January 28, 2010


A few people have asked what I think of the iPad, so I figure I might as well write it down here. The answer is "I don't know." I'd have to actually have one in my hand to form a real opinion. If it's anything like the iPhone (and it obviously is), then reading about it is a far different experience than actually picking one up and putting your fingers on it. Therefore, it would be foolish for me to really come up with a concrete opinion without some actual hands on time.

That said, I can answer a few more specific questions, like "Do you think you're going to get one?", and "Do you think it will be a hit?"

I'm attempting to be a more provident provider right now, so the answer to any question asking me if I'm going to spend money on anything is a reflexive "no". However, if I had extra money lying around and was debating whether to buy this or something else it might still be a hard purchase to justify.

On paper, it doesn't seem like I'd really need it. I use my iPhone for many things, and my MacBook for everything else. There is almost nothing that I do that couldn't be done by one of those devices yet could be done by an iPad. Still, the iPad could be more useful at some of the things those other devices do, like surfing the internet on the toilet, for example (there's about 1 hour of my week right there).

An iPad would actually be really useful in church (I'm the executive secretary). I've got 2-3 meetings each Sunday, and I have a big padfolio plus my iPhone to manage it all. I'd honestly really rather do everything electronically, but my laptop would be a poor choice for that. It's too bulky, and I can't use it in the hall or in priesthood or anything. An iPad with nothing more than the built in apps, Pages, and the iPhone church apps that I already have would really already be perfect in my church workflow. If someone makes an iPad-specific app that's more useful for what I do at church, even better. I would feel a little self conscious using it for reading in priesthood or something, but there are already 5 guys in the elder's quorum who use their iPod touches or phones for scriptures, so I'd get over that quickly.

I said that there's almost nothing that couldn't be done by one of my other devices that could be done by an iPad. There's one thing I can think of that neither my laptop or phone could do that the iPad would be perfect for: sheet music. I've got a ton of sheet music, yet my collection is puny compared to others (I've got maybe 3 cubic feet worth. I know people who have rooms of their house dedicated). Still, I can never find what I want because there's no rhyme or reason to the way I've got everything thrown in a cupboard. On top of that, half of what I have is photocopies, so without going through each page individually, there's no way of telling what's what. Imagine an app for displaying sheet music that could also catalog and manage scanned music, import the various electronic score formats, give all the expected options for the electronic formats like transposing and audio playback, and couple that app with an online sheet music store with a wide selection. That would be a dream come true for me to be able to sit down at any instrument anywhere and pull up any music I own, or buy/find what I don't. If someone put together the right combination of app and store, I'd be digging through the couch cushions starting today for the money to buy one of these things the second they're available.

Yes, there already exist electronic solutions for this, but they suck. Hard. The MusicPad is $900, is single purpose, and is too big to really carry around idly. The software is also terrible. There's another package that attempts to replicate the MusicPad's functionality for Windows on any Tablet PC. That's a slightly better value, since you can get more use out of a Windows computer, but almost every Tablet PC would still be too big and heavy and poor in battery life. There's the other problem that the program's designed like a Windows program. What works with a mouse and keyboard doesn't work the same with a stylus and certainly not with a finger. That's the big hangup when you try to take an existing solution and just put it in a new context.

What Apple does is different. Rather than use the existing solution, they really rethink the problem instead. They usually do that in such a way that their solution is unrecognizable and unfamiliar. But, if you try what they came up with, you'll often find that they really have come up with a better way. Does that mean I think this thing will be a huge hit? I have no idea. It's hard for me to come up with a list of reasons why anyone would need one, much less me. But, I would not want to bet against Apple on this one. If they're entering a market, you can be sure that they've really done their homework and they have every reason to think that they'll succeed. If they're attempting to create a whole new market, a market that many others have attempted to define and failed, they must really have some reason to believe that they've cracked it, that they've figured out what's been missing from all these other attempts.

If it was any other company, I'd laugh at them and wait for them to fall flat on their face. But, it's Apple, and they've pulled this off twice before with the iPod and iPhone. So, if you don't want one and can't understand why anyone else would want one, that's fine. But don't think that means that no one will buy it, since Apple clearly knows better than you or I about what people want.

(Further evidence that Apple knows what it's doing: the Apple stock I added to my IRA back in 1996 is up over 3800% since I bought it. Sure would have been nice if I had the foresight to buy more than 5 shares, though...)


bolgie said...

Thoughtful post. I think you are right, Apple has put something together before we were even aware we needed it. I shared similar thoughts at http://www.ryanbolger.com/?p=193

Ryan B.

Scott said...

The iPad (which auto-corrects on my iPhone to "uPas"--awesome) seems perfect for my mom. It has a smart, simple interface but it isn't as limited a product as other simple devices. I don't know if getting the first gen will be smart, but I think, without having even spoken with her, that she will probably have one at some point.

I did read someone else pointing to the baby boomer generation as a good market, and I agree. Price is less of an issue, and the "I already have my own radical tech solution" excuse is not as likely to exist.

I think somehow that the product is now underrated. That doesn't mean I am getting one yet, but with a few improvements, it will be on the short list for the next big tech purchase (in 2016, when I have money)

marco said...

MusicReader is preparing an application to display sheet music on the IPad: