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IPad: an Apple for Mom - The uncomputer for the people (danieltenner.com)
197 points by swombat on Jan 28, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments



In the MMO genre, this divide is called "themepark vs sandbox". A game like World of Warcraft is a themepark - you're given a lot of direction in terms of where you're supposed to go and what you're supposed to do. EVE Online is a sandbox - you do whatever you want and you get fewer roadsigns that say "go this way" or "beating this means you win".

Current computers are sandboxes - you can do with them whatever you want, run arbitrary code, create your own workflow, and operate without rules. The iPad is a themepark - it has specific programs that do specific things, and then it's got little roped off paths between them. For many users (the proverbial Mom), a well-developed theme park is more attractive, because all they really wanted to do anyhow is ride the roller-coaster or the Ferris wheel. People like the average Hacker News reader (or even the average reddit or digg reader) can't stand the roped off paths, but for Mom, those laid out sidewalks are a relief.


As I read through this (really excellent analysis), it makes me realize, even more, that PGs (and many others) thesis that it isn't so much the _idea_ that matters, but the execution. The concept of a "User friend interface that creates a themepark for the users" didn't occur to Apple first - But, amazingly enough - Microsoft. The idea of turning a computer into a themepark was basically the foundation for Microsoft BOB - From Wikipedia: "The user interface was designed to simplify the navigational experience for novice computer users."

Apple certainly seems to be executing on that vision in a entirely different manner than Microsoft did.


There's no reason why Apple can't sell "sandbox" versions of this kit. The hardware would be 99% the same. The markup and the resulting margins would be very tasty to Apple.

EDIT: They'd still be selling the "Theme Park" version to the other 95% of us.


Costs: developing and supporting a new version of the OS, introducing confusion into their famously stripped-down product lines, complicating the product's reputation as an easy-to-use consumer-oriented device.

Benefits: sales to the tiny minority of people who won't buy an iPad now, but would if they were more 'sandboxy.'

Doesn't sound 'very tasty' to me.


They could just make it easy to hack open, to achieve nearly the same effect without having to support it officially.


Don't they already do this with the iPhone. :-)


Not really. A lot of the hacks that are used to jailbreak the phone are actually security holes. So they can and do get patched, leaving you 'out in the cold.'


With a developer licence you can install software outside the normal "sandbox".


I think the reason is user experience. Future computers will be "theme parks", because non-geeks don't understand the proper limitations of hardware.

For example, 99% of annoyances of computer users is that they install too much software for the resources of the machine they have. Then the computer starts suddenly working slower and slower -- and they don't know why. This happens with Macs and Windows.

In a machine like the iPad Apple can control what software will run and make sure that it is adequate to the resources of the machine. Also, from what I see, they limit the possibility of concurrent running programs to interfere with the user experience.


While I generally agree, I think it's a mistake to blame users for the fact that any PC software they want to even try is given rights to fully hijack their machine and muck things up. (Yes, it's a lesser issue on the Macs, but as you note: it's still an issue)

That was, and is, a serious design failure.


Agreed. The OLPC had a sandboxing feature to prevent this.


Did it use UnionFS?

On a tangent, why aren't more Linux installs (outside of 'live' distros) making use of UnionFS? That makes it easy to 'lock down' the base install because all of the writing goes to a separate partition that could be completely removed to restore the original state. Are their performance issues with UnionFS (performance in a desktop-sense, not in a server-sense)?


I think the reason is user experience. Future computers will be "theme parks", because non-geeks don't understand the proper limitations of hardware.

Yes, but there is no reason why you couldn't sell the unlocked version of the same kit. If a non-geek has a bad experience, then let them downgrade the thing. Heck, a company other than Apple might charge them another fee for that.


This doesn't work. The moment you support an unlocked version, everyone will develop for that version, because it is just easier (like creating crappy software for Windows). Very soon non-geek users will have to use software created for the unlocked version and the same problems will crop up.


What's the point of officially supporting a jailbroken product, given all the new problems it will bring? To me it's like asking Apple to support Hackintoshes.

Apple has been doing this for decades and it's nothing new. If you want freedom and flexibility, you should look elsewhere.


Well, if Apple did it, it wouldn't be "jailbroken," would it? The point would be the same as Apple selling the Aluminum towers. If you want freedom and flexibility coupled with world-class design, then you do buy an Apple -- with top dollar, meaning high margins for them.

Apple's been doing that gig for years.


"Well, if Apple did it, it wouldn't be "jailbroken," would it?"

It's still a jail, and if Apple officially removed it - you can still say 'jailbroken' but that's a minor point.

"If you want freedom and flexibility coupled with world-class design, then you do buy an Apple -- with top dollar, meaning high margins for them."

Not true. I can't officially run OS X on non-official Apple hardware with official Apple suppport. Not to mention if I didn't buy Apple hardware then it would most likely kill their margins ;) iPad will eventually have the same 'freedom' as OS X and iPhone.

What most of us don't see right away is that there are financial costs for supporting freedom and flexibility. These costs are in marketing, support (reliability and usability), and security. Given the right target techie segment, these costs don't matter for freedom. Unfortunately if you're targeting the masses of non-techies, that's a completely different story.

(FYI I am an OS X user)


FYI, I am also an OS X user. (MacBook, iMac, iPhone) The fact that you felt you had to mention this and a few other things make me think you didn't completely comprehend my idea.

It's still a jail, and if Apple officially removed it - you can still say 'jailbroken' but that's a minor point.

I never said about removing the jail. Just building a cozy luxe visitors center just outside the wall.

Not true. I can't officially run OS X on non-official Apple hardware with official Apple suppport.

In my idea, people would be running non-official Apple software without Apple support.

iPad will eventually have the same 'freedom' as OS X and iPhone. Nothing less, and nothing more; and certainly nothing new.

You're dead wrong. If the iPad is to become as pervasive as they would like it to, Apple is going to have to open it up enough so that it can operate as a general purpose computer for the small segment of the populace that wants it.

