Whose iPad Life?

My mom just emailed me.

Normally, that would be unremarkable. She’s getting older, but isn’t that old, and surely an email isn’t that difficult of a task. This email, though, speaks volumes:

An email from my mom to me
An email from my mom to me

Start with the subject. HK is Hong Kong. My parents are flying from Chicago to Taiwan to see their grandchildren, and while they’ve done it before, they’re not exactly tech savvy. They certainly don’t have an international data plan – heck, they don’t even have smart phones! They don’t see the point in paying that much every month.

What my mom does have, though, is an iPad – you can see it there in her signature. It’s likely she doesn’t know how to change it, but that’s kind of the point: that signature speaks volumes. What it says is that she managed to connect to the Hong Kong airport Wi-Fi, agree to the Wi-Fi agreement, get online, and then email her son – and after a 15 hour flight no less!

The very idea of her doing this on a PC – Windows or Mac – is laughable. I doubt she would even take said PC out of her bag. And that’s what’s so amazing! It’s not only that she was able to connect to Wi-Fi, but that she was even willing to try. That is the power of the iPad, that is the magic. That is the sort of life that the iPad enables and that surely appeals to millions around the world.

Yesterday, Apple released several short vignettes that accompanied the video they showed at the iPad introduction. The series is called Life on iPad. They are remarkable, both in presentation and content, and multiple people thoughtfully reached out to me suggesting this was the magic I was looking for.

I can see where they’re coming from: there’s no question the iPad has unlocked amazing new use cases. But – and this gets at the trouble I have with Apple’s messaging – how many people work on windmills? How many people are surgeons? Who are these vignettes for? What is more meaningful? Is it these impressive but rather obscure examples, or is it the confidence and ability to connect to Wi-Fi in a foreign country, to contact your son and let him know you’re almost there?

The magic of the iPad is twofold: one, it empowers all kinds of people who find a PC just a bit intimidating to have their own bicycle of the mind – and, let’s be honest, that’s almost everyone but us geeks. Two, the iPad does enable brand new use cases, which these vignettes get at, but what about these use cases resonates broadly? Where are the examples of making music, drawing, or designing – things that unlock the creativity I, naive as it may be, truly believe exists in all of us just waiting for the means to burst out?

What excites me, what makes me so passionate about this subject, is the deep belief that there are millions of people whose lives could be made genuinely better by the iPad, and who may see these vignettes, and have no thought beyond “that life isn’t me.”

One aside: what these “Life in iPad” does emphasize is the developer opportunity. While I argue Apple should be selling the value of the iPad to everyday consumers, truly lucrative apps are likely to be found serving niches like windmills, speedskating, etc. The only limit is the developer’s willingness to find the right niche.