fill the void - bdunagan

10 Feb 2010
Obligatory iPad Post

“When the Mac first came out, Newsweek asked me what I [thought] of it. I said: Well, it’s the first personal computer worth criticizing. So at the end of the presentation, Steve came up to me and said: Is the iPhone worth criticizing? And I said: Make the screen five inches by eight inches, and you’ll rule the world.”

“Nothing about the iPad is obviously revolutionary, but it didn’t need to be: the iPhone OS and iPhone hardware are already revolutionary.

Apple already reinvented John’s mobile computing and my input mechanics and novice usability in 2007 with the iPhone. We’ve had the truly magical and revolutionary product this entire time, but we take it for granted now, and we’ve forgotten how awesome it already is.”

“The iPad as a particular device is not necessarily the future of computing. But as an ideology, I think it just might be. In hindsight, I think arguments over ‘why would I buy this if I already have a phone and a laptop?’ are going to seem as silly as ‘why would I buy an iPod if it has less space than a Nomad?’”

Not exactly filling the void with an iPad post, particularly one that’s two weeks late to the party and starts with what smarter people have already said. I blame Things for not being more insistent.

I agree that Apple’s iPad is the next step in computing: simplified computing. Yes, it has its shortcomings (inherent to a 1.0 release, which the iPhone had only three years ago), but it keeps with the design decisions that made the iPhone/iPod Touch ridiculously popular.

To illustrate the need, let me tell you about the “Check disc” incident. Over Christmas, my Dad subscribed to the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. The NYT doesn’t have an online puzzle component, so he had to download Across Lite, a third party Windows app. He called me after using it for a couple days about a “disc” issue. Whenever he tried to save the day’s puzzle, the app displayed, “Cannot write to file. Check disc.” It was such a weird error that I wanted to see it for myself. With VMWare Fusion on my Mac, I installed Across Lite and got the same error within a minute. I didn’t actually figure out what the problem was (read-only directory?); instead, I simply told my Dad how to use the “Save As…” option to save the puzzle to the Desktop. Problem solved.

But the larger problem is not solved. The incident is a perfect example of the abstraction problems that current computing environments have. They want to deal in apps and documents and photos, but they still break these abstractions daily. Windows gives me app shortcuts available from the Start menu, but those are a mediocre hack to abstract away the monstrous Program Files folder. Mac apps are nicely treated as atomic objects (even though they are folders), but people still run them out of read-only DMGs, leading to equally confusing error messages. All these semi-porous abstractions lead to a lot of unnecessary confusion.

The iPhone OS enforces the abstraction to a much better degree, and we’ve seen the results: over two billion apps downloaded on seventy million devices in eighteen months. All these little apps are islands of data, a per-app version of the Newton’s data soup platform. The iPad simply extends this OS to a larger surface.

I want one.

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