Everyday Magic

I just ran across a series of articles talking about the launch of the new model iPads (iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina) by Ben Thompson of stratechery.com.

The articles: Whither Liberal Arts?, The Missing “Why” of the iPad, and The Magical iPad are a trio of articles on why the iPad is a disruptive device and the author’s worry about it being run by the Mac guys.

The last in the series, The Magical iPad, struck me as especially interesting in its comparison of the iPad to the Microsoft Surface. The comparison was made because to Mr. Thompson the Surface is a product created by people who know how to make things like PCs and not for what the iPad is; a device that is built for a new type of user and new scenarios.

I think this part sums up his view of the Surface,

If your worldview of productivity is limited to what can be done on a PC – documents, spreadsheets, presentations, coding – then of course you will produce a product that is like a PC, but worse for having tablet features. Of course you’ll produce a Surface.

I do not want to go to far into the weeds with his comparison. His illustration was really about how Apple is positioning the iPad and how it compares to how it was introduced.

I would only point out that part of the problem he had and I think others have maybe not be with how Apple is selling the iPad but of the reality of where computing sits in the public’s mind. A lot of commentary was spent on how the iPad has a lot of appeal as a “magical” device. The appeal of something like the iPad is intangible. The ability to touch the screen and interact with a computer in such a way is a marvelous thing.

But one of the things that happen when a thing like this takes root and becomes commonplace is that those magical moments are replaced with the reality of technology, and more importantly the introduction of competition. There is also the idea that think many view tablets as simply PCs. Yes there is a different interaction model but add a keyboard to an iPad and it’s a computer.

Having had experience with the idea of Tablet PCs my view of what Mr. Thompson sees is different. The Mac guys took over because the iPad has become the new PC. They are no longer talking about the device as something that sits between a smartphone and a laptop. The iPad is a replacement PC. It can be the business companion, the digital file, and the new chalkboard.

The device is no longer a new thing, its five and as such it drops certain ideas and picks up new ones. Or to put it another way it switched majors away from Liberal Arts to Engineering.

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