The key is in the italics. There is no technical reason why Apple can't have their "walled garden" and still let a few people do dangerous things if they want. Will it be what the FSF calls "free?" No way.

Actually, they are already doing some of this. It's called the "iPhone SDK."


"I never said about removing the jail. Just building a cozy luxe visitors center just outside the wall."

It essentially has the same problem as a jailbroken iPad/iPhone/Hackintosh. There are costs with supporting issues that arise from this if it's official.

"In my idea, people would be running non-official Apple software without Apple support."

Well then why complain when in all likelihood a 3rd party will give you what you want for Apple products - ala unsupported jailbreak?

"You're dead wrong. If the iPad is to become as pervasive as they would like it to, Apple is going to have to open it up enough so that it can operate as a general purpose computer for the small segment of the populace that wants it."

Given the history with iPod, iTunes, & iPhone I'm going to disagree. All of them are closed systems with the same critics. Yet all of these products have been wildly successful despite that. I'm not saying that this would work with any company, but it works with Apple; it's the part of their company DNA that has proven time and again to work. As I've said in previous posts, there was a time when Apple was more 'open'; and it was a total failure that almost took down the entire company.

"There is no technical reason why Apple can't have their "walled garden" and still let a few people do dangerous things if they want."

I agree but there are a myriad of other reasons as to why they shouldn't such as extra costs, making their content partners (movies, music, and books) happy (I suspect this is a really big reason), and so on. It's not perfect for everyone; but it's worked for non-techies, Apple stock holders, and Apple's partners.

"Actually, they are already doing some of this. It's called the "iPhone SDK.""

Then why complain? Just pay the $99 and be happy.

I suggest moving on and helping either the Chrome OS or Linux hardware movement if you really want officially blessed freedom. You're not going to get that from a mainstream console maker; we are a niche audience.


Who says it has to be officially supported? Look at the Linksys WRT54GL. It is basically made to be hacked even though it will function correctly without loading a different firmware to it.


They do: it's called the Developer Program.

(Expansion: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1084640)


> Whats truly amazing is that this is always how desktop development has always been done, except on Linux and Mac OS X. Pay your money, get your compiler, write your software, run your software. The Linux and Mac OS X crowd is up in arms because they have had GCC for at least 9 years, and $99 seems like a lot compared to free.

This how it's always been done? Really?

GCC: Initial release May 23, 1987 Commodore64: Release date August 1982


You can spend $99/yearly and become an iPhone developer. Then you can put whatever you want on your iPhone (I assume iPad development will be similar). Ad-hoc distribution allows for like 500 "testers", and you could always just share source files with other developers and recompile them.

EDIT: thanks for the correction on yearly vs. one-time.


Only if the SDK supports it. I can't, for instance, put widgets on the lock screen to see how many unread emails I have. Or have the locked device light up due to an event that my background process detected.


You probably can, if it's just for yourself.

The jailbreaking world has reverse engineered a lot of these internals, like replacing SpringBoard, etc.


" It could be $99/yearly."

It is.


That's what Chrome OS and Android are for; we'll get what we want in a few months or maybe even weeks.

Selling an official hacker version will only serve to confuse the other 95% of customers. (Apple's philosophy of simplicity goes beyond just their UI design.) I don't think this makes a lot of sense either when members of the 5% will eventually jailbreak it anyway.


I'm not positive that the jailbreaks will come as fast as they used to.


>There's no reason why Apple can't sell "sandbox" versions of this kit. The hardware would be 99% the same.

Why would you do that? To compete with every other sandbox vendor that can simply copy all the expensive work that you put into UI and design and sell knock-offs at half the price?

Put yourself in the company's shoes. Your narrow interests are not in theirs.


I suspect what would happen is hardly anyone would buy the theme park. "Less powerful, but easier to use" is a hard sell. Then they wouldn't maintain their reputation for ease of use.


I suspect what would happen is hardly anyone would buy the theme park.

That's why you a) wait until the other environment is well established first and b) charge a $250 markup.

"Less powerful, but easier to use" is a hard sell. But "Does the same stuff, is safer, and $250 cheaper" is an easy one.


I can see that button being part of an iPad Enterprise SDK, but there is no need for a separate hardware offering, it. Is all in the software.


Can you imagine how much bitching the $250 charge would bring?


This urge of control has to do with apple philosophy; I own a macbookpro myself with a wonderful huge buttonless touchpad: if it were for OSX I would even be able to configure middle click with it (which I don't care because I run linux anyway but it says a lot about their point of view IMO).


Are you able to configure the touchpad to support right-clicks under Linux? I'm curious because that's one thing that's been a pain for me when running Linux on an Apple laptops in the past.


yes. one finger tap is single click, two fingers is middle click and three fingers is right click. All via synaptics.


We'll probably see some of the same tech make its way into the macbook/pro lines.


This is a similar path to what has happened with cars. Most people used to know how to maintain their own car. Now you barely have to know how to pop the hood.


Actually, that's pretty much because cars got computers. No one person knows how to completely fix a computer.


That's a good point, but cars are also much more reliable now so you don't have to know how to fix them. The same could be said for operating systems and computers in general.


The point is that you still can pop the hood and make modifications. (Though a lot of manufacturers have tried to prevent some of this with locked-down computers under the hood)


Even a technophile like me wants to just sit back and be a "regular person" once in a while; to sit back with a book, do some reading on the web, or watch a movie on the couch. The iPad doesn't have to have shell access to be an incredibly useful device for technophiles either. There are SSH programs for the iPhone; there will be similarly useful utilities built for the iPad too.


ding

Even for the non-technophiles, there's a tremendous amount of value in such a device.

Last year my parents were moving out of their home into a smaller, elderly apartment. They found an old HP iPaq I apparently left behind in a box years ago. They called me asking if it would allow them to browse the web sort of like an iPhone, but from the couch. My response was "sort of, but not really". Their response was quite dejected. They really hoping it would've allowed them to browse on the couch.

