Ode To An Ipad

I really had no idea how much I'd love my iPad. I have to say that it's now my preferred connection to the online world. Somehow, whether by design or coincidence, Apple has tapped into something primal and intuitive in myself. Judging from other iPad owners I've talked to, I suspect I'm not alone. There is a magical thing happening between me and this sleek little device. And whatever it is, it's important, even prescient. This, I suspect, is our future sitting in our laps.

What's the Big Deal?

I've spent a good part of my life pondering various technology interfaces. Based on this, I really didn't think the iPad was that big a deal. The reason I got one was because I needed an ebook reader and I felt that the iPad offered me more functionality than a Kindle. But other than the inevitable coolness (or, at least, perceived coolness) that comes with any Apple device, I didn't see what all the buzz was about. After all, it was just a big iPhone... without the phone. I still had to deal with an all-too-touchy digital keyboard and a rather anemic processor.



But then I got my hands on one. And something rather strange happened. I suspect that Apple may have found the perfect form factor. When you combine the larger screen with multitouch technology, it completely changes how I interacted with my device. It wasn't something I could have predicted. But everything I did on the iPad just seemed more natural, more enjoyable, more -- dare I say it -- sensual. This was one sexy little piece of technology.

Love of the Limbic Kind

What happened? There is no new technology here. We're even using an obsolete OS, for heaven's sake. There may be no rational reasoning -- but I'll tell you, my irrational mind has fallen in love. Then again, perhaps it has nothing to do with ration. Maybe Apple is just making interactions with technology more primitive, in a good way.

Keyboards are stupid in pretty much every way imaginable. I've dedicated several hours of my life to understanding the QWERTY layout so I'm a reasonably proficient touch typist, but the layout still makes no sense -- and yes, I'm aware of the history of it vs. the Dvorak keyboard.. The mouse was a step in the right direction, but there was still some rewiring of our brains required to understand that the cursor was really our proxy for our hand movements.  I find track pads a rather poor compromise.

But, to be able to grab something right in front of our eyes and manipulate it, ah -- that is touching something hardwired deep in our limbic brain.  To flick, to stroke, to pinch -- that is what it means to be human. Up 'til now, our user experiences have had to be jammed in the arbitrary constraints of outdated and illogical interfaces. But the iPad, perhaps more than any other device before it, is letting us be human again. And the experience is intoxicating.

The Human Part of HCI

I felt something of the same rush when I first picked up the iPhone, but the extra real estate of the iPad delivers a compounding effect on the level of the user experience. Perhaps you think I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but I suspect that the very humanness of the iPad's interface could be a game-changer. I'm not the first to say so. This was much of the buzz I discounted when the iPad first came out. But now I've had the chance to see what might be behind the game-changing aspects of this device. And ironically, it's nothing to do with new technology. In fact, it's wrapping existing technology in a package that nailed the "human" part of the human-computer-interaction equation.

The question that comes to mind is, how might this change the nature of our online experiences? If our entire online history has been built on the paradigm of a keyboard/mouse/monitor interaction, how might that change with a multitouch, interactive screen? And that's not even including geographically savvy devices, cameras or voice commands. That's a substantially different paradigm, which will inevitably lead to a substantially different experience. Imagine, interacting with a virtual world where you can picture your surroundings, know where you are, touch the things you're interacting with and express your intent verbally.  Finally, technology will start to catch up with what it means to be a human.

6 comments about "Ode To An Ipad".
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  1. David Wilson from AMN Healthcare, October 21, 2010 at 11:42 a.m.

    Can you type quickly and comfortably on an iPad? Can you put it in your pocket?

  2. Gary Slack from Slack Barshinger, October 21, 2010 at 11:54 a.m.

    Well put, Gord. Because the iPad so improves on the iPhone (except the phone part) user experience, I'm using my iPhone a lot less, my MacBook Pro a little less and my iPad more and more. It feels a little silly at times carrying three screens with me wherever I go, but at least I don't lug around my TV. Can't wait to upgrade to an iPad with a camera and phone (can you imagine how great FaceTime will be?).

  3. Renee Mcgivern from Spark Plug Consulting, October 21, 2010 at 12:06 p.m.

    I, too, reach for my iPad time and again. I barely use my iTouch, I find my Macbook Pro clunky for reading online newspapers and newsletters. I feel nimble working with the iPad; it's has a spring to it that leverages my work. No other way to explain it. I'm hooked and didn't anticipate I would be and yes, it feels a bit like love.

  4. Jerry Johnson from Brodeur, October 21, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.

    There's a love-hate relationship with touch screens and keypads. I've long maintained that iPad love is tactile. Tap, stroke, pinch, pry. Almost erotic. But oftentimes not very practical. Better just to use your BlackBerry. Folks might get a kick out of the correspondence between iPad and Kindle

  5. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, October 22, 2010 at 12:43 p.m.

    David..why type at all, if there are better ways to communicate with your device? Yes, we're stuck with it now, but the input challenge will be solved in much elegant ways soon. And why would you want to put an iPad in your pocket? Do you want to put your TV in your pocket? I'm missing your logic here.

  6. Shawn Pittman, October 29, 2010 at 11:23 p.m.

    The only thing I dislike about the iPad is that you can't type using your thumbs like you can with the iPhone. That might sound really dumb, but it's almost like the iPad needs to allow the user to adjust (shrink) the size of the keyboard so that you could type like you do on the iPhone (based on the your hand/thumb size). Am I the only one who thinks this?

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