An observation about what people used iPads for in the early days

Raymond Chen

Shortly after the iPad was introduced, I heard a story about an interaction that was observed between two airplane passengers.

Across the aisle from my colleague were two people traveling together. One of them pulled out his iPad and launched into what was effectively an extended sales demonstration for the device to his seatmate. Look at me launch this, read that, view that. See what else it can do? Look at this.

Eventually, his free demonstration ended, and then he said to his seatmate. “Okay, let’s work on that presentation. Did you bring your laptop?” His seatmate reached down, pulled out an old-school laptop, and the two set to work.

Laptops: For getting work done.

As my colleague quipped, “Sure, the iPad is lightweight and easy to carry. Especially if you also bring 100+ pounds of executive assistant with you, too, to carry the other stuff.”

Happy birthday, iPad.

Bonus reading: The 10th Anniversary of the iPad: A Perspective from the Windows Team. (One could argue that the purpose of today’s article is just to be a delivery mechanism for that link.)



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  • Alex Martin 0

    iPads can have keyboards now, but you still don’t see many people using them as a laptop replacement.

    • R Wells 0

      The seminars I attend have plenty of people using iPad with keyboard to take notes. May not do everything a laptop can but still good enough that a person can get by even at the things the iPad isn’t optimum for.

      • Jonathan Harston 0

        As I keep saying: I didn’t learn to type when I was 8 years old just to go back to finger painting. And none of the on-screen nonsense either, I need to know the actuator has actually actuated instead of nothing happening and coming to the clear conclusion that of course I haven’t pressed the screen correctly, so press it again… and again… and again….. resulting in half a dozen “keypresses” being buffered and acted on when the damn thing deigns to come to attention and respond.

  • Antonio Rodríguez 0

    When the iPad launched, I saw it as a netbook without keyboard, and thus, useless for anything that wasn’t watching videos or pictures. Amazing, magic, you name it. But unable to do productive work (try to write a single line of Java or PHP with a virtual keyboard and you’ll know what I mean). Apple has tried to market the iPad as a “creative tool”, but hasn’t had much success. The consensus nowadays is that tablets and smartphones are content consumption devices, and laptops and desktops, content creation devices. It’s easy to see why sales have stabilized in the last years (PCs sales have stopped to drop, tablet and smartphones have stopped to rise).

    About adding a case and an external keyboard to a tablet… well, you end with a chunky, fragile setup which is often heavier and thicker than some light laptops (i.e., Apple’s Mac Book Air, which is marvelous), and on top of it you have to take care of charging the keyboard’s battery in addition to the tablet’s one (or attaching a messy side cable to the tablet’s USB/Lighting port).

    For more information, see 🙂 .

  • Mystery Man 0

    I’m sure if either you or your colleague had seen a person actually putting iPad to good use, you’d be sure to take that story to the grave, especially when the chair-throwing Steve Balmer was your CEO. Never underestimate fanaticism.

    Result: Apple replaced Microsoft as the most valuable company in the world.

    • Roeland Schoukens 0

      I think it is a good observation though. The set of people consuming content is much larger than the set of people creating content, so if you’re successful at selling things to that first group you’re going to make hay.

  • word merchant 0

    It’s odd: I read some really smart stuff here – from both Raymond and the folk who add their comments, and then at work I have to use Microsoft Teams, surely one of the most clunky and badly-written pieces of awful software that ever existed. And I wonder just where Microsoft is going.

    • Antonio Rodríguez 0

      Microsoft is a fine company. It has some great products, such as Windows or Office, but not everything it makes is as good. Microsoft Teams, the “modern” Skype, Windows Home Server (an interesting but unnecessary concept), all the .NET nonsense they pushed onto us instead of creating “COM 3.0” and letting us continue using our existing code…

      But big companies use to lose contact with their customers. Apple and Google have had some big bloopers of their own (the Newton, the Chromebook, Hangouts…) and, in the case of Apple, some of their half-backed products have had some success just because of the fanboys: the original iPhone was good looking, but could do less than either a Palm, a Pocket PC or even a Symbian OS Nokia… it couldn’t even copy and paste text or install third-party apps!

      • Mystery Man 0

        That would be a great comment if one considers it a giant piece of sarcasm.

        Anyway, Microsoft did release the next version of COM in 2012. I won’t tell you its name but I give you a hint: Raymond’s next blog post (after this one) is about said next version.

      • Danstur 0

        Ah yes C++/COM 3.0 would’ve been a tremendous success. Oh wait they tried (more than once) and it failed because it was a miserable experience.

        There’s a reason nobody writes new business software in C++ using COM. Having a language that nobody can understand fully that took two decades to get a semi-working module system going (not that it’s finished just yet or handles things such as modules for the standard library, but give it another decade and they’ll probably have figured that one out too) turns out is not great for productivity.

        Also thinking that the iPhone was a big success because of the huge number of Apple fan boys in 2008 completely misunderstands the whole reason for its success. Admittedly Microsoft, Nokia and Palm didn’t understand it either, so no reason to feel bad about it. One could notice that neither of the aforementioned companies is relevant in the phone business anymore today exactly for their lack of imagination and misunderstanding the reasons for the iPhones success.

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