While watching This Week in Tech/Google just now, Gina Trapani made a remark during the opening discussions on the iPad’s place in the market that stood out to me:
I don’t ever go, “Gosh, I wish I had a tablet right now.”
I could be wrong, but I am highly skeptical that people went “Gosh, I wish I had a phone that could let all my friends know where I’m at and help get me a free beer at this pub which I’ll enjoy while watching a movie in my palm,” before they wound up doing just that with their iPhone.
People don’t always know what they miss in their lives until they lose something they have; whether it’s a loved one (shout-out in support of Leah and Bob) or their job, a phone or their house. Humans have a strong capacity to see what the addition of something in their lives would mean, but a hard time imagining something that isn’t there.
Whenever there is a clear void in people’s lives, something they can easily notice and observe being missing right now, it usually doesn’t take too long for a company to come in and offer a product or service to fill that void. And the longer it takes for a company to do so, the more and more people will start to want something in that space.
The iPad isn’t about delivering on what people want; it’s simply saying “Hey, we’ve done that mouse-and-keyboard thing for some twenty five years now. We all know how to do it. Well here’s a different way you could do it.”
What makes Apple Apple is that they refused to release a different way of doing things to the world until they were confident that this different way was also a better way.
The tablet devices we’ve seen in the market so far have all been different, but rarely have they been better at any one single thing than an average desktop or laptop computer. It certainly hasn’t been the case that a tablet hit the market that was better at almost everything—until now, anyway.
What the iPad means to a lot of people already is a first-hand experience at something they never knew they wanted, something they never knew they were missing in their lives, but once they saw it, it became something they could see being part of their life. How big a part will vary from person to person—for some, it’ll be not at all.
Now, to be clear, I wrote all this not having seen or touched an iPad in person yet, ever, but I already know what it will mean to me once I get mine: it’ll mean that everything I thought I knew I now have to unlearn, and then learn something entirely brand new.
The iPad’s promise is that I’ll enjoy every minute of it.