Yesterday, Apple introduced their newest creation. It is a super-sized iPod that they are calling the iPad.
Many tech writers and bloggers are debating what the purpose of this device is. These writers already own a laptop and a smartphone. Why would they need this 3rd device? The answer resides within the fact that many tech writers are your typical ‘gadget-guys’ who have a special relationship with with their tech toys.
Yes, many of them may be married or have children, but their gadgets stand apart from their family life. Much like hunting or golfing is for other men, technology is something these guys “do” with their male friends as a hobby. Their life is split into two parts: “Family” and “Technology.” (And of course the problem is only compounded for the tech writers who don’t have families.)
There’s nothing wrong with that (we all need hobbies!) but it gives them all a somewhat singular perspective. I’m a bit different. I see my life as split into a “Work” half and a “Family” half. My technology is filed underneath those categories. Not beside them. So when I look at a new gizmo I don’t ask “what does this do for me?” Rather, I ask myself “How does this fit with my family?”
The Family, during a more windswept time
As a multimedia professional, the cameras and computers I choose for my family are very important to me. Like, I dunno, I assume a gardener wants his or her front yard to look really nice. Likewise, I’d be kind of ashamed if I didn’t make sure my family had the right tools for both consuming and creating media.
(And recall that my wife is also a visual media professional. This is important stuff around our house!)
So, for an example of what I mean, consider an iPhone. An iPhone is useful to me but it’s also critical for taking Samantha on airline flights. We’re never going to let her have a computer or TV in her bedroom, but this amount of indulgence is ok because it serves a purpose.
Wait. Am I supposed to be kicking a seat? Whatever.
So an iPhone can take on very different roles depending on who you’re applying it to. My point is that these tech guys are looking at the iPad as a personal device. They have a laptop and an iPhone and they’re good to go. What they’re not doing is looking at it as a family device. For some of us, things are a bit more complicated. Here’s our current computer setup:
Tower – Laptop – Laptop – iPhone – iPhone
So you see that we have 3 computers for 2 adults. Throw in 2 iPhones and you have a bit of overkill. But we’ve found that we need each of these devices for various scenarios. Family vacation; Jeff business trip; Lori visits relatives; we both have a special project at work that needs a laptop. There is a different need for each of these situations and we’ve found that we need 2 portable computers to make it work. We also need the Mac Pro tower because of the amount of horsepower our home media projects require.
The 2nd laptop isn’t often used, but it’s used enough that we need it. However, I noticed something interesting when we got our iPhones. They didn’t remove the need for a 2nd laptop but they did greatly reduce that need. It’s not enough of a change to discard one of our laptops, but I did notice a difference in our usage.
What this means is that I can now envision our future family setup looking more like this:
Tower – iPad – Laptop – iPhone – iPhone
This would likely satisfy our needs and it’s at least $1,000 cheaper. (Possibly more depending on the laptