Blog Post

The joy of iPad

Apple(s AAPL) is about to introduce a new iPad. Good — for I need to buy a new one. I left my old one with my mother. When visiting my folks in India, I decided to leave my Macbook Air at home — I didn’t want to write and just wanted to spend some quality time with the family. Instead, I carried my iPad 2. (I don’t leave home without it.)

When at home, I did a FaceTime call with my siblings who also live overseas. I handed over the iPad to my mom. She had this look of amazement, one of pure unadulterated joy as she chatted with her grandson.

Being a broadband nerd who cannot stop thinking and talking about the need for speed and connectivity, I felt this moment captured essentially what I, and by extension GigaOM, am all about — connectedness and the change it brings. For once, the technology didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter how it was happening — just that she could talk to her grandson who was oceans apart from her. If there ever was a moment that captured the emotion in a piece technology, that was it. The look on her face made me realize how lucky I am to write about an industry that makes such things possible. I also thought to myself, maybe somewhere Steve Jobs is smiling too.

Apple, clearly, is not for everyone. But for me that moment of joy experienced by my mother is enough of a reason why there will be no other computer company. Apple’s competitors will do their own thing. Some, like Samsung, will do spectacularly well. But for me, Apple finds ways to delight people, pushing technology into the background. When Steve Jobs passed away, I wrote:

Jobs put life and soul into inanimate objects. Everyone saw steel, silicon and software; he saw an opportunity to paint his Mona Lisa. People saw a phone; Steve saw a transporter of love. People saw a tablet; he saw smiles and wide-eyed amazement. They made computers; he made time machines that brought us all together through a camera, screen and a connection.

The smile on my mother’s face captures what I wrote the best.The iPad is now with mom. She set up her iCloud account. She figured out Skype(s MSFT), browsing and email. She knows how to send iMessages. More importantly, she has created FaceTime connections for all those who matter to her. I get a feeling that her Windows PC will gather dust and she will be bothering me a lot — right in the middle of a meeting in San Francisco. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

115 Responses to “The joy of iPad”

  1. Jonathan Dickinson

    You know I remember in 2002 I typed in my girlfriends cellphone number, my parents cellphone number, my friends cellphone number – and by merely pressing the call button we were able to have a video call across cellphone brands. We didn’t need to set up accounts or anything: just phone number and press call. I did it daily and it is cost less than what the data would have. It might not have been mainstream in America but in South Africa our cellphone providers supported this for a very long time. Really FaceTime is absolutely nothing special.

  2. I ge the sentiment, but there’s a lot of oversimplification going on in the comments. iPads are great — I love mine — but seriously, it can’t possibly be that hard to login to Skype from a regular computer. Especially considering that the sign up process is virtually the same on any device (create an account–>log in–>done).

    Some of you are speaking like prior to iPads, video-chatting was beyond the mental capacity of the average user.

    • True, BUT it is not easy to carry the computer/laptop around. My Dad took the iPad to the garden and showed me some new plants that he planted. Try doing that with a “regular computer”!

      • Well, that for one is painfully obvious and well beyond the scope of the article. Your point is about as valid as me saying a desktop PC is “better” because I can run AutoCad and Creative Suite, all while rendering a video in the background. It sounds like a valid point until you realize that it has nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

        P.S. There’s also this thing called “email” that allows you to send photos of things to other people. It’s pretty awesome too. I highly recommend you check it out.

    • > Some of you are speaking like prior to iPads, video-chatting was beyond the mental capacity of the average user.

      LOL! Isn’t this how the media and Apple fanboys portray every single feature that Apple incorporates that was already old news in the market?

      I am SURE Om’s mom had already experienced the joy of video chatting with her grandson on the PC. I don’t deny that she was delighted to chat with him on the iPad as well, but it wasn’t such a wondrous and poetic moment as this article would like you to think.

