Little 'Miss Independent' Is Not Getting An IPad

"I will be 18. Legally an adult." This has become a refrain of late in my life. From the passenger seat of my car the other night, my daughter blurted the warning/promise/threat/celebration that is her upcoming 18th birthday.

She has been gearing up for this milestone moment since she was three. No kidding. When she blurted this mantra out again, I actually had a parental flashback to a little tike at 3 in this very seat (well, four cars ago, and from a car seat in back) fuming after a pitched battle back at home over getting her in the car. "I can't wait until I am grown up," she said in 1995 on her way to day care. Why, I asked? "Because then no one can tell me WHAT TO DO!" I can still hear the way she punctuated those last words with a fierceness that foreshadowed fifteen years of staggering stubbornness and daily episodes of resentful seething. 

Well, the day is upon her. This former three-year-old, who now drives up in her Honda Civic and pores over her buzzing BlackBerry with the intensity of any middle manager, is coming of age in the next few weeks. She and her friends are trying to celebrate their group emancipation with a major road trip this summer across country. Dad, terrified, of course, is trying to figure out what is the wireless plan here  -- so I know how and where to airlift little Miss Legally Independent out of trouble when she and the rest of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine crew run into evil Old Man Smithers in Ohio or find themselves in a scene from "Deliverance" in Oklahoma.

Here's an idea. How about an iPad 3G? It will have mapping so she can find gas stations and hotels -- and helicopter pads for Dad's SWAT team.


"Eew. Why?"

There are times when I wish I could call my daughter in when I meet with media types. This season they are gushing -- I mean gushing -- over the prospects surrounding the iPad. The enthusiasm, especially among magazine industry folks, has desperation written all over it. While I don't entirely agree with her assessment, my daughter's dismissal of the iPad is notable in the rapid-fire way she swats it away, and how it's so quickly and obviously of little use to her.

"What can it do that my BlackBerry can't do? We're bringing a laptop and we'll have five phones among us." Point taken. The in-between-ness of the iPad is a hurdle. GPS, maps, email are already on her phone, and the most important two communications tools she has -- text and voice -- are absent from the iPad.  As she well understands, as a data retrieval device, the smart phones are narrowing the niche between laptop and phone.

"I need a keyboard. Even my phone has that." It is really all about input for her, and her focus on interactivity underscores a glaring limitation of the iPad. It is primarily a media consumption device, not an interactive device. Publishers think of digital merely as a delivery vehicle, but users think of digital as a communications and interactive platform. After a life of leaning in, why would she want to lean back and consume content just to make media companies' business models work for them?

But doesn't she want to flip through her favorite magazines on a device that can add in video as well and do all of these cool multimedia pyrotechnics? "If I want to read a magazine, I will buy a magazine," she says. "Or I go to their Web site."

That actually is going to be an issue for publishers of iPad-specific digital newspapers and magazines. Unlike the iPhone, where an app can clearly trump a mobile Web site experience, the iPad makes full Web browsing much more viable. Early audience research I have seen suggests that for even those interested in the iPad, Web browsing and email are rated far above app downloads as the device's main attraction. And so, publisher apps will be competing with their own Web sites.

But you can interact with the iPad. "I am not using that screen keyboard thingie," she says. "How do I hold it up and type?" I am with her on that one. As a longtime reviewer of Tablet PCs, I spent hours navigating the Web with a slate interface and found a real logistics issue with input. Two-handed typing on a touch screen requires some anchor for the device. Lay it flat on your lap to type, and you are hunched over the display and wishing for a laptop.

Also, it actually is a bit tiresome to interact with touch across a larger screen, when we are used to traversing the full real estate of a display with small gestures on a mouse or touchpad. You do get tired of having to shift your entire arm in order to activate a menu item in the upper left after having tapped the lower right. A full screen touch interface requires a much different level of repetitive physical movement than even a touch cell phone, let alone the mouse/touchpad conventions.

What about apps, I ask my daughter. All those glorious apps that iPhone users download by the billions?  "I have Facebook and AIM on my phone. That is all I need." 

Arguably, the iPad is not even pitched to my daughter's demo. She is not an ideal focus group by any means. The niche of mediaholic 20- or 30-somethings who seem to be embracing the Kindle is more of the sweet spot. But there is a kind of foreshadowing in her dismissive attitude toward the in-between devices. Her reliance on the mobile phone as a "good enough" portable computer is notable, and it might migrate upwards as her demo ages. She looks at a next generation of hardware and easily skirts the publishers' fantasies that are attached to them with a simple question: What does this do for me that I am not already doing with what I have? She is more focused on gadgets that are years old.

"Can I borrow your Flip video camera and some Nintendo DS games for the trip?" she asks.

I, on the other hand, already have my iPad pre-ordered and am poised to pick it up from my Apple Store as soon as it opens on April 3 -- like some teen fan-boy. My "barely-legal" daughter is more reserved, practical and unimpressed by new technology than her gadget-bedazzled Dad. I can't even give away an iPad to this girl. Good thing she is "legally independent" and venturing out from the nest. This kid is really starting to tick me off now.   

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7 comments about "Little 'Miss Independent' Is Not Getting An IPad".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , March 25, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.

    Actually, she may be safer with a phone for phone calls and paper maps. AAA has some very useful information. No contacting on either side by some stranger to meet them someplace. Out of date? Maybe. But there is so much to miss, including your own thoughts, when finagelling with a little buttons on a box and your head not watching where you are going or have gone. (I have driven cross country with one friend way pre-computer and cell phones.)

  2. Jon Cooper from Movitas , March 25, 2010 at 1:32 p.m.

    Steve, my teenagers (16 and 18) are the same, exactly.

  3. Jackie Frank from Sun-Sentinel.com , March 25, 2010 at 2:07 p.m.

    I wonder if she might not have been so dismissive if someone other than her parent suggested it.

  4. Christi Pemberton from GC Style Magazine , March 25, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.

    I agree with the teen....the IPad really is a "filler"..it is something that isn't needed, isn't groundbreaking...and kind of redundant. I agree, if I want a magazine, I will buy a magazine or go to its website. If I want to carry something around that is portable, I carry that cute little blackberry...or my laptop. With WiFi and laptops getting thinner and lighter, why in the world would one waste money on an IPad. As far applications, you don't need an IPad for that. With this generation of young people, it is crucial to not only have something that makes their lives super easier, but also something that is unique and will connect them with others no matter when and where. We have the Blackberry, iPhone, and evolving laptops for that. Build on those gadgets and improve them.

  5. Wes Smith from The McClatchy Company , March 25, 2010 at 2:53 p.m.

    Heh. I think you're fooling yourself if you don't think she's gonna snatch it out of your hands within a week of you getting it.

  6. Barry Dennis from netweb/Omni , March 25, 2010 at 4:57 p.m.

    Wait until IPad and Kindle turn into Psych 101, or all the other VERY expensive-soon to be MUCH cheaper- textbooks. There's even incentive for McGraw Hill and others to push this-their production costs go WAY down-permanently. It justremains to see who will make the first deal with a majorpurlisher. Requiring a fullyfeatured Convergence device to use Virtual Textbooks, Internet-equipped, and with college-level enhancements that replace textbooks, notebooks with note-taking, and fully operative "always on" Cloud backup archiving, boys and girls...we have a Winner!
    The IPad and the rest are interim Convergence devices, to be replaced within a few years by roll-out, flexible devices, 6-8 inches tall,1 to 1 1/4 inches in Diameter, weight about six ounces, equipped with wireless, long life battery (more about broadcast power later) 15.6 MP camera/scanner combinations.
    Why, my heart beats faster just thinking of it!

  7. Rip Woodin from Rocky Mount Telegram , March 26, 2010 at 11:02 a.m.

    Forget the electronics, this is your Little Girl. Make her call when she leaves a place and then again when she arrives at the next location. That way you'll know a general area where to send the SWAT team.