On iPads, Grandmas and

The darndest thing happened in the last five days and I was fortunate to be privy to it. Apple has gotten people excited about computing.

But this time, it’s not nerds or geeks and certainly not IT industry analysts. It’s everyone else.

I had a curious set of three conversations this week. One with a grandma, one with a technophobe and the third with a self-proclaimed luddite.


My mother-in-law walked in the door the day of the keynote and the first thing out of her mouth was “Did you see that new Apple iPad? That looks like it would work for me. Would that work for me?”

I was utterly flabbergasted. She NEVER talks about computers or technology. She tolerates them at best. Her attitude is typical of most baby boomers I’ve talked to regarding computers. She wants to benefit from them but is frustrated by the wall she must climb in order to do so. She’s learned how to use email and a couple of other things on the Internet and that’s about it.

Her bringing up the iPad was amazing for two reasons. First, someone in her office (she works with other ‘boomers) found out about it within hours of the keynote and shared it with her. That Apple news warranted attention from baby boomers at all is significant. That she then held her interest long enough to tell me at the end of the day is equally significant.

After learning a little more information about it, she has decided that she wants an iPad. It actually borders on technolust.


A good friend of mine is an attorney and reluctantly uses technology for his work. In age, he’s somewhere between my generation and the baby boomers. He recently lost his phone in the snow and then found out his company was moving to AT&T. He replaced his lost phone with a blackberry and when our group of friends caught wind of that, we informed him he could have gotten an iPhone. So on our recommendation, he decided to take the Blackberry back and give the iPhone a try.

I had never once seen him exhibit any excitement over technology but the next time I saw him, he could barely contain his enthusiasm for his new phone.

Fast forward to last Wednesday evening. I told him about the new iPad and his eyes grew wide. He blurted out “Wait, are you talking about an iPhone but with a bigger screen? A regular sized computer THIS easy to use? $15 a month for internet anywhere? When can I buy one?”

He had been won over completely by the user experience of the iPhone. It was amazing to watch and fascinating to see him project his good experience and excitement to the iPad.


The third conversation came from a completely unexpected source. I have a good friend and neighbor who works remodeling houses and who reluctantly agreed to have me design a website for his company after being pressured by his family. I don’t know anyone else who hates computers more. He has refused to get an email address. He doesn’t use his mobile phone to do anything other than make a call. And he often mocks me anytime I even mention computers. I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not exaggerating his attitude. At all.

He stopped by my house the day of the keynote to talk about his new website and when he walked in I happened to have some iPad photos open on my laptop. He asked me what they were about and I casually described the new Apple “tablet” that had just been released. I didn’t spend a lot of time on it considering his historical lack of interest in computers. He asked me a couple of questions and then we discussed his site.

Three days later, he called me and the following exchange ensued. “Dude, I think I want to get one of those Apple tablets for my business.” “Really?” I said. “Yeah, I went and looked at them and they seem really easy to use. I think it would work great for showing potential customers my work and for doing bids on.” I was completely speechless.

The Point

After Apple released the iPhone and when the serious rumors started about the “tablet” a year or so ago I had hoped that this was where Apple was going. I’ve long felt that computers were too hard to use, that the filesystem should NEVER be seen by the user. That human-computer interaction should favor the “human” side.

As the Apple guys stood on stage and described the iPad, I knew I was seeing computer history being made. This new approach to computing and experience is as much a game changer as the ORIGINAL Mac. Heck, it may even be more so.

But honestly, before having these three conversations, I figured Apple’s vision would be realized in ten to fifteen years. Now I’m thinking five or less.

One More Thing

When the date for the announcement was set, I started hoping that Apple would release something like iWork for the “tablet.” I doubted they would so soon but the hope was there. As I figured, if they did, they’d be sending a clear message that this was the future of computing, not just for gaming, watching videos and reading books.

Somehow that message has been lost on people (so many iWork comments end with “meh”), but I consider the release of mobile iWork to be the biggest sign of things to come and the strongest message Apple sent regarding their vision for the future.

It’s amazing to watch all of this unfold.

posted by Rob Foster on Monday, Feb 01, 2010
tagged with ipad, future, apple