We've been down the netbook idea road before, and the laptop road, but the solution ended up being an iMac. My father (in his 60s) has terrible eyesight, so a large display was great. Time Machine was also the "killer app" for them -- they hated making backups before, but my father begrudgingly made some every few months (I used to do it for them during holiday visits).

iPad though? Exactly what they want. Especially my Mom who is a bona-fide technophobe. She's still "afraid" of computers, fearing she'll "mess it up". The iPad is perfect for 95% of what she does. The only thing she still has to use the iMac for is a few games (which could be re-bought for the iPad or her Nintendo DS), and for scanning in the family photo albums. Instant on. On the couch. No keyboard. Nothing to "mess up". Access to all the computer's media (especially if there's AppleTV like streaming from their iTunes library).

As articles have mentioned, this is the perfect computer for the family technophobe. Or for replacing that old laptop you had around that you were considering replacing with a netbook for casual-couch-computing -- so they can futz around on Facebook or do a quick email or look up a quick thing while they watch TV or have a spare moment.


I need to use one before making up my mind, but today I use a Macbook Pro as my production device (code, music production, presentations, other high volume content creation) and an iPhone for mobile communication and very casual short bursts of consumption. What's missing is a pure casual consumption and occasional production device. This fits in quite well. Netbooks are just not the right form factor for many of those tasks.


I guess this is why I feel "Meh" from this device.

I don't browse the internet from the couch and have no desire to.


I agree. I use my computer all the time for dev work. I want an ipad to do all of the other things I use my computer for - email, web surfing, watching videos, so I can do them on the go, or from the comfort of my couch and not at my desk.


You really want to use an iPad for email? I think I'd be running for my laptop after about 6 words.


I do most of my e-mail on my iPhone these days. "Sent from my iPhone" is a great way to justify a quick response.


Just grab the keyboard stand from out of your backpack. Or, you can use one of these:

http://www.usbgeek.com/prod_detail.php?prod_id=1219

Someone should write an iPhone app that does this over Bluetooth.


at that point, why not just use your laptop? I still don't get it I guess...


Plenty of people are very comfortable with thumb-typing on a Blackberry-like thing or typing on an iPhone. You always have the phone with you, and it's a lot less overhead than getting out the laptop.


The "getting out the laptop" overhead is a killer for me. I will often go an entire weekend at home (when I have work needing to be done, etc) without switching from iPhone to laptop because I just couldn't be bothered getting out the laptop and firing it up. To be fair though, part of that's probably because my laptop is 5-6 years old, standby doesn't work and the battery life is average.


There are a lot of times when I need to SEE my email without composing email. I read a lot more email than I reply to, or I will need to see something but won't need to respond immediately, or I will log into email to get tracking info for packages, etc. I wouldn't use it for email all the time, of course. I'm not going to write a novel on the thing. That is rather impractical. But for accessing email when I'm away from the desk, it would be better than, say, an iphone, and less cumbersome than a laptop.


>| There are SSH programs for the iPhone; there will be similarly useful utilities built for the iPad too.

The idea of typing shell commands on a touchpad makes me cringe...do people really do this?


The idea of typing shell commands on a touchpad makes me cringe...do people really do this?

Yeah. Not for day-to-day work, mind, but if I am on-call say, this is the difference between being able to go out in the evening and just check something quickly if I have to, or restart sommething, or lugging a laptop around and needing to find some space to set it down, connect the 3G dongle, log in, blah blah, all that business takes longer than actually fixing whatever's gone wrong sometimes! I am really looking forward to the iPad, it will be liberating.


It can be a lifesaver in a pinch.


example pinch?


Remote administration on the train to or from work.


sudo apache2ctl restart


It's not an all-the-time thing to be sure, nor an often thing. It's nice to have though.

> The idea of typing shell commands on a touchpad makes me cringe...do people really do this?

Granted, I think that about netbooks. I used a 10" ThinkPad for two years and the idea of using something smaller just sounds insane to me.


Sometimes you need to. For example, when making an image of an iPhone's flash. It works, but is extremly slow. With some exercise you might be able to type commands slightly slower than on a computer.

A 'reimagined' shell for the iPhone might work really well. Something similiar to zsh, with lots of prediction.


Not all the time, no, but it can be a life saver when you're out somewhere, without access to a computer, and a server goes down and you have to deal with it.


Absolutely. Unfortunately, it's an LED backlit display. This is fine for most computing tasks, but for reading it can lead to eyestrain.

I really wish they had gone with a transflective screen, like Pixel Qi's..

It's not for me, but I can definitely see the allure for a certain (large) segment of computer users.

Once something like this comes out with a transflective screen, I might pick one up. Typical LED/LCD screens are too difficult to use under bright lights.


Actually, it depends a bit on the user. The back lit screen for reading is one of the things I'm most excited about. I just can't see digital paper technologies like the Kindle... they just don't have enough contrast.

A back lit screen might not be great for reading on a sunny day, but for someone like myself, who has had to give up reading actual paper books because I can no longer see them, and is stuck reading only eBooks where I can have a back light and enlarged font, the iPad is exciting. Finally, I'll be able to relax on the couch again and read comfortably, rather than having to sit at my desk.

I do realize I'm in the minority when compared to the overall consumer market, but there are a lot of visually impaired users who would actually benefit from the back light.


I already spend 80% of my waking hours staring at an LCD screen, I don't see how this will make any difference.


I even started to think about writing code with Vim and tmux/screen again on the remote machine.

Like old good days, with nicer display. :-)


Do it. I still do, on a regular basis, and it's great. (On a computer, I mean. Not an iPhone.)


A better comparison is with the Nintendo Wii. While Sony and Microsoft competed in the cut-throat market of consoles for gamers, the Wii also created a new product category: consoles for everyone else. It worked pretty well for them – it turns out that there’s a lot more non-gamers than gamers, and making a device that appeals to 95% of the population sells better than making one that appeals to only 5%.

