Consumption, Production, and the Tablet Future
In just about every lecture, slide show or presentation I’ve given for the past couple of years I’ve referenced Pew’s numbers on tablet adoption. I’m always amazed when technology makes a sharp shift. First it was smartphones, now tablets. I was listening to a talk show the other day that referenced the debut of the iPad and how it was ridiculed. No one thought people needed a new device if they already had a laptop and smartphone. But we did. We needed a consumption device to keep up with the rising tide of information flooding toward us.
Apple’s latest iteration of the iPad backs this up. If you look at the iPad versus the new Surface2 Pro you are looking really at devices with two different agendas. The Surface with its keyboard and kickstand is designed to be a business device, something you do work on, something that’s like your computer but lighter and easier to use. It’s the same thing Windows is doing with the netbook, trying to incorporate touch screens, a tiled operating system, all the devices they are coming out with have a similar look and usability, an idea they cribbed from Apple and others. But their approach, literal as always, is, I believe, profoundly off. Apple devised products that looked like play but did work. That’s always been the secret sauce and it’s still true with the iPad Air. I know plenty of people who will use it for work (myself included when/if I get one) but primarily I will use it for consuming media (for both work and play). When I’m ready to type/write/design/code, it doesn’t happen on an iPad, it happens on a laptop.
What Apple did was create a world where you need both devices, one for consumption and one for production). They may have made one of their own products (the iPod) obsolete through a combination of the iPad and iPhone and perhaps in the future some iteration of the iPad will replace the computer but what’s interesting here is that once again able is both creating technology and observing behavior. When the first ads for the iPad came out they showed people reclining, relaxing with it as they would with a book or newspaper. Contrast that with the Surface which is mostly shown with kickstand and keyboard engaged as a work device, one you use when in an upright posture.
So consider that the number of Americans ages 16 and older who own tablet computers has grown to 35%, and the share who have e-reading devices like Kindles and Nooks has grown to 24%. And the number of younger people who have tablets is on the rise. Being able to use these devices is essential to the future of education. There’s been much talk in Los Angeles about the school district’s billion dollar iPad program which is being seen as a failure. It’s the right idea to try and correct a class divide, it’s just not a useful implementation.
The thing I find interesting is we’ve got the device but we are still lagging in the use of it. Websites are being innovative but books mostly still words and text, occasionally photos, overall a 2D experience. Partly there’s a lack of people with a skill set to conceive of enhanced books, partly there’s still an issue of wifi and data speeds, and partly there’s still some sense of people not being ready for the future. We still think in terms of the physical world. It’s changing, but the big leap hasn’t happened yet, when it does, a physical book will seem impossibly limiting.
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