The Amazing iPad
A few months ago I did two things that few would have expected from me:
1) I walked into an Apple store
2) I purchased an Apple product
After a few months I thought I would share my perspective on what makes tablets such as the iPad such a compelling and revolutionary technology. But first I have to share an interesting story from my college days:
When Windows is not a WIN
Back in the early 90’s our university library had Apple Macs available for the students to use during library hours. A problem developed when I had a paper which was due and I found the library schedule to be incompatible with my social schedule. My dorm building was in a suite layout and I asked one of my neighbors if I could use his PC computer over the weekend while he was out of town and he agreed.
When it came time to write the paper I sat down at his chair and powered up the PC. I heard some noises, and then later some text appeared on the screen which I didn’t quite understand. This was indeed a bit different from the Macs in the school library.
Then things quieted down and there was this “C:\” that appeared on the screen with a flashing cursor after it. I figured I’d wait a bit more for something to happen as this clearly wasn’t right. I tried using the mouse which was right next to the keyboard to find MS Word but there were no graphics – just a bunch of white on black text. After a minute of waiting I pressed the power button to restart the process as something clearly didn’t work right that time . Again I found the computer returning to this “C:\” with a cursor after it. What does “C” mean? Was it some kind of code or error message?
Shortly I learned that I could type after this mysterious letter C, but if one would press enter I would get a message informing me that I had entered a “bad command or filename”. Hmm. I tried typing “MSWORD” and a few variations of it but that didn’t work either. How about “Help” I thought – surely that would disclose what my options were! “Bad command or filename”. “Now that’s odd” I thought to myself.
Well if I just tried long enough I’d be certain to find some word that was not a “bad command or filename” from this C: thing. I tried many combinations of words, and after repeated failures I began to employ some colorful metaphors, but was a bit less surprised that those words did not elicit a helpful response from the machine. I ended up entering the library the moment it opened on Monday AM and typed as good of a paper as I could in 90 minutes.
When my neighbor returned I enthusiastically informed him that there was something wrong with his computer and that it kept displaying this “C:” error. I was then informed that this was normal behavior and that I should have entered the phrase “win” and pressed enter to start MS Windows and then MS Word. Now why didn’t I think of that? One of the lessons here perhaps is that technology does not work unless it works for people.
Apple Goes Mobile
Needless to say after this incident I self-taught myself more about MS-DOS, Windows and OS/2 than I ever imagined that I would want to know. By 2001 I was working for Dell Consulting Services designing Active Directory for a government client and riding on the DC Metro system. I was using my Windows CE powered iPAQ PDA to read a whitepaper and then write down some notes in my action plan while listing to U2’s Achtung Baby! I noticed a girl on the train using one of those new iPod thingys. I remember looking at it and thinking “that’s all it does? – play music with a dial? People are excited about this?”
I was in the Windows world now and I decided that I wanted complex products to master and not something that was dumb-ed down for the masses with slick marketing campaigns. I developed the impression that Apple products were both overpriced and over-hyped for what they offered. To borrow a concept from Apple’s marketing, I wanted to be different. As the music market evolved I ended up getting a Zune which to this day I still find to have a much better interface and a great “all you can eat” pass which in my opinion far surpasses what iTunes has to offer. And with Android phones like the HTC EVO taking off there was no need to look at an iPhone either.
What changed is when I noticed my daughter struggling with her homework a few months ago. She just had major surgery and then later experienced a slipped disc in her back as a result. She was in significant discomfort and had to be carried from her bed to the couch. Seeing her trying to get comfortable on the couch while working with a pen and paper made it clear to me that this was not going to work.
After a short conversation with my wife, I drove down to the local Apple store and picked up an iPad. While there were other options, the iPad had the most apps and would therefore have the best selection of math and spelling apps. As I walked into the store I was able to use an iPad for myself and browse the educational apps that were available. I quickly decided that this would help her and picked one up.
My iPad Experience
As I first starting playing with the iPad the realization came over me that this was very much like an Android phone but with a bigger screen. “What have I done?” I began to wonder and grew concerned that I had wasted my money on a “phone” with an extra-large screen. As I began to use it more I slowly began to realize that the bigger screen is exactly what makes the tablet concept work so well. It became an overnight hit in our household as we could use it to do shopping, reading, email and more right from the couch. Unlike laptops which are big and socially obtrusive, the tablet is not a big device that you hide behind, but a more social-friendly device that you can share with others. The iPad is an instant-on experience and one can quickly, easily and comfortably read email and order from Amazon while sitting on the couch. We even found ourselves huddled around the iPad looking at cookie recipes to try as a family during the holidays.
How did it work for my daughter’s 4th grade schoolwork? Her teacher fully embraced it and actually incorporated it into her curriculum. She had math and spelling tests and drills all set up on the iPad for her and every week I’d input her spelling words and tune the math apps for the specific math problems that were being covered. It has been a hit with our family (and the teacher) well beyond what I had imagined (in a future post I’ll share some of my favorite iPad apps).
Now imagine the work experience. Imagine being able to walk from conference room to cubicles with a small tablet rather than an laptop, which was capable of even being a VDI client, provisioning new servers or managing your virtual infrastructure. The tablet fits a badly needed gap between the laptop and the smartphone and really does change the way we can interact with information as well as empower us without having to carry a laptop around.
Now of course the iPad isn’t the only game in town — Android tablets getting ready to make a splash (and Microsoft is trying to re-ARM Windows for tablets before the opportunity is lost). A well designed tablet device will change and improve the way we work and play. The tablet age is upon us and expect many new tablets to enter the market this year.
That’s enough of me talking. I’ll let these few videos speak for themselves. Here’s videos of the vSphere client on the iPad, VMware View, vCloud Request Manager and vFoglight on the iPad as well.