The importance of the iPad

I have wanted to put some thoughts down on “paper” on the value and importance of the iPad.  But I also felt that until I actually had one in my hand, I shouldn’t write anything.

Well, the time has come and gone.  I have my iPad, I’ve used it, I’ve been amazed by it, and I’ve been concerned about some of the issues that others have raised.  But the bottom line is that my first thoughts were correct.

The iPad is a transformational object that recognizes an important paradigm shift that has occurred among general consumers of computer technology. iPads are interactive media devices that unite the realms of produced media (movies, music, photos) and interactive media (live music, games, social media) in a form factor that is intuitive, lightweight, and natural.  The paradigm shift here is between laptops and handhelds.  Smartphones are (were) a pathway for this kind of linkage, but these palm size objects prevent the kind of meaningful interaction where the reward for interaction is enough for adoption.  There just isn’t enough physical space for your fingers to do much within a single action (i.e., zoom in/out).

The scale of the iPad is large enough for human fingers, big enough for failing eyes, and responsive enough such that a natural connection between physical actions (tapping, drawing) and virtual actions (flipping pages, zooming, playing musical notes) is convincing.  You have already seen an explosion in apps that involve music making of some sort or another.  ThumDrum, Magic Piano, Beatwave are all apps that enable amateur musicians the ability to quickly develop a real sense of virtuosity and musicianship.  These are very exciting developments for those of us concerned with virtuosity and musicianship in a digital age of immediate gratification.

For those who think the iPad is nothing more than an oversized iPhone/iTouch, you are correct.  But that should not be seen as a pejorative.  The increased scale actually improves the interaction and the value to the user. I’m looking forward to working with our students on developing the next generation of apps for this empowering device.


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