Discussion: How times change and “Thinking Different”

Many questions are on my mind these days, with little to no answers coming quickly. Let me try to describe where it is I’m coming from, and, if you’re a technologist of any kind, I think you’ll understand right away.

Background
I love technology, computing, art, music, and any digital co-mingling or convergence of the two. So I’ve pondered a lot as to what Apple is attempting to do with the iPad.

Here’s a couple links for digestion, before I get into my opinions and observations about where this kind of computing or device is going:

First, This article from the New York Times about “Apple’s Economics of Elitism”. Great read, but IMO, still somewhat light on the content, but a good perspective none-the-less.

Second, this article from the Web Dev Chronicles called “Growing Tired of Apple”.. This is also a good read, but clearly states what I think is a lot of angst that us Technophiles feel are the shortcomings of iPad and the hope we have/had for Apple’s position on several key issues.

Third, this story from Wired.com about the Apple Town Hall Meeting helps describe both 1 and 2 above and I think the message is pretty clear.

Now on to my opinion …

The Message
I awoke the morning of the 27th after having a fairly realistic dream about the Apple Tablet, though in my dream, I was still calling it iSlate all the while dreading it being called iPad and once the Apple media event started, and the live blogs were flowing, I almost immediately knew it was in-fact going to be, “iPad.” Call it premonition, bad omen, terrible feeling of impending doom, whatever it was, I was right at that moment.

Ok, I had to get past it once I saw it, but first, “What the hell was apple thinking? Haven’t they seen MadTV? Couldn’t someone in Marketing point out the obvious puns and such that Steve was about to let the world rant about? What the hell? Seriously, No. Damnit, Ok, he’s really serious. I guess I need to try to pay attention, there’s a message in here somewhere.”

I then referred back to my realistic dream about how I was doing things with a tablet computer type system, from Apple, and how I was actually happy doing things with it, regardless of the name. Now to the bad opinion stuff…. I remembered that in my dream, I had a front facing “iSight” camera for video chat. I was very concerned that this hadn’t come to pass. It was so useful to me when I was asleep, that when it didn’t materialize in my waking state I was overjoyed at the fact apple had been brave enough to release this thing, but appalled that it hadn’t included something as simple as a camera for video chat. I was completely hung up on this. It was hard to get over, but then I tried to reflect back to the happiness of my dream.

See, I don’t own a Kindle, or any other E-Reader for that matter, but I had contemplated it. One reason is that it’s tablet like, but doesn’t do much very well, IMO. Very much like a Netbook. It runs Windows or Linux, if you’re lucky enough to setup a Hackintosh Eee Netbook, then at least a Netbook *could* be useful. But Steve quashed this hobbyist activity with Snow Leopard. So that confirmed for me “the tablet is coming” and surely Apple will be making some sort of mid-level market strategy around a Netbook like device in a tablet form. This didn’t happen either. So again, I was confused. Apple has this awesome device, physically speaking, and it can only do “that?”

After thinking about this for almost 2 days, hearing people espouse the hatred for iPad, and ridiculousness of the limited nature of this cool tablet, that it dawned on me, as I’m sure it has many of you, like it or not, two things:
1. Steve wanted it this way for first release of the iPad
2. Apple is approaching a specific market segment for a specific reason

Steve “Thinks Different” on purpose
So I stepped back from both my dream from that morning and my confusion concerning the limited nature of the device.
Ok, he thinks different so what. Does that make him Elitist or spout off just an Elitist vision as the NYT has claimed? I actually think not. It’s hard for me to say this, but I’m sure he knew exactly what he’s been doing with this device, he also worked within the limitations of the marketing partners he’s had apple working with on the device, and he knows that if someone just wants to browse, get maps, share music and video, and do “some amount” of business work on the iPad they can do it the way he’s delivering it.

I can accept those limitations because I believe there will be another revision if he and those at Apple are actually willing to do something with this device to improve everyone’s lives as I suspect Steve would like to do. I think that’s why he’s still doing this kind of work anyway. It’s the one thing, in my opinion having read a fair bit about Steve, Woz, and Bill, that keeps Steve at Apple. Ok, enough about Steve this and Steve that. The point is, Steve won’t keep the iPad around if it doesn’t do what he wanted, so I’m not worried about the impact this might have. On the flip side of this topic, the iPad has already started making waves at least and the battle about Adobe Flash, Google, and new iPhone tech has been brought to the front burner. Finally.

How times have changed
We, and by We, I mean all of us in consumer land who buy technological gadgets or like to use cell phones, media devices, GPS devices, etc, have been privy to the nastiness between many different companies fighting out all kinds of wars from the best and brightest type of screen on their device, to the OS it runs, to the “real hardware” in the device. We have been almost made a target and even blamed for AT&T’s network traffic issues.

See, it used to be, and not necessarily for the better, that these companies would offer me a service, I’d pay for it, they’d make it work(or not) and I’d be happy(or not) and continue to pay. (or not *_0) Of course, in those days, we didn’t demand not to be nickeled and dimed to death, revolt against said companies via class action lawsuits, demand full disclosure on the bill, or take an interest in what it is they were doing to us. We kept our mouths shut and remained quietly disgruntled if it became a real issue, or heaven forbid, even cancel service. We could however cancel said service without paying *too* much in exorbitant fees. But we fired at these companies via class action, they responded with “fairness” on the bill, but with a financial catch if we ever decide to cancel service by making us liable because we signed a contract. So in getting this victory, we actually gave them more power.

Ok, so what does this have to do with the price of eggs in China on a Sunday at 2PM? A lot actually.
We’re complaining about what the iPad doesn’t have, but the reality is, we’re being given something we can use, just pay the price, use the device. It’s almost too simple.
We are given the option of not allowing the wireless cellular network provider to not damage us by using this device that Apple also has allowed VOIP usage with. So if you really wanna make a “cheap data call” you can do it. Yes AT&T sucks massively right now because of their lack of investment in the wireless network, but if they can fix this then it sounds like the iPad could be really cool when on-the go, too.

At the beginning I mentioned the Kindle. I don’t have one, but I’d like something like it. Apple’s got that advantage in my opinion because iPad does more than let us read books. That’s one thing that prevented me from getting a Kindle and one thing that might actually get me to read books more regularly again. That would be well worth it to me. If it’s not on a screen, I don’t read it these days. A tablet could fix that, if I can stomach the interface, and it just so happens that I already have the interface in a smaller form and slower speed with my iPhone 3G.

Summary
Let me just close by saying that I hate the name iPad, but I will use it when it comes because as Steve already knows, “Tablet Computing” is the next phase of being powerful and mobile. It’s something we need, and quibling over some of the features now is quite irrational telling Apple and Steve what it is you think about the device is probably the best thing you can do to really help. If you buy one, you’ll also be telling Adobe and Google, and any other tablet manufacturer wannabe what you think of the market space as well, something that up till now, has not been the focus in the battle for “simply better” computing. And that concept is why Apple, Steve, and others are attempting to go this direction.

Keep in mind that the official “iPad” apps haven’t even come out yet and we’re already complaining. It’ll be nice to see proper iPad apps and the second revision of iPad as well. If the iPhone 3G and 3GS are any indication of how aggressive Apple will get with iPad, we’re probably in for a treat, but we need to tell those at Apple, Google, and elsewhere what it is we want, and not just complain to each other. We also need to get out of the crossfire while we’re at it and let them know as much.

One last statement: Thanks Apple, for making a device, even if I don’t agree with all the choices, because it is a device I can imagine I can get some real use out of we just need subsidies because 16GB is just too small.

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