My toaster has three controls: a slide-the-toast-down lever, a make-heat-stay-on-longer dial, and trap door to get rid of the debris. My refrigerator has two controls: a door to open or close, and a temperature dial to turn. When I open the door, I expect to see light and to feel coolness.
Some of us want our computers to be as simple—we want them to hide the complexity and just be the specific appliance we need at this moment.
Some of us don’t like computers, but we like our smart phones, which we don’t really think of as computers. Very seldom does your iPhone require someone like me to “fix it.” Seldom does it break. When it does, we reset it or take it in under warranty. There is little futzing with it. And we don’t think of it as a computer. Granted we mostly don’t use their full functionality, but neither do we do so with our computers.
We think of our iPhone as an appliance. Our kids, nephews and nieces, and geeky friends show us how to make it do the one thing that we want it to do, but haven’t figured out yet. We don’t pay big money for such tutorials!
Of course, as I write this, none of us has touched an iPad, but I wish to venture an opinion about its place in our pantheon of gadgetry. (I plan on receiving mine April 3rd.)
The iPad expands the pathway for the computer-as-appliance. It will disappoint many who multi-task on their MacBooks. It will disappoint the technophiles who wish it had another port or was able to use Flash. But it won’t disappoint my aunt and uncle, it won’t disappoint my friend who hates computers, nor school kids, nor any of the-rest-of-us, if we let it be just an appliance.
Because it has less flexibility than your laptop—you can only install Apple-vetted and sold software—the chances for crashes, freezes, and application conflicts have been reduced. It has the possibility to be more reliable and less frustrating. We will wait and see how Apple allows that to play out.
Education and business work flows will very quickly be adapted for it. Imagine: a stack of iPads for registrants in line at an event. Pick one up, enter your registration info, throw it back on the stack, your name tag is printed out, you receive it from the registrar, and head on into the event. Consider: going to a car dealership, grabbing an iPad from the stack, selecting the picture of the car you wish to touch, selecting the features you want, and then being shown on the iPad a map to where on the lot a car like that is located. The salesperson gets a text message with the location of the car you went to see and meets you there. Or: you are referred to a doctor and when you arrive for your first appointment, instead of being given a clipboard with the stack of forms to fill out and sign, you are given an iPad on which to record your health history and sign away liability rights.
All of the above examples are single function uses, just like your toaster! They won’t eliminate the need for complex computing systems for processing and creating bulk data, but they will make my uncle happy.
The iPad, just another appliance… Sounds good to me.