it over WiFi.

I bought it pretty much for time spent on airplanes. In about one week, I’m going to find a new home for my netbook, because my iPad is replacing it.

Frankly, this is the device I would have bought first before the iPod, because it’s the perfect home entertainment device. Some enterprising young engineer, or company, is going to figure out how to make this the hub of your home entertainment system, and that person will make obscene amounts of money.

Reading anything in “print.”

The NYTimes application is similar to the application they built for Silverlight with Microsoft a few years ago. Depending on the direction you’re reading the article, the page repaginates in the new direction. “Print” publishers should look at this as a completely new channel that’s not only going to extend the life of their content, but allow them to do interesting new things with that content, like include multimedia — something they would have never thought of with a strictly paper product.

I’ll make this prediction: this is the device print publishing companies so desperately needed for a subscription/advertising model, and yet they’re going to miss the opportunity because they’re more focused on losing classified ad share to Craigslist.

What it’s not so great at

Actual work

Sure, it’s a great device to take to meetings and conferences. You can take notes without a lot of effort, and the battery life fits in perfectly with an all-day conference. But it definitely lacks many things, like a mouse. The inability to make precise movements, needed for applications like Omnigraffle and Adobe Photoshop, make this a poor device for repetitive tasks required by most jobs. However, this is a great second device to take if you have a primary device like a laptop. Leave the computer at home, and show the broad strokes at meetings.

Think shiny demos, not boring presentations. For some sales professionals, this will replace the projector.

Replying to emails or any other action that requires a lot of typing

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Many iPhone users that were frequent texters developed carpal tunnel symptoms using Blackberry’s and other smart phones, mainly because the phones were keyboard-driven devices. Once the users moved over to the iPhone, the limited feedback of the “keyboard” forced users to be more economical with their typing because it took much longer. Their symptoms disappeared. The same should happen with the iPad; users will adapt and type less because the device wasn’t designed for that.

How the iPad is going to change the Web

A lot of interactions that work best with a mouse and/or keyboard are pointless in a gestural environment



Interfaces that require a lot of typing.


Interfaces that utilize drag and drop (think Microsoft Surface) become wonderful ways of navigating sites using the iPad, much more so than point and click methods. How many sites really use drag and drop geared toward mouses? Many applications will have to be re-thought in a way that’s going to be a harder transition than moving from command line to point and click.

Cutting out all necessary steps to sign in and personalize content will be important

A lot of websites still have long registration processes that require several steps and lots of keystrokes to maximize site content. Services like Facebook Connect, Messenger Connect, Twitter login or another other social way of registration without full registration will be very important in significant user adoption by iPad users.

If I were running a social site (Hey, MySpace, you listening?), I would figure out a way of designing an interface optimized for the iPad. That includes drag and drop, gestural interfaces that allow users to be creative in a space that’s totally different than the web. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but this is the Wild Wild West! The first website to do this is going to make a huge splash.

Saving content locally will become necessary for iPad users

I’m not the lucky few that owns an iPad that has 3G (read: Ambrose Little), and I couldn’t stomach the thought of yet another Internet service on my already expensive AT&T bill. Applications that download and cache content is something myself and millions of iPad users will be very interested in.

Applications that store a lot of content locally so users can read offline will be all the rage as the iTunes store carries more and more applications. Follow the lead of the NYTimes, for instance.