What is the iPad, really?

Jeff at the Aplepi blog recently wrote an article flatly dismissing the lineup of peripherals designed to bring a keyboard interface to the iPad, in an article entitled: “Please, for the sake of advancing technology, just let the keyboard die already.”

Not because any specific peripheral was poorly made, but that “there are still plenty of folks out there who just don’t get Steve Jobs’ vision” [sic] of a peripheral-free computing device that operates solely out of the touchscreen.

At first I thought that it was borderline idiotic, especially coming from my background as a writer. The reason one might want a keyboard for the iPad is that touch typists work much more quickly entering in information by qwerty (or in rare cases, dvorak) keyboard. When I’m using an iPad, iPhone, or other similar touchscreen device, it takes me forever to write anything longer than a Google search term.

But then I thought – Jeff has a point. The iPad is not designed to be used with external input devices like keyboards and mice – because it is not, strictly speaking, designed to be a creative device. It is, in effect, an output-driven device, designed solely for consuming, rather than creating.

Indeed, it was Apple who once led the charge of creating computers designed to cater to creative people. Lately it seems that that the market is being abandoned for creating devices to cater towards passive people. There are plenty of musicians who own iPods, but they do not create music on an iPod; there are plenty of writers who own iPads, but they do not, as a general rule, write on the iPad.

A future defined by the iPad is in many ways, a huge step backwards. I don’t know what version number of the Web we’re on now, but wasn’t Web 2.0 – YouTube, Facebook, Blogging – defined by becoming a Web of creation and collaboration rather than of passive consumption?

So, what is the iPad really? In short, it’s a passive entertainment device. If you want to read something someone else has written, listen to music someone else composed, or watch a video someone else shot, the iPad is a portable, fun device.

This is not a criticism of the device; but to suggest that the iPad represents the future of computing as a whole (as Jeff at Aplepi’s provocatively worded title implies) sends chills up my spine as a content creator.


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