Thoughts on People and Technologies that Extend Them

Friday, April 2, 2010

Is the iPad a Wasteful Innovation?


When the iPad was announced, people made fun of it. In a world full of laptops, netbooks, and smartphones; what unmet need would the iPad address? It runs a version of iPhone OS, which is not significantly superior to the smartphone. Is its hardware significant enough to justify the existence of iPod Touch Jumbo?

"Technology first, invention second, needs last"

Don Norman described in an essay that design or marketing research did not play significant roles in shaping powerful inventions. He said that it has always been "technology first, invention second, needs last." Inventions are not always needed, but when they succeed, they affect our lives greatly. If you think about it, life used to be fine without cellphones.

Great UX design over features

Tim Gideon from PC Mag said:
There may be things it doesn't do, but what it does do, it does remarkably well.
This new type of mobile device isn't a smartphone or a laptop. Those two do things that the iPad doesn't. However, the iPad seems to do some things better than others. The tangible feel of the web on iPad is better than the browsing experience on laptop and desktop computers. The larger screen of the iPad doesn't require mobile versions of websites, unlike smartphones or other smaller devices.

How about tablet PCs that largely share the same form factor? Apparently, even if those computers do more than the iPad, the great unique experience that the big iPod Touch provides is more significant than its lack of features.

The slate is already influential

At this early stage, the iPad is already very important that the web and other things are being shaped to adapt to its existence. Many are moving to HTML5 and new mobile applications are being made just for the iPad. As Don Norman said; most inventions fail, but the ones that succeed change our lives.

Hiding features is better than removing features

When a person can carry an iPad, he can manage to bring a laptop or a netbook instead. iPad owners could end up carrying a laptop, an iPad, and a smartphone most of the time. This means many overlapping features. Now that it appears that Swiss knives aren't always better than specialists, humanity should find a way to conserve resources. Having to maintain many devices is very wasteful. A laptop replacement, which also has the great things about the iPad, would be best. There may be some people who can afford to purchase and bring many devices with them, but waste is not justified. Perhaps, avoiding this waste is a greater need than the small pretty things about the iPad. This piece of technology should get nothing more than the attention that it deserves.

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UX Visionary and Open Source Advocate