When the low-end iPad’s price drops to $199 (three years?), we think it will be a smash hit.
We think families will buy three or four of them and leave them lying around the house. They won’t “belong” to any one family member, the way PCs and phones do. They’ll just take the place of the newspapers and books that now fill kitchens and living rooms, ready for use by any adult, child, or guest.
But that doesn’t stop us from already being annoyed by one feature of the iPad:
The need to hold it.
One joy of using the Internet on a laptop or PC is that you don’t have to hold anything. You use your hands, yes, but you use them in short bursts and then you let them rest. With the iPad, at least as demonstrated by Steve Jobs at the Great Unveiling, your hands have to be the actual support system for the device in addition to the interface driver.
It’s the same way with a phone, of course, but a phone is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It’s also very light. And most people don’t use the phone for extended media-consumption periods, the way they use laptops, PCs, or newspapers.
And, yes, it’s true that you also sometimes have to hold books and newspapers when you read them. But books, at least, you can hold easily with one hand, and you don’t have to constantly interact with their interfaces the way you will with the iPad. Newspapers, meanwhile, you can spread out all over the kitchen table.
Consider a few use-cases:
The kitchen table. Here, a laptop is preferable to an iPad, because the screen can be set at the right angle and then left untouched for the duration. Your hands, meanwhile, are free to grip the cereal bowl and spoon while occasionally reaching out to scroll or click. An iPad, meanwhile, has to sit flat on the table, at the wrong angle for reading (unless you’re not eating and slouching over it). The laptop’s screen is also bigger than the iPad’s, which makes reading easier. (Yes, someone will no doubt build a table stand for the iPad, but that’s another gizmo you’ll need to carry around with you. And then you’ll also occasionally be touching the screen with greasy, wet hands.)
The couch. When Steve Jobs demoed the iPad, he did so with his legs crossed. And they needed to be crossed. Because otherwise Steve would have been sitting there like a car driver with his arms extended out in front of him, holding the full weight of a 1.5 pound device. Try holding your arms out for a while holding a 1.5 pound device and see how comfortable that is. When your feet are on the floor, meanwhile, you can’t rest the iPad on your thighs, because unless you’re sitting up really straight with the iPad in your lap, the screen is again at the wrong angle (and sitting that way obliterates the point of relaxing in a chair). With a laptop, meanwhile, you have a built-in desk that carries the weight of the device, whether your feet are on the floor or on the coffee table. And the screen can be set once at the proper angle and forgotten.
The coffee table. Want to sit on the couch and put your device on the coffee table? Here, unless you enjoy sitting on the edge of the couch (waste) and slouching massively, the laptop wins easily. You won’t even be able to read the iPad at the normal couch-to-table angle. With the laptop, again, you can position it at the proper angle and leave it.
The bed. When you’re leaning against the headboard with your knees up, the iPad works. The laptop works in that case, too, though. And we suspect that the iPad will have the annoying habit of sliding down the sheet and falling flat, which will require you to hold it. When you’re lying mostly flat with just your head propped up, you’ll have to hold the iPad at the right angle. Most people are used to holding books or magazines in bed, so this probably won’t be seen as that big a deal. But plenty of folks who have gotten used to using laptops in bed, and watching TV and movies on nice big screens, will probably stick to the laptops. Especially couples who watch TV and movies together.
Typing emails and texting, regardless of location. In either of these cases, the laptop and phone win hands down. Typing on the iPad looks extremely awkward, and unless the device is flat on the table in front of you, you’ll have to type with one hand and hold it with the other. With a laptop, meanwhile, either at the table or on the couch, you can type rapidly with both hands, while having your legs or the table support the device. If the point is mobility, the iPhone wins hands-down. Who wants to lug a huge 1.5 pound screen around when you can just slip an iPhone into your pocket?
The back seat of the car. Here, finally, the iPad wins. Kids will put their feet on the back of mum and dad’s seats, tuck their iPads in their laps, and play games and watch movies all the way to their destinations. Laptops work for that, too, but given the cramped confines of the seats, the iPad is probably better.
Two-person head-to-head games. Here, the iPad wins hands down. You can’t play a head-to-head game against someone on a laptop, the way you can with Scrabble, chess, or checkers. We doubt that will be a huge driver of iPad usage, but the device wins there, too.
We consume a lot of online media and we write a lot of emails, and we don’t spend much time slouched in the back seat of cars playing video games. So, for us, the need to hold the iPad sounds like a bummer. Our kids are looking forward to it, though!
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