    • Brian you lack maturity. Om wrote a sweet sensitive article, that went right over your head. To you this tech is second nature. To some, especially senior citizens, computers are as foreign, scary, and dangerous as Martians with thermonuclear devices! Although Skype is similar on iPads and computers, there is a world of difference in the UI.

      • I may, but you clearly lack understanding. The difference in UI regarding specific apps (in my example, Skype) is minimal across devices. So my point still stands. Furthermore, it wasn’t a shot at Om, or his mother, and if I didn’t make it clear earlier I’ll say it again:

        Some of the **COMMENTERS** are oversimplifying. Again, you take exactly the SAME steps to sign into these apps, regardless of platform. Having used Skype on Android, iOS, Windows, and both of the Macs I work with, I know this for a fact. The “world of difference in the UI” you refer to basically boils down to using a finger instead of a keyboard. Everything else is the same. That said, pardon me for asking how in particular the iPad makes this process “easier” as some (not Om, in case I lost you) have claimed.

        Case in point: I installed Ubuntu on my mother’s laptop. Installed the Skype .deb for her, and then watched her set up an account. Took probably 30 seconds from one of the most tech illiterate people on this planet (she still refuses to give up her VCR). That was two years ago and she has yet to encounter a problem. This is the same person I have to remind every other week that she can’t install iTunes on her computer because Ubuntu is not just another version of Windows (‘nother story altogether).

        So, if refusing to believe there’s some inherent magical properties of iOS devices makes me immature, so be it. I wear it proudly.

  3. Thanks for the great article Om. I can relate to your feeling because I saw the exact same look on my parents face when I did a FaceTime call with them, and I said the same thing “Thank you Mr. Jobs”.

  4. Prasanth

    You’ve got to be kidding me! Thousands of parents from India talk to their kids studying overseas via Skype from PCs everyday – and, you had to convert it to an ad for iPad.. incredible Apple, incredible Valley

  5. When my daughters were born late last year, I bought both sets of Grandparents an iPad – primarily for FaceTime. It’s now a verb in our family – lets”FaceTime”. As Om says, the Windows PC has been sitting gathering dust since then at our parents home…

  6. Michael W. Perry

    I saw something similar this Sunday when I was helping take care of one-year-olds at my church. One little girl seemed sad, so I pulled out my iPhone to let her play with the fish in a pond app.

    The instant I pulled it out, every kid in the vicinity zeroed in on it. They obviously already knew it was fun and wanted to play with it. I quickly put it away. One toy won’t work with five kids. If I’d pulled out an iPad, I’d probably been mobbed by the entire class.

    Moral: Your mother’s delight isn’t surprising. Even kids 12-24 months old know this touch gadgets are amazing.

  7. christina6

    My younger sister has an iPad and I didn’t think it was necessary until her and I started using face time and other forms of communication. I live in a different city so using our resources to stay connected is important. The iPad isn’t just a fancy toy, it really does give people the opportunity to connect with loved ones.

    Great article!

  8. vishwa

    I had a very similar experience when we used Facetime in hospital to introduce our new born daughter to her 3 year old elder sister. The joy on my elder daughter’s face was remarkable. At that moment she didn’t care how she was able to see her younger sister but only that she could. Technology is powering emotional connections in the world we live in

  9. KarlSF

    Well said, well done, Om. It’s not that these technologies didn’t exist before or elsewhere, it’s how the recipe that Apple prepares which makes products like the iPad great. A love for details, technique and the dining experience is what separates a chef from a fry cook.

  10. Jerry Collins

    Thank you for sharing such and intimate moment Om. You hit the nail on the head for every facet of technology, it’s all about the people it touches.

  11. Jonathan Fingas

    And this is why Motorola, Samsung, and the like aren’t doing well in tablets.

    Samsung is eager to tell you about how high-resolution the camera will be on your Galaxy Tab. Motorola will tell you exactly how fast the 4G is. Apple would push those to the background and say how the new iPad would use both to let you talk to your mother and make her feel that much better about being away from her son.