Daniel hit the nail on the head. The industry has been tending towards making high-spec machines while often neglecting human interface issues. People complain that all of this email/booting up/installing/URL stuff was too complicated, and we techies blamed them and told them to RTFM.

In the meantime, others directly address their concerns, and surprise -- people give them money.


Yes - the majority of people view computers as appliances. They don't want a computer, they want an email machine and a word processing machine and a "show me this website" machine and a music-playing machine. They don't need 2560x1600@120fps, and they don't care about having 16 processors. They want to sit down, bang out an email, and do something else, or sit down, type their paper, and be done.

Apple actually had something like this in the mid-90s called "At Ease", designed as a child-safe file manager. You had programs on one tab and files on the other. I remember it from elementary school, and always felt that a more modern version of that would help less computer literate people.


Yes - the majority of people view computers as appliances. They don't want a computer, they want an email machine and a word processing machine and a "show me this website" machine and a music-playing machine.

More precisely, they want a backplane into which they can effortlessly plug in various appliances. Press Buy, download it, plug it in, it just works.


Users want to complete tasks. Each of these tasks should be as simple as a toaster. Push button, insert input, push button, win.

Open Mail, type letter, hit send, hear "sent mail" swoosh.

Open Safari, enter URL or search term, click Go, get webpage.

Push lever, insert bread, wait 30 seconds, eat delicious toast.

Open Word, type stuff, hit save/print/email, get happy boss.

Open Youtube, enter search/URL, push Go, Laugh.


> told them to RTFM.

To be fair, there are some people that complain that their computer doesn't work, only to find out that they didn't plug it in or hit the power switch. The iPad doesn't solve stupidity.


I've been thinking much the same thing - I'd love it if the non-technical people in my life were using an iPad. They'd get in to much less trouble (of course, the same is true for Chrome OS).

The question posed at the end is an interesting one: at the moment, the iPad appears to require a regular computer (just like an iPod touch does). Presumably a future version - or even a software update for the existing model - will get rid of this dependency.


>>The question posed at the end is an interesting one: at the moment, the iPad appears to require a regular computer (just like an iPod touch does). Presumably a future version - or even a software update for the existing model - will get rid of this dependency.

Apple's paradigm is that the devices revolve around the main computer, and I don't see that changing. However, it could be that the "main computer" evolves into a headless thing (like the new Mac Mini Server) that auto-magically handles the Ethernet, USB devices, and mass storage for the iPad(s). Plug it into the wall, the router, and the printer, and it finds the iPad(s) via Bonjour on your wireless network. Your Mac Mini Server (MMS) downloads your upgrades for you, stores your media, and backs up your contacts and files. It works like a remote harddrive. Just drag files you don't need any more over to its home screen icon, and they're kept on the server now. It's also your hub to access your digital camera or other USB device, and shares them over 802.11n to the iPad(s).

Then, a few years later, when our Mobile Me accounts have like 5 TB limits and enough people have HD-streaming broadband, that computer can be replaced by a simple dock with an Ethernet port and USB for the printers and cameras. Apple's getting $99/year instead of $500 for the server, but still making bank. You buy stuff on iTunes and it automatically appears on your iDisk. You download it when you sync your iPad with your iDisk and put it in your iPad's library. Tired of that song? Throw it out on the iPad and download it again later.


It's kind of funny that Chrome hasn't entered into the iPad discussions more. It's pretty much a second approach to the same problem.

Most people just want to use the web and email (most of the time THROUGH the web) on a computer. So give 'em what they want.

And if you say "what about Flash!" I'm gonna guess one of two things: you want video (cough cough PORN) or you want to play Farmville.


I thought about mentioning that, but decided it didn't really fit in this article. You're absolutely right, though - Chrome OS is aiming for exactly the same target.

So this time, Apple's going to have a serious competitor early on. Interesting times for us consumers.


The other unmentioned thing is how Apple will approach the cloud. That massive data center they're building can't just be for streaming music and video to iTunes customers.

I bet you see iPad evolve into Apple's cloud computing platform while the OSX-based notebooks stay they way they are.

This also has some serious long term problems for Mac OS. What if Apple decides (or has already decided) that the future is closed-architecture cloud computing devices? You'd see OS X (OS XI?) dead before the decade is over.


Unlikely. Developers and designers are still necessary for Apple, and cannot be locked in easily. (neither technically nor psychologically)


At this point, there's a lot more money to be made with a successful app on the Cocoa Touch platform compared to Cocoa/OSX.


Yes, but you are developing those Cocoa Touch apps on a full-blown computer running OS X.


As the IPhone SDKs currently run on Mac OSX, if they kill OSX how are people going to develop for whatever the IPad develops into?

It raises an interesting question though. Is Apple slightly killing off their supply of future developers? If people don't grow up with programmable machines will the IPad generation be so into programming or as knowledgeable about computers actually work in general. I know a fair chunk of my knowledge has come from diagnosing and fixing faults in computers.


So the question is how would things go if you have an single mac (when you really need it) and several pad's. What cool things would you do if everyone had a few lying around. While it might be able to replace a desktop several years from now I think it can only be thought of as an accessory to a desktop at this point.

Edit: Also hearing so many people saying: "My mom should get one of these" is really them saying "I wont buy it, but someone else should". Really makes me ponder just how successful it really will be.


>>Edit: Also hearing so many people saying: "My mom should get one of these" is really them saying "I wont buy it, but someone else should". Really makes me ponder just how successful it really will be.

The device is not targeted towards the people you interact with on the web right now. All Hacker Newsies* are sufficiently tech literate that the costs of the device in terms of lost freedoms outweigh the ease-of-use gains. Ditto for basically anyone commenting or blogging on the "tech" internet. Over in the other internets^, you'll likely find people who would like that tradeoff, but they won't really start talking about it until it ships. If you drop around those places in March-May as the devices roll out, you'll see more "I want one" posts. In fact, I know at least one car enthusiast who is already planning on building his dashboard around an iPad.

Mac News/rumor sites are unenthusiastic because their average commenter owns an iMac, a MacBook, and an iPod Touch. They were looking for an excuse to whip out their credit cards, and it's not for them.

TL;DR - you're looking in the wrong place.

* - there an official term?

^ - there are multiple "internets" because there's minimal intersect between the community niches.


All Hacker Newsies are sufficiently tech literate that the costs of the device in terms of lost freedoms outweigh the ease-of-use gains.

I don't think that's true. We're regular folks too, you know. We want to, like, just do stuff sometimes. Hands up who owns a phone? What, you don't exclusively use your GPL Ruby VOIP client you wrote yourself one afternoon? Shame on you! :-P


My overall point with that sentence was that the more tech literate someone is, the less likely they are to benefit from the ease-of-use gains, and the more tech literate someone is, the more likely they are to regularly utilize their "lost freedoms". I phrased it poorly, my apologies.

Abstracting away the hierarchical file system is a positive for my mom, who can never find stuff she's saved, but I have no issues using one in the first place, so my gains are smaller. She'll be thrilled not to have to navigate an application installer or download some component from the web to run something, but doing that is nearly effortless for me.

It's no loss at all to my Mom that the iPad can't run some GPL Ruby VOIP app she wrote herself, because she can't write a Ruby VOIP app. By contrast, I would be giving up my ability to write and run my own Ruby VOIP app[1].

Overall, I (as a very tech literate person) benefit less from the positives and feel the pinch of the negatives more than my mom (or any less tech literate person). It could still be a good trade for me, but I wind up looking at a totally different values proposition than my mother would.

[1] - I have no interest in writing a VOIP app.


My overall point with that sentence was that the more tech literate someone is, the less likely they are to benefit from the ease-of-use gains, and the more tech literate someone is, the more likely they are to regularly utilize their "lost freedoms".

This is utter nonsense. That's the same as claiming, that the more tech literate you are, the more ugly UI you need. Ease-of-use means being more efficient for everyone. Or are most tech literate still punching cards? iPad is not the device you will do your tech literate stuff: you will use your computer for that.

Why do people think that iPad has to replace something? Sure, if all one does is browsing, some emails, and a couple of games, iPad may be the he or she they needs. For others (including "tech literate" people), it makes a great complementary device, best suited for browsing, e-books, etc. I wouldn't want to hack in Ruby on iPad, but when browsing on my couch with my iPad, with its IPS screen, portrait orientation and amazing multitouch UI I couldn't care less about all the freedom it has not.


>I wont buy it, but someone else should".

No. Its not about that.

Since most such people already use a laptop throughout the day and have iPhone. So its something they think might be more used by people who are not carrying a computing/entertainment device throughout the day.


I agree. I own a computer repair shop. 90% of our customers, all they want to do is surf the web, check email, look at pictures, and keep in touch with the family. The iPad is great for this. If I could give an iPad to every confused PC user who wanders in looking lost and forlorn, a good majority of them could walk out 10 minutes later, knowing how to do all of the things they want to be able to do on the web. Not everyone needs or wants to do all of the things we HN readers need and want to do on the web, so not everyone needs a device that will allow them to do more. For a lot of people, the restrictions actually make it easier.


Definitely agree with this. With an iphone and a laptop already, I don't have much need for an ipad.

However, I was watching the unveiling with my mom, and she thought it might be perfect for her needs. She doesn't have (or want) a smartphone and doesn't really need (or want to spend the money on) a full-fledged laptop. But she does want an easy-to-use portable device, especially one that she can use on trips for emailing, maps, watching movies, etc.

Oh, and the Wii analogy fits perfectly for her, too.


"I wont buy it but the people whose computers I have to support when they break, the people who cannot or will not learn how to do things so when they want to do something I first have to work it out and learn it myself, then teach them - they should buy it".

And really, that's not saying "they are inferior people so they should buy this limited computer", it's saying "they don't want to care about the details and I don't want to care on their behalf, and this looks like a good alternative. They might get on well with it". It's a recommendation from mutual self interest rather than scorning the 'lesser' computer user.


Besides, I see some conceptual problems with concepts such as what is iTunes; why I can't download mp3 files to the tablet and listen to them; how to print PDF files?

They're going to be especially serious in countries with somewhat limited iTunes Store that does not support music, movies and shows.

For instance, Poland, which is rich enough for iPhone but apparently, but not for full version if iTunes Store.

I completely agree with the article, though. I've got very excited about all my non-tech friends, which constantly suffer from tech problems.

The presented problems are no longer purely technical, though, like they were on regular computers. They're just usability issues.


why I can't download mp3 files to the tablet and listen to them

Funny, but have been I doing that with iTunes on a bunch other Apple devices for years now.


From the web? Not all music is downloaded/available from iTunes Store.


Yes, downloaded from the web. eMusic and Amazon mp3, to be precise. Other sources work too, I hear. ;)

Actually, the downloader utilities from eMusic and Amazon pretty much inject those things directly into iTunes.


You have to have a filesystem for this, though. At least, if you download from some random source, w/o any official application.

From what I see, there's no classical filesystem on Apple iPad - just per application resources - so it won't work easily.

Obviously, there are some fixes to this particular problem. However, keep in mind, that I just wanted to give few examples of possible confusions.

Without the actual device, it's hard to give more specific examples of complains.


There's a classical filesystem. Trust me. You may not see it, but it's there.


There's nearly always a filesystem. It is not visible on iPad, though. I talk only about usability and user's perspective.

No need to go into details. From the hackerish perspective, the internals of iPad might be nothing but BSD/Mach combined with touch screen.


