Nobody reading this post is ever going to use Apple’s new iPad as his or her sole computer. But there is a group of folks who might: People like my late aunt Betty, who used WebTV to send e-mail. The iPad’s portability and streamlined interface for common tasks make it a compelling device for people–usually older people–who have chosen to opt out of the computer revolution until now.
My aunt never had a PC, and as far as I know, didn’t want one. Would she have been willing to spend $500 on an appliance that she could use in his living room for keeping in touch with her family and reading the paper? Maybe. The WebTV price was set at $329.
I will tell you one thing–Aunt Betty wound’t have cared about how “open” the iPad was as long as it did what she expected. If she could listen to music, watch movies, read, and use it for e-mail and theWeb, she’d probably be pleased with her purchase. The question of whether the iPad could multitask would never come up.
The iPad is meant to sync with a PC or Mac, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t become a fully autonomous, standalone device. It will be interesting to see what Apple does with MobileMe and the iPad.
My colleague Harry McCracken commented that Web TV was supposed to be for young folks, but unintentionally found a market among “oldsters.” It is possible that the iPad could achieve the same success among people who would not typically buy a PC. I’m curious to see the demographics of who ends up buying it–it may not be the “innovators” who you’d expect.
It doesn’t look like Apple is catering to Aunt Betty types, but it should.