Getting Intimate With the iPad

27 January 2010

Today someone asked me if the iPad was a ‘tablet computer’. I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I fumbled a response that sounded something like this:

Uh, not really, but yeah. It’s a larger version of the iPhone, which is more a smartphone than a computer – but it’s also a replacement for a laptop.

Which got me thinking: At what point does this ‘magical’ device challenge the definition of computing? There’s no denying the iPad’s potential to revolutionize media (once again), especially in the books and video categories. It’s also no secret Apple is pushing the idea that the iPad can replace a laptop for many people.

What I’m curious about is how the iPad, if it earns large-scale adoption, could shift our perception of computing as an experience, which, historically, has only been defined by desktop PCs and laptops – or, portable PCs.

Steve Jobs used a term that captures this idea during his keynote, when he sat down in the leather chair and picked up the iPad to demo it. He said the experience was ‘intimate’.

What I’m getting at is that I don’t think the iPad is just another portable device that fills a gap. Even contrary to the way it was introduced, I don’t think the iPad fits the in-between-smartphone-and-PC moniker. I think it’s much more. I think it is the new PC – in its infancy.

You could argue that the iPad is just a larger version of the iPhone, but you might be proving my point. Look at how the iPhone has revolutionized the mobile smartphone arena. The changes we’ve seen haven’t just been technological, they’ve been physiological, social, and even cultural. What if the iPad does the same for computing? What if, in three years, we look back at PCs the way we do now at the Motorola RAZR or Palm Treo (devices that, while still technologically capable, have experiences that are laughable compared to the iPhone’s)?

I’m just saying.

Update: John Gruber also used the ‘intimate’ term in his interview on CBC’s Spark radio show.