Steve Jobs foreshadowed in an October 2008 conference call that they are creating the $500 iPad and not going after those people who want multi-tasking (even if its just: "I want IM/irc running in the background, listening to pandora and browsing at once"). And those who want shell access and total admin control. All of which probably requires Mac OS X - which the PA Semi A4 chip presumably does not yet support.

"What we want to do is deliver an increasing level of value to these customers, but there are some customers which we choose not to serve. We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk; our DNA will not let us do that. We've seen great success by focusing on certain segments of the market and not trying to be everything to everybody, and you can expect us to stick with that winning strategy."

-Steve Jobs, 2008 October

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10072393-37.html


Make no mistake about it--they could run Mac OS X on the iPad a year ago, if they wanted to.

The iPhone OS (3.2) that supports the iPad is a full-fledged Mach/BSD kernel, as much as 10.6, and it's just a matter of which kernel extensions and system and user applications you include in the total build.


As I sit here on my Windows machine, looking at Process Lasso Pro - I'm fascinated by the background processes eating up my performance. Virus scanner to Outlook to winlogon.exe. Even if Mac OS X could run on the new A4 chip, I think Apple is concerned about 3rd party apps that are multi-tasking degrading the performance/overall experience.


I predict that Apple will come out with a background-task API that puts hard realtime constraints on the work a background thread does. Basically, you register a block of code as a background task, and select an Apple defined "level of service." If your code block doesn't complete during the time interval allotted to it, then the dev is SOL.

If they did this, they could have background tasks that would satisfy 80 to 90% of what devs want to do, but preserve battery life.


I think this is exactly right. I also think there'll be some persistent indicator (I'm thinking a little icon in the bar at the top that contains the clock) for each ongoing background task. So people won't have background tasks eating up their battery/RAM without knowing they're still running.


They could follow the pattern used for the iPhone, where background tasks which the user should car to know about (Voice Recorder, Phone.app) takes up a double height status bar at the top.


Good point. I could maybe see room for both models -- something that's going on RIGHT NOW and you need to continue to be aware of gets the big status bar while just little ongoing "wake up every 20 seconds and check for new messages" tasks wouldn't necessarily need that.


I also think there'll be some persistent indicator...So people won't have background tasks eating up their battery/RAM without knowing they're still running.

They can do this in such a way that it's useful if the user's running a 3-4 apps, but it's downright ugly if they're running an excessive amount.


It's difficult for me to imagine why I'd have more than a couple of apps running in the background on iPad. But, then, I'm a very happy iPhone user who feels like Push Notifications are a great 80% solution to multitasking and who only very rarely feels the need for that other 20% to be taken care of. I'd like to have an app running in the background (other than the "iPod" app) playing music. But clearly I don't need more than one of those. Maybe true multitasking would allow better IM clients. I could see running one or two of those in the background. What else? I'm not going to be downloading torrents on my iPad.


I can think of only one multi-tasking use case that I would like to see, which is this:

While commenting on some web forum (HN, Reddit, etc) or chatting on AIM/IRC, I often find while in the middle of typing a comment that I want to look something up on the web, e.g. a fact or spelling, and then come back to finish my comment armed with whatever knowledge I just looked up.

The best interim solution is to copy the text of my partially-finished comment, quit the current app, open a notes app and paste the comment, quit the notes app and open web browser, look up whatever I'm looking for, quit web browser and go back to the notes app, copy the comment again, quit notes app and open up the original app and find whatever I was replying to again, paste in my comment, and finally finish typing.

I don't really need multi-tasking to get around this, but it might be helpful if there was a way to "freeze" the current state of an app so I could use another app for 5 minutes without the first one having to quit and lose all of my context.


Safari on iPhone remembers text that you've input into a form when you make a new page (roughly the equivalent of a "tab" in a desktop browser), switch away, then come back.* It behaves similarly when you switch to a different app (through going back to the Home screen) and then come back to Safari. [Though I will note that it doesn't "remember" such things as a partially-entered URL in the location bar. It should.]

In general, the trend in "nice" apps seems to be very much toward them remembering exactly where you had been when you switch back to them rather than starting back at "the top". This seemed revelatory when the first apps started doing it; now it seems obvious.

Doing that requires a fair bit of work, though, by the app developer... so perhaps Apple could do something with the system frameworks to make that functionality be more "for free" to the developer. When iPhone first came out, developers found out that their apps were completely shut down by the OS when they switched away, so they imagined their apps working the same way as they would on a desktop OS when they get closed and reopened: back to the "main menu". There's no reason that has to be the case, though, if developers just persist the relevant bits of the user's state when they switch away then restore it gracefully.

* in general; if memory is running low, Safari will "forget" everything about other pages, so if you were writing something substantial, it'd be best to remember to Select All + Copy before switching away. This is unfortunate.


I also think there'll be some persistent indicator...So people won't have background tasks eating up their battery/RAM without knowing they're still running.

They can do this in such a way that it's useful if the user's running a 3-4 apps, but it's downright ugly if they're running an excessive amount.


This is probably the best post someone has put together on everything so far. My mom already wants this device. My roommate who had a macbook then decided to drop having a computer all together for 6 months is going to get this. It's kind of what Litl was trying to do with the web-book. It's about making computers simple and easy to use again. Less headaches, less complexity, and robust functionality.

I think the iPad is something special, because it's going to open the door for us to rethink what a computer should be. Maybe this is the chance we have to rewrite everything.


It's not a good sign that the best people can say about the iPad is that their mom could probably get by with one, even though they would never use it.

We've been hearing that refrain for decades, and it's never worked out in the marketplace. People who don't care about technology want to spend the least possible to get a fully-capable product. They want one computer that does everything and lasts forever - not a niche device that has to be tethered to a real PC anyway.

The Wii is a poor example because it didn't succeed by being simpler - it sold by offering a compelling gimmick and content that was not available on other platforms, for an underserved market of children and baby-boomers. The iPad doesn't offer any content you can't find elsewhere, and the 'touch' interface is one that's failed to find a significant market in full-sized computers for over twenty years.


They want one computer that does everything and lasts forever - not a niche device that has to be tethered to a real PC anyway.

Yeah, that's a lot closer to describing my mom - housewive all her life, approaching 70 - but since the kids left home she has gotten one laptop after another, and her use is actually quite sophisticated by now - certainly beyond "browser only". I did give her an iPod touch but her only interest in it is inflicting pictures of her grandchildren on innocent civilians while she's out on the town - she uses her laptop for everything else. She has no particular interest in spending money on something like a tablet.

And don't forget the generational thing too - I'm going to be the mythical "grandma" one day, and when I retire and have an empty nest I am going to tweak my gentoo box all day long :-)


Entrepreneurial genius consists of a knack for acing your competitors out of key markets through innovative means.

John D. Rockefeller did this by taking a nascent and highly localized oil industry (originally only in Pennsylvania and then Ohio) dominated by wildcatters and other independents and transforming it into a highly integrated and even ruthless competitive machine by which he could always beat his competitors on price while serving major emerging new markets. This was not based on any genius he had about the oil products themselves. He was not technically trained concerning such products. What he understood was business and innovation in emerging markets for these products. Hire the best talent. Gain control of the railroads that were vital to ship the products cheaply and efficiently, first by pressuring them through building a system of pipelines that threatened to undercut their business and then by entering into deals with them involving secret rebates so as to incentive them to deal with Rockefeller either alone or on highly preferential terms. Use legal innovations to set up trusts and partnerships that allowed a series of corporations, one in each state, to function as an integrated whole at a time when it was (people forget this) illegal for a corporation to do business across state lines, thereby gaining hegemony in the U.S. oil market that no other competitor could come even close to matching and eventually using this as a springboard for international dominance as well. The result (setting aside the illegalities involved): the building of an empire that grew exponentially in relation to anything else around it owing to its ability to offer quality and cheap pricing to consumers.

It is not too far-fetched, I think, to say that Steve Jobs is doing something similar in taking on the wildcatters of today in a quest to win the major markets of the information age. He has so managed to unite amazing product development with tightly integrated and company-dominated distribution channels with ground-breaking arrangements with the telcos (who are the vital connecting links, or "railroads," of our day) as to build a formidable empire that threatens to crush any direct competitors in its field. The genius is undeniable, even down to having set up retail outlets of a type that everyone would have laughed at just 20 years ago.

Who can tell where this quest for hegemony in today's open-systems world will go but the implications are both intriguing and frightening at the same time.


That was the best iPad review I read since the launch. What makes us say "meh" is exactly what mom needed since she first laid her hands on a computer. I could remove all functionality from her computer, leaving just the browser and she would be perfectly happy with it.

In that sense one could argue that Chrome OS' hardest competitor will be the iPad. I wonder if they saw that coming.


Another similarity between iPad and Wii: People ruthlessly made fun of the name when it was first announced.


People only stopped making fun of the Wii name when it was successful. If the iPad isn't a success then it will be laughed at forever.


Nowhere near as much as if it had ended up being called iSlate, though!


iSlate = is Late!


While I agree, what bothers me a little is that all this time Apple had already claimed that Macs are so easy to use etc. So I guess they finally admit that it's not really true. At the same time I hope it will be at least more true for the iPad. Until mom asks why her favorite flash game doesn't work.

Things I have recently helped relatives with:

installing software for their navigation system, so that they could update the maps

Getting their internet radio connected

scanning, printing

installing a webcam and skype

In fact my impression is that "non-power" users often try to do even more hardcore stuff with their computers than I do, simply because they don't know which technologies are just hype and which ones are ready for prime time. For example my father tried speech recognition and used on of those horrible fax/scanner/printer units that hijacks your computer.


The one fly in the ointment is that the iPad does require an external computer somewhere to keep its system software updated, backed up, etc.

Perhaps we family-support geeks will now have to have a Mac dedicated to keeping all the iPads in our extended families up to date. ;-)


Definitely. This requirement made sense for the iPod/iPhone, since it was an extension of your PC. For the iPad to really take hold as a standalone device, it should be able to update over the air.

Then again, they could always offer some sort of update program at Apple stores. They could even charge for it.


Unfortunately, your media libraries will all be identical as well. I really don't want that much Billy Joel sitting on my local hard drive all the time.


Not necessarily, it would just be the union of all of your media libraries on your computer, and a subset (sync play lists [Billy's iPad, Martha's iPad] ) for each iPad. With todays 1TB $100 hard drives, how much will it matter to have everyone's iPad library on your computer?


There are numerous ways built-in to iTunes that allow you to not sync Billy Joel.


Why must a lack of a camera be in every article on the iPad? Am I the only longtime MacBook owner that never uses that little camera above my screen?


Probably, yes.

Many people use their computer for Skype calls with family. Having video is a really nice bonus there.


This sort of device has the potential to really disrupt the telecoms industry.

I think huge swathes of the populace would be just fine with spending $15 a month, and having their friends and family IM them as a form of paging and calling back with Skype.


If it's through ATT, if it's anything like the iPhone, that's $30 a month, and there's a restriction of < 10MB downloads. It won't be $15 a month.

I do feel sorry for ATT's network, though. Think of the strain that the iPhone put on their network, and now they're accepting a computer!? makes me happy I switched to Verizon.


If it's through ATT, if it's anything like the iPhone, that's $30 a month, and there's a restriction of < 10MB downloads. It won't be $15 a month.

You didn't watch the presentation, did you? It's indeed under $15 a month for 250 MB a month. Plenty for IMs, emails, and the occasional Skype call.


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. (Clarke's Third Law)

In my opinion, Apple is one of few companies that works on their product design until it appears magical, and their meteoric rise is the result. The standards for "Mom" are Star-Trek-high.


I totally agree that this device could replace the PC for many many people. I see the iPad as the universal remote-commander for all kind of media and entertainment. Imagine you could buy a film on iTunes and beam it into your television screen...


Apple should sell such kits with an Apple TV bundled with an iPad. (Flatscreen and sound system optional.)


I am not sure. Many of my technophobe relations are Multitaskers (messy ones to be sure but multitasking nonetheless) and have a problem abandoning the nested folder system they hold so dear (and Itunes will not help there) They are familiar with office applications (by which they send jokes etc) and will resist unfamiliar tools)

many older people rely on their computer to keep contact with their relations through skype etc.., and it does not offer it.

If it was a little more robust, did not require a persistent connection to a desktop (to manage files) and had Flash then maybe so, as it stands i just don't know, im fairly confident my mom wouldn't like it.


Totally agreed. However, I think the iPad should come with a more robust photo app — something that lets you import and manage photos (all through fun drag and drop, of course). In my experience, many light computer users still take digital photos. It would also be nice if this thing could manage video importing, with maybe some very basic editing functionality similar to what's on the iPhone.


I would be shocked if there isn't. You can import pictures from memory cards or digital cameras (with an attachment).

I see myself using the iPad for this sort of quick-and-dirty post-shoot curation and showing off. Especially if I'm traveling and don't want to lug my full-on laptop with me.


I thought my HP slate would be the cat's meow for photo touchups in the field. Come up with a well designed way to connect cameras, Port Aperture to the iPad, and you'd have one kickass piece of kit for photo work.

I wonder if someone could come up with a Bluetooth or WiFi enabled mini-USB micro-dongle you could just leave plugged into the camera behind its media-port panel?


They do have an adapter for connecting directly to cameras, or readins SD cards. Don't if it'll let you import the photos or not, but I suppose it'll at least show them.


look at the bottom of http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/

The Camera Connection Kit gives you two ways to import photos and videos from a digital camera. The Camera Connector lets you import your photos and videos to iPad using the camera’s USB cable. Or you can use the SD Card Reader to import photos and videos directly from the camera’s SD card.


Right, it looks like this is a baby version of iPhoto, not just a viewing app, so you can import photos, etc.

Presumably these photos would get sync'd back up with your "real" iPhoto when you plug it in to iTunes.


Before the iPhone came out, I was itching for a powerful phone that came close to being a browser-enabled computer in my pocket. The only devices I could get at the time was WEP browsers with very high data fees. The iPhone brought us a full browser with a $20 unlimited data plan. I bought it the first day it became available. It was a big leap forward compared with its peers. It allowed me to do things I wanted to do, and not just the things my telco allowed.

The iPad has a different set of peers. We're not living in a world where the only tablet devices are the Kindle and Nook. There are actual fully functioning tablet PCs that can run the things normal PCs can. Apple is trying to move us from open devices to a closed one.


I thought it was meant to be a netbook replacement? I would be surprised to see it attract that segment of users. I'm wandering around a university campus now, where netbooks are quite popular. When I look at people's screens, the most common activities seem to be IM, facebook and email. Would these users rather be thumb typing their messages? I doubt it. I love my iPhone, and I can type reasonably fast on it, but I don't think I've used it to send an email longer than 3 sentences in the 18 months I've had it. I do agree it has a place in living rooms, though.


Most people do need computers. I'd say the majority of computer users are younger people and there's not one young person I know that uses their computer only to read new York times. Most computer users use it for work, and that's something the iPad is not optimized for. It's an entertainment casual device, but it's not mobile. I think there's a nice use for it because it let's you walk around your house with some of the information you used to have to sit down for. But to think it's really for the people who use 10 year old computers is naive.


The iPhone has been successful as a platform because programmers want to use it. Programmers carry phones and take pleasure in improving their gadget-environment. Good software is written by people who use it.

The iPad is not for developers, so applications developed for the iPad are going to be applications written to make money. The developers will test the applications, but they will not write applications for their own use unless they really need the hardware UI provided by the iPad.

This is a console with a web browser, not a computer.


I can immediately think of a multitouch stats application. And yes, I am a programmer.


I'm a hardcore geek and I want to add an iPad to my toolchest. It'd join an array of devices and be used for web browsing on the couch and in bed. Touch based web browsing is superior to a mouse IMO. Seems like an amazing device for that.


If the iPad is the "apple for mom", then what was the iMac all this time? Whatever happened to OS X and "it just works"?


OS X is easy to use ... compared to other PCs. But this thing is easy to use the way your car is easy to use.


My mother and grandmother would be insulted to be told that they need a "simpler" computer. This idea that regular computers are "too difficult" for "normal users" is nothing but pure condescension. Why should we believe that now, after all of the other "simplified computer for 'normal users'/internet appliance" devices to ever hit the market (including Apple's own AppleTV) that this one is going to make it?


It's not about needing a simpler computer. It's about wanting one. Not all people; not even all mothers or grandmothers. And not all the time.

The iPad has, in a sense, already made it. It, despite some people's protestations, is just a big iPod touch. Whether this form factor works or not, people have responded extremely well to its abstractions and simplifications, despite the limitations.


Probably iPad 3.0 will be widescreen and they will call it an inovation.


My grandma uses her printer all the time, to print photos and greeting cards. She has a program that makes greeting cards for her, not web-based. She does family history research with a separate program. She uses video chat.

She doesn't really like computers, but she's determined so she knows how to use them. I think that the group that just wants Facebook will start to want something else once they're used to Facebook.


Except nothing moms consider cool work on this thing..


No. The iPad is something new and products like this have to go through the diffusion of innovation from early adopters to get to the early majority -- and I personally know of no early adopter who is happy with it (all of whom had an iPhone when it launched, etc). The word among early adopters is "bullshit". I don't care who Apple is, or who they think they are, they can't beat the diffusion curve.


I'm an early adopter, and I like it a lot.


Yes, you're an early adopter, but you're one who drinks kool-aide. There are about 5% of you.




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