Back in the roaring 90s, I briefly held a position doing technical diligence for a company that wanted to do investments in startups.
It was toward the end of the dot-com Bubble, and everyone wanted to strike it rich, like a VC boss. Startups were printing fake money at the time driven by IPOs, and so lots of companies were spinning up venture arms to get a piece of new startups before they hit big and went public.
We all know how that ended.
Part of my job was to sit with startups, listen to their pitches and report back to the money people with an assessment. Most of what was called diligence in my job description turned out to be a dose of common sense, and I remember being bearish more often than not, which was not always met with enthusiasm, given how easy it was to make money then.
On a couple occasions, the startup pitch people did an end-around and went around me to the money people.
They would then proceed to drop the worst insult of the time.
“Jake just doesn’t get it.”
This was generally a fair observation because my lack of understanding was usually well-founded and boiled down to: I don’t get how you’re going to make money for us or anyone for that matter.
Still, that phrase remains a crowning insult in technology, and it has stuck with me to this day.
Why? Because maybe I don’t get it, and I should. If so, I need more information.
I use it now as a test for new technology, and as I sifted through the coverage of this week’s iPad announcement, I found myself thinking “I just don’t get it.”
Sure, it’s a beautiful piece of technology and design. Yes, it’s portable and convenient. Yes, it makes a ton of sense for some users, like doctors or teenagers. Yup, it’s totally a status symbol.
I get all that, but that’s not enough to explain the sheer volume of sales, some 15.4 million sold in Q4 alone. Staggering.
What’s interesting is that, even two years after its introduction, Apple is still helping us figure out what to do with its magical tablet. To me, all these could-do use cases match my general feeling that iPad is a secondary device, a delightful toy.
Having owned and lost an iPad, I can say there are some use cases that I miss, like playing games, reading and watching TV shows, but for the most part, these are in-between scenarios that my phone and laptop can do, just not as comfortably.
I also miss testing out new apps that are evolving the touch interface, e.g. I’ve been wanting to test out Clear. However, this definitely isn’t a normal use case and appeals to the designer in me, not the user. Definitely not a common use case.
For the most part, I don’t miss it though. I definitely miss the money it represents, but not the actual device.
When I travel, I’m constantly reminded of the iPad’s biggest shortcoming, i.e. it’s horrible for creating content. In airports, I frequently see people using iPad accessories to improve on this problem, most notably, the keyboard. Ever seen a person hunched over a propped up iPad with a keyboard attached? Doesn’t look very fun, but hey, it’s faster than poking the screen.
As a side note, those of you who hate email should be happy that the content creation shortcoming of all touch interfaces has forced people into brevity. It even has a signature, “Sent from my iPhone” the new hallmark of our civilization. But I digress.
To be clear, I like the iPad. I just don’t fully understand its appeal.
That said, I tend to be a serial nay-sayer; so maybe I’m missing something huge about the all-seeing, all-knowing iPad.
Find the comments if you think so.