March 8th, 2012

Yesterday, Apple announced the next version of the iPad. Appropriately, it’s just called “iPad.” No version number, no modifier, nothing. Just iPad. The iPad has become as iconic as the Macintosh and the iPod, and the name stands on its own.

We knew nearly everything about it because of rumors. We knew it’d have a retina display, we knew it’d likely have a new camera, and we thought it’d support LTE, too. I think, though, that by focusing on the technical details, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees.

What’s especially telling each iPad event is what Apple shows after they’ve announced the iPad—the new applications they’ve built to run on it. These software demonstrations show both what Apple’s thinking and it sets the tone for application developers. When they introduced the iPad in 2010, they showed Keynote, Pages and Numbers. They wanted to show that this wasn’t just a device for browsing the web or watching video. They showed that it could be used for getting “real” work done, too. When they introduced the iPad 2 last year, they showed iMovie and Garageband. What that event said is that it can allow people to make things, too, and it is superior in some ways to doing it on a computer.

Yesterday, they completed the iLife suite by releasing iPhoto for iOS. With that release, the iPad now has the same applications that people buy and love the Mac for. It’s empowering to know that you’re buying a computer that’s really, really good at managing photos, making small films and even songs right out of the box. Think about how exciting that is for a kid, especially—if they have a Mac, they can create movies and music and photos with a surprisingly high level of quality.1 Now, not only is that possible on the Mac, but it’s possible on an iPad. You can shoot film with an iPod touch, send it to your iPad, edit it down into a movie, and publish it online all without ever touching a computer. Or do the same with photos. In many ways, it’s a much better experience than doing the same thing on a computer. There’s not as many capabilities, some areas are still clunky, but… You’re editing a photo with your fingers. Come on. That’s awesome.

That’s what Apple is saying with that demonstration: the iPad is quickly becoming the only “computer” many people need, and it’s going to be a much better experience than it ever was on a computer. It’s this 1.5 pound notebook-sized thing that you can pull out anywhere, anytime, and write, create art, take and edit photos and video, or make music. You don’t have to worry about drivers or viruses or defragmenting the hard drive or any of that other computer crap you had to think about before. All you have to do is create. Or just watch a movie.

It’s this device that isn’t a computer in the traditional sense of the word, because it’s approachable and easy to use and just doesn’t feel like a computer. It feels closer to something tangible and real. That’s the vision, and while we’re not there yet, we’re surprisingly far along. Consider that five years ago, none of us had even used an iPhone in person, and today, we’re using a touch-screen notebook-sized computer that can do all of this. That’s where Apple is heading, that’s where we’re heading. I couldn’t be more excited.

  1. When I was a kid—which wasn’t that long ago!—we ran around with an old camcorder from our parents and shot little movies. We had no way to edit them, and yet it was still some of the most fun and expanding experiences I had. The process of thinking through a story, where we were going to shoot it and how, and actually doing it—it’s a wonderful thing for kids to be able to envision a goal and accomplish it. Any Mac available today comes with capabilities I only dreamed of then, and that’s so exciting for kids. Kids can literally shoot a movie or make a song, publish it for the world to see—and the world will see it. I believe very strongly that encouraging children to be creative not only can help their self-esteem, because they learn that they can create something and are capable of great things, but also turns them into different people. By getting that idea very early, the idea that you are capable of building new and wonderful things, you start to think about work and the world differently. []