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iPad in the family: What it'll take


When Steve Jobs announced the iPad, I thought it was neat, but I didn't see how it would really fit into my life. What could it do for me that my iPhone or MacBook Pro couldn't? It seemed like that gap Steve Jobs said the iPad filled was targeted at a group of people I didn't belong to. So I asked the TUAW readers if you'd be getting one. Then I began talking to my family about the iPad and discovered some surprising things: the very people I thought would never buy one plan to, and the people I thought would jump at it are holding off.

So here's a rundown of four very different people in my family and if/why they will be getting an iPad:

Person: My mother. 62. Queen of the Luddites.
Computer proficiency: Absolutely none.
Will she be getting the iPad? Yep. The 16GB 3G model.
Why? My mom has never owned a computer. She doesn't have an internet connection. She couldn't explain to you what Facebook is. And she refers to my iPhone as "that information device."

Given all this, I was quite surprised when she said she'll be getting one right away. But then it made perfect sense. My mom hates computers because the icons are so small and the various program UI's are relatively confusing (remember, she's a 62 year old woman who still clings to her VHS tapes). My mom never saw the value in getting a computer and subscribing to a $30 monthly internet service when computers were always hard for her to use (she never really understood the mouse moves the cursor on the screen thing) and the only thing she would really use the computer for would be email.

For her the iPad is perfect. It's not small like the iPhone, so she can see everything on the screen without squinting. Because my mom is a light internet user (think email and Skype), the $15 pay-as-you-go 250MB 3G price plan is perfect for her – especially since she can cancel at any time. She doesn't have to sign a $30 a month contract and has no modem to worry about dying on her. But, the real appeal about the iPad is there is no mouse for her to fuddle with or cursor to follow. With the iPad, when she wants to check on her email, she simply touches the screen. My mom has poor sight but the iPad is both large enough and features a simple enough UI that she can touch to email with ease.

Best of all, when she isn't checking her email, the iPad will double as a digital picture frame. My mom loves her photos and has recently gotten a digital camera. But with no computer, she's had to take the camera card to Walgreen's to get the pictures printed. Now with the iPad and the camera connection kit she can bypass a computer entirely and view her photos as never before.

Person: My brother. 34. Public school teacher.
Computer proficiency: Intermediate.
Will he be getting the iPad? Not yet.
My brother won't be getting an iPad until it offers him something he doesn't already have in his iMac. What would that something be? An iComicbook store.

My brother has collected comics since he was a kid – back when they were 75 cents an issue. Today they run about $3.99 each – a price many think is just too high. He's had to cut back on the amount of comics he reads because of their high cover price. But what if he could buy a digital issue for 99 cents each? That would be enough for him to get the iPad.

And it just might happen. Jon Fortt over at Fortune wrote an article that made a lot of sense about why he believes comics will come to the iPad. His thesis? Steve Jobs is the largest Disney shareholder. In August Disney bought Marvel Comics. Disney is extremely concerned about turning a young, tech savvy, male audience back to their brands. The marriage of Disney and Marvel might just produce a subsection of the iBookstore in the very near future called the iComicstore. If Marvel signs on, you can bet DC Comics will follow suit. Once this happens, my brother will buy an iPad, as I'm sure legions of comics fans would.

Person: Me. 32. Tech blogger and writer.
Computer proficiency: Expert.
Will I be getting the iPad? Not yet.
No, not because they didn't put a front facing camera on it as planned. Really people, do you really want the person you're vid chatting with to be staring up at your nose hair? I think the iPad's pretty cool, but I see it more as a content/leisure device – and right now the content is lacking. Sure, the iBooks app is nice, but I'll have to see if reading a book on an iPad is an enjoyable as reading a paperback or as easy on the eyes as reading on an E-ink reader.

There is one thing that would make me buy an iPad right away. It's another subsection of the iBookstore that I envision: the iMagazine store. I've written about this before, but I'll repeat my talking points here: I like magazines, but like my brother, I find the newsstand cover prices are a bit too high when I only want to read one interesting article that's caught my eye. If I could buy that single issue on an iPad for 99 cents, it would be a done deal. Add bookmarking, highlighting, and a built-in dictionary panel like the one in Mac OS X and I would be in heaven.

As with comics, the expensive cover price is a result of the costs of printing, shipping, and distribution. If magazine and comic publishers switched to the digital iPad distribution format, they could easily cut the cover prices while still maintaining profits (due to no printing or shipping costs, and cheaper distribution costs through Apple). Magazine publishers may actually be able to make a healthier profit if they introduce pay-per-click dynamic ads in the issues. This would especially benefit digital comic books because many fans go back and read their favorite issues again and again (thus they would be seeing new ads each time).

Person: My sister. 30. Occupational Therapist.
Computer proficiency: Intermediate.
Will she be getting the iPad? What's that?
Why? Please, I'm still trying to get her on a Mac or even just an iPod.

IMHO, Apple will implement an iMagazine and iComicbook store sooner rather than later and that's when my brother and I will jump on the iPad bandwagon. In the meantime, I'll have to live with the fact that my mom will have the latest and greatest tech gadget on the planet while I curl up with a good book and a copy of Men's Health.

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