    Specs only matter in achieving an end. Ultimately, it’s how they’re linked to the software to reach that end that matter. Apple understands that; others still seem to see the specs as ends in themselves.

  12. I am almost fifty house wife, my mom almost eighty never used a computer until her Ipad2. Now she face times with her kids and grand kids continents away she just learn email. That’s why I cried when I heard about passing of Steve Job, that’s why I still get misty eyes, and I know you would understand.

  13. I can fully relate to the experiences so well described here. Add to the joy the freedom to comfortably read almost any book. Old eyes are no longer limited to the Large-Print section (least common denominator) of the bookstore/library. ‘Tech-support’ calls go down with iCloud automagically backing up settings and content once per day leaving more time for other, more important and engaging conversations on FaceTime.

    • Maybe. Maybe not. Its not about the tablet as much as the thought apple puts behind the UI. Its not about video calling but the ease of using facetime. Think of the emotional connection made by a product that makes a non-techie feel like she can do anything on a tablet. Its the ease, not the tool.

    • You are correct but the author and many posters just want it to be about Apple. Hell on just my phone I can simply touch an icon and I’m doing a video call. Nothing difficult. And you can tell the author knows its BS because the rebuttal is addressed before it even happens.

      Its fine to like Apple, MS, Google or whoever. But this picture painting that some Apple product is the easiest or worse yet only way to do something is crap. For instance my niece which had a really crappy Android budget phone upgraded to an iPhone. Within two hours she felt it was crap and took it back for a Galaxy S2 which she loves. That’s the story that’s rarely told. And say what you want but the overall platform market share numbers say that this isn’t a story that rarely happens.

      • eastinjun

        Exactly my sentiment. Instead of facetime it might be some more universal technology. Better interoperatibility instead of learning some apple lingo. What bugs me is that as journalist, the perspective painted by the apple philes leaves out that there are other (many times better) options out there.

  14. Raghu B K

    My little niece has been using my iPad since she was 4 yrs. she will not even appreciate Steve Jobs when she grows up because she would think that this is how it has to be anyway. That is the power of true design.

  15. Aanarav Sareen

    Completely agreed, Om. Recently, my grandfather experienced Skype video calls for the first time and was stunned. Technology is great for those who create it, but even better for those who use it to make better connections.

  16. Mihir Khajanchi

    My 80 year old granny loves the iPad and plays Solitaire on it! Her latest fascination is accessing Facebook on iPad and commenting on pictures! This definitely wouldn’t have been possible in the PC era! :)

  17. Zarani Barrow

    Awesome! I LOVE all things communication technology related. I can’t get enough of this site. It is a must read every day. Most of my dad’s siblings live in the US while my grandmother remains in Guyana. I think I’ll pull a Mailik and leave my iPad2 behind when I visit this winter.

  18. Reblogged this on Mark Roddis and commented:
    I came across this over on Gigaom and I think Om really manages to get across just how back to front we often get when talking about technology.
    It must always be about the user

      • Your comment made me go reaching for your terms and conditions and realise that I may have fallen on the wrong side of your copyright so I shall correct this straight away and apologise however in doing so I have come across something rather odd.
        I used the WordPress platforms REBLOG function which places a short excerpt of your blog and then a link through to the full article here. In my view there is never any claim that this is other than a pointer back to your article.
        The Reblog feature is effectively offered as a button on your website (in the same way as the like button etc) and reading the WordPress terms and conditions it seems to imply that this is acceptable.
        So what is right here?
        Have I breached your copyright by using a function offered up by your host (WordPress) in which case I apologise or am I reading too much into your comments?

    • “It must always be about the user” is exactly why Apple is so successful.
      And you who disparage “Apple fanbois” act like you don’t get that.

  19. Jitendra Vyas

    Agree with OM. iPad is really awesome. Kids and Older people learn it instantly, even it’s easier to understand then a Mobile/Smart phone

  20. This is a nice article. Clearly technology is just a tool for making human lives better, and Steve Jobs understood that and used technology like an artist would use his brushes!