I watched multiple live-blog feeds of the Apple iPad introduction today. (I’ll assume my invitation to the event itself was lost in the email, not that Apple is ignoring Spectrum.) I figured I’d see a really cool e-book reader (wrong), or maybe a great travel computer (right; my husband and I had been thinking about buying a netbook to share, netbooks just lost our interest).
What I didn’t think I’d find was the answer to my aunt’s problem. That is, how do you get a 70-something-year-old woman on the Internet when she’s never used a computer and has just one hard-wired landline phone in her house, no cable TV and no patience for service people, boxes with blinking lights, and frustrating technology?
She’d been eyeing netbooks, thinking they were pretty cute, until I explained she’d need a dsl or cable modem with a wireless base station before she’d be sitting on the living room couch googling random facts. That all sounded much too complicated for what she wanted to do, which was to look up the name of an actress she recognized on TV but couldn’t quite place, or find out a little more about something she just heard on the radio news.
Sure, a 3G data connection is the obvious way to get my aunt on the Internet, but no way is she going to spend $60 a month. No way, either, is she going to sign any kind of contract—she isn’t entirely sure she wants to be on the Internet; she’s not going to commit to paying for two years online.
But Apple’s new iPad offers a 3G connection starting at $15 a month, paid in advance, no contract. This, finally, is a way to get my aunt on the Internet in a completely non-scary way. Not to mention the fact that the iPad doesn’t need a keyboard, and has no separate touchpad or mouse. My aunt will not have to figure out how to make the cursor move to the right place before she clicks—something that I’ve seen can be difficult for folks that haven’t already learned how to use some kind of pointing device.
I’m not sure that Apple, a company that’s always attracted the early-adopters, had this extremely-late-adopter market in mind when designing the iPad. But, intentionally or not, the iPad gives those of us who have been trying to get late adopters to just adopt, adopt anything, new hopes of success.
For more reactions and analysis, visit the iPad topic page.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.