Why I’m Excited About the iPad: A Developer’s Perspective


The iPad's iBooks library view. CC-licensed photo by Glenn Fleishman.

Guest commentary by David Barnard, owner of App Cubby, publisher of the popular Gas Cubby and Trip Cubby apps.

Much has been written about all the iPad surprises, disappointments, features, missing features, hype, expectations, future, etc. adnauseam. But not much has been written about what the iPad says about Apple. I’m excited about the iPad because of the many ways it demonstrates that Apple just gets it.

Palm almost gets it, Microsoft may be on it’s way to getting it with the Zune platform, Blackberry doesn’t have to get it, and Google just doesn’t get it.

What’s this “it” I’m referring to? Humans.

Andy Ihnatko wrote a masterful review of Google’s Nexus One smartphone a few weeks ago for the Chicago Sun Times. Referring to some frustrations with the device, Andy said: “These are not difficult problems to spot, if you allow Humans to test a design before you start building hundreds of thousands of them.”

But wait, Google has a very thorough “dogfood” program. Google employees and other testers spent months using the Nexus One prior to launch. But that’s not what Andy meant by Human. Sure Google employees are human beings, but in relation to technology, they are not Humans.

Let’s face it—developers, engineers, the tech press, geeks, and even power users are not mere mortals, we are the gods of technology. We create it. We bend it to our will. We know all. We see all. And if we need something, we can access and parse the collective consciousness.

We do have various things in common with Humans and can appreciate much of what has been built for Humans, but at the end of the day it’s much easier for us to gloss over design flaws, see past ambiguity, and even make excuses for complexity.

When we design things for ourselves, it’s AWESOME! We incorporate every possible feature, make it fully customizable, and incorporate every related cutting edge technology (and a few unrelated cutting edge technologies just for good measure).

But the things we build for ourselves are completely indecipherable by Humans. And we don’t have the time or patience to sit down and explain it to every friend, colleague, and family member. Then our grandparents buy it our lives devolve into a series of “Who’s on first” style conversations.

The iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and whatever comes down the road is not about us, it’s about the Humans among us. And that excites me. There are far more Humans in the world than there are gods of technology.


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