Ever since the unveiling of Apple’s new iPad, there has been intense debate over it. It’s awesome. It sucks. It will revolutionize computing. The name is stupid. It will revolutionize publishing. It doesn’t have this or that function. It will revolutionize web site design.
Round and round it goes, and where it stops, we’ll only know when the iPad is released and the sales figures are in. Right?
Here’s my prediction. iPad sales will be robust. Perhaps not as strong as the iPod , or even the iPhone at first, but mostly because the economy is down and people aren’t sure yet that they need a tablet computer. But they DO need one, and Apple knows it. Once it’s out, and people start getting their hands on it, get to touch it and play with it, sales will climb.
Why? Because Apple has a secret ingredient that wins us over again and again. Apple doesn’t use the latest technology to create “cool” gadgets, they use the latest technology to create products that come as close as possible to deeply ingrained natural behaviors.
The iPad Gets Out of Our Way
Think about it in this way. When we use a tool, we want and need to learn the tool very quickly so that we can get around to the business of creating or building whatever it is we’re creating or building. What good is a pen that a writer has to constantly fuss with? A camera that presents too many usability obstacles for the photographer? A hammer that isn’t weighted well for the carpenter?
A tool needs to become an extension of ourselves, and get out the way. In fact, neuroscience shows that when you hold a tool in your hand, the brain adjusts to include the tool as part of its map of the body! So when you use a pen, the brain map expands to include the pen. That’s how important it is to our brain that our tools get out of the way.
This is what Apple nails. Take the iPod, dominant in the market of MP3 players despite strict limitations on sharing of music. If you have one, don’t kid yourself, it’s not because the iPod is cool or sexy – the iPod is cool and sexy because of the user interface, and that’s why you have one. Everything about the Ipod comes as close as possible – given the limitations of current technology – to how our brains are wired. From the click-wheel that allows a more fluid movement during selection of music, to the multiple ways the music is organized or can be listened to. The Ipod, sexy little piece of machinery that it is, gets out of the way as best it can so YOU can get down to listening to the music that moves you while you exercise, lounge, commute, or work.
So as the world is busy analyzing the Ipad to death, Steve Jobs and I are sitting back in our chairs, confident that this new tool will so easily become an extension that gets out of the way and lets us get down to the business of doing what it is we want and need to do, that yes, it will sell. And we will love it, even with its small imperfections.
Apple builds us the technology tools that gets out of our way, and that makes them cool and sexy.