The other day I bought an iPad for the house. Yes, I know, when the iPad was first announced, I predicted that few people would want a crippled laptop. Allow me to say I was obviously and totally wrong.
By far, the iPad’s most wonderful feature, compared to laptops, is the fact that it turns on instantly. There’s no boot-up sequence. That one advantage makes the iPad an entirely different product from a laptop. Once powered on, the iPad doesn’t start begging me to update things nor force me to make decisions. It doesn’t remind me of all the ways it is protecting me. It doesn’t tell me to order printer ink or ask me to fill out a survey. A regular laptop is like your boss: always making you wait before giving you busy-work assignments. The iPad is more like a punctual lover. It’s always ready for fun. And if you are tempted to do some work on the iPad, its non-keyboard quickly changes your mind. You wouldn’t say a lover is a crippled version of a boss. (Insert your own inappropriate humor here.) So any comparison of an iPad to a laptop simply doesn’t work.
Our new iPad’s permanent home is in the kitchen. I’ve discovered that 90% of its usefulness comes from the fact that it’s speedy. Yesterday a fox walked by the window, and I was the only witness. Someone asked what type it was, and I was able to point to a picture on the iPad in less than 30 seconds. Some version of that situation happens continuously. Life comes at us in sub-minute chunks, especially in the kitchen. That’s a lot of iPad opportunities. I wouldn’t have bothered waiting for my laptop to snap out of its energy saving mode.
[Full disclosure: The 30 seconds to locate a fox picture on the Internet does not count the full minute of looking at Megan Fox images that Google was kind enough to offer up at the top of the search.]
Interestingly, I don’t recall the instant-on feature being a prominent element of Apple’s advertisements for the iPad. Perhaps at this point they could sell laminated turds if they put the Apple logo on them. Obviously whatever Apple is doing is working, marketing-wise.
Another interesting phenomenon of the iPhone and iPad era is that we are being transformed from producers of content into consumers. With my BlackBerry, I probably created as much data as I consumed. It was easy to thumb-type long explanations, directions, and even jokes and observations. With my iPhone, I try to avoid creating any message that are over one sentence long. But I use the iPhone browser to consume information a hundred times more than I did with the BlackBerry. I wonder if this will change people over time, in some subtle way that isn’t predictable. What happens when people become trained to think of information and entertainment as something they receive and not something they create? I think this could be a fork in the road for human evolution. Perhaps in a million years, humans will feel no conversational obligation to entertain or provide useful information. That will be the function of the Internet. Someday a scientist will identify the introduction of the iPhone as the point where evolution began to remove conversation from the list of human capabilities. And when the scientist forms this realization, he won’t tell his spouse because conversation won’t exist. He’ll put it on the Internet.