I spend a lot of time at Starbucks using my iPad. It has been interesting to see the evolution of questions and comments I get from strangers waiting for their lattes. (This is one of the disadvantages of using an iPad in public. People interrupt you.)
For the first month or two, I got a lot of questions like “Is that an iPad?” and “How do you like it?” Gradually, questions about the wireless keyboard have become more common. I’m often surprised by how many people don’t realize that you can use an iPad with a keyboard.
But most people who come up to me at Starbucks really want to know: “What would I really use it for?” I can see they want one. They know it’s the new hotness. They’ve heard everybody talking about it. They just don’t know what it’s for.
And answering that question is surprisingly difficult to do. I find myself starting with the caveat that it’s no replacement for a laptop. I say it’s great for watching videos, watching TV shows, reading magazines, doing twitter — the trouble is that everything I come up with, people are already doing with a laptop or desktop. Personally, I use my iPad mostly for writing and blog posting, but I wouldn’t expect normal people to do that.
The iPad is very appealing to use and totally worth the money, in my opinion, but it’s difficult to explain why.
A new survey iPad owners by the NPD Group found that surfing the web, checking e-mail and playing games are the top three things people do with iPads. I guess I should add those to my list.
The survey also found that about 20% of iPad time is in bed. Aha! Finally a usage pattern that’s fundamentally different from desktops and laptops.
Personally, I use my iPad in coffee shops, about 60% of the time and probably 30% of the time while sitting on the couch. And, of course, is the ultimate airline tray table device when I fly.
If you ignore usability, content and apps, and focus exclusively on where and how you use an iPad, the answer is that it’s mostly a usability upgrade from a laptop in places where you’re already using a laptop. For example, at Starbucks, I don’t have to jockey for position to get near an outlet because the battery lasts 12 hours. I don’t have to bring a backpack, which is necessary with my laptop that I use with the AC adaptor and mouse. When I want to go work at Starbucks, I just grab the iPad and go.
It’s way better on the couch and in the kitchen, and far better on long-distance road trips, as long as the sun isn’t too bright.
I have a sweet desktop setup with multiple monitors and lots of compute power. My iPad is useless there. But whenever I step away, the iPad gives me a better way to do the things I used to do and in the places I used to do them.
I guess the best answer when people ask me at Starbucks what they would use it for: The same things you use a laptop for and in the same places, but it’s just a lot easier and a lot more fun to use.
Oh, and you’ll take it to bed. But I won’t tell people that. It just sounds like too much information.