iPad: change or coalition?

It always amuses me; whenever “they” bring out a “cool” device, everybody immediately has to have one. Ok, not everybody, but enough people I know do want a new iPad to cause me major puzzlement.

Now, don’t let’s start with the wrong impression, I love good, useful, effective technology. But I love if for what it does, not what it is. The thing with computers is, they are intrinsically useless. It’s the software that’s useful – the device just supports the software. So, for example, I only bought a new computer when I wanted to run Second Life. Yes, it was state-of-the-art and all that, but I just stuck it under the table and actually looked at the new software it supported.

Back to the iPad then. Is it a sea-change in computer use, or just a coalition of old features? What new functionality does it support? Thus far, I haven’t heard of anything at all, let alone something that I will want to use. So to me, it’s useless. Ok, I could buy one in order to see if it’s useful, but isn’t that a bit like buying a new music download without listening to it first on the off-chance I would like it? (only much more expensive!)

It must be this kind of “sensible scepticism” that slows the adoption of technologies that do have clear benefits. Take Podcasting for example. Beyond Distance has plenty of evidence for its efficacy, and many people are beginning to use it, but there’s no stampede of new Podcasting academics. Getting the message across  is as important as having a good message.

For the iPad, either there’s no good message, or it has yet to reach me.

Time will tell . . .

Paul Rudman
Research Associate, SWIFT

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  1. Ian Wright

     /  May 19, 2010

    Hi Paul, interesting commentary. I think you miss one key point. It’s not separate elements (i.e. game-changer software, new tricks) that makes the iPad significant but the bringing together of a range of functions (reading, browsing, limited writing, accessing rich-media, engaging with interactive web content etc) in a mobile, connected, light, usable and smoothly executed device that is the breakthrough. It’s the very integration of these functionalities (none of which are intrinsically new) in this form/execution mode that is new and I think, a paradigm shift. It’s the gestalt, not the bits and pieces.

    Best wishes to all at BDRA. Avoided the latest ash clouds to get home on schedule on May 14.

  2. bdra

     /  May 19, 2010

    Ah, I see. Just a coalition of old features then 🙂
    Actually, this sounds like the response of some to Second Life in Education – “Why would I want to spend my time playing a game where cartoon characters pretend to do things?”.
    I probably need to actually use one.
    Maybe I’ll wait for Google’s, it will cost less. . .


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