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Apple Co-Creator Says iPad is a Computer for “Normal People”

Speaking at a event Tuesday in Santa Clara, CA, Apple (s aapl) co-founder Steve Wozniak said that the “iPad is for the normal people of the world.” He was speaking at the Storage Network World conference (via The Telegraph), and made a distinction between his tech savvy audience and the average consumer. Wozniak’s statement has the ring of truth, but is it really accurate?

According to Wozniak, it has always been Steve Jobs’ dream to create a computer that was easy enough for anyone to pick up and use, but “but it was just hard to get there, because we had to go through a lot of steps where you connected to things.” Anyone who’s had the pleasure of trying to set up a wireless network even just five to ten years ago can probably attest to this. If you remember connecting to the web in its earliest days, then you probably don’t need any more convincing.

Anecdotally, the iPad is the first computing device my mother has ever enjoyed being able to use. It’s also the only computer my girlfriend needs; she’s completely abandoned her aging Windows (s msft) laptop (I actually haven’t even physically seen it in around six months) in favor of my first-gen iPad. And it’s the only computing device my luddite friend living in the wilderness of northern Ontario has ever asked me about with genuine curiosity. And of course, there’s the now famous story of the 100 year-old woman who was thrilled with her first computer purchase: a first-generation iPad:

Yet, many of the numbers detailing the average iPad user seem to go against such anecdotal findings. A November 2010 survey performed by SAI found that just 28.9 percent of respondents indicated that the iPad was their primary computing device. It’s an impressive number, but it still suggests that for the large majority, an iPad is a secondary device. Then there’s a December 2010 study performed by the Reynolds Journalism Institute that found that the average iPad owner is a college-educated 48-year old man, earning more than $100,000 per year. That’s hardly a picture of normalcy in the U.S., where 75 percent of the population earn less than $50,000 a year, and women make up a little more than half the total population, according to the latest census data.

Of course, the iPad has only existed for a little over a year. Global adoption, especially among demographics that are traditionally slow-moving when it comes to new tech uptake, will take time, so it makes sense that early iPad owner statistics would be more indicative of what constitutes an early adopter than what best represents the target market of the iPad itself.

Wozniak may be over-generalizing when he says that the “iPad is for the normal people of this world,” but it still represents the best attempt we’ve yet seen to make computing easy enough for users who don’t have extensive computer-using experience. And the price of entry for ownership is on the low side not only for tablets, but also for computing devices in general. I suspect that the picture of the average iPad user depicted above won’t be the same one we see in two or three years, and that Woz’s statement will make even more sense as Apple continues to refine the iOS experience with the general computer user in mind.

4 Responses to “Apple Co-Creator Says iPad is a Computer for “Normal People””

  1. Lincoln Thurber

    I laughed when I read this article. “The first computer my mother could use” is a statement that is simply misleading because it tells half the story. If we are honest we know what author meant to say was, “The first computer my mother could use AFTER I
    1) Opened the box
    2) Updated iTunes (added iTunes to my computer)
    3) Registered and update the iPad
    4) Downloaded the few Apps she might like

    I just had an 83-year-old woman and her 60-year-old daughter swing through my library where none of the above happened, so I had to walk them through the whole setup process. That was the fifth person in the last two months to walk into the library saying, “I just bought this iPad show me how to use it.” I won’t even list a litany of iPhone, iTouch and iPod users who have passed through my door for the past five years all saying the same thing, “I just bought this and it says I need a computer…?”

    At the end of the day, we all have to admit the easiest computer ever still requires you to own, operate, and maintain a normal PC/Mac computer. A ‘mom’s easy experience’ is only possible because of a hidden support staff of family, friends, and professionals like myself. When Apples makes an out of the box iPad that requires no other device to start using I will be impressed — until then their smoke screen is unimpressive.

  2. An iPad is marvelous for those who consume information, browsing webpages and the like. But it’s clumsy and inefficient for those who create information of almost any sort. It’s only for “normal people” if you assume that consuming is normal and creating restricted to a select few. I wouldn’t even want to respond to email on one.

    There are exceptions of course, such as physicians looking at medical data and lawyers reviewing legal briefs. But if either wants to do something with what they’ve seen, they’ll need a more traditional computer.

  3. Here’s a thought — now that Jobs appears to be heading in the right direction with the iPad, in so far as making a truly “for the people” portable device, why not skip the iPadification of the Mac and keep the two experiences similar, but sufficiently different, to cater to the two slightly different audiences / users?

    After all, I don’t welcome having the same general iOS UI on Mac OS X come version 10.5 and I know several others who feel the same. An iPad (or any iOS) device is not a Mac, and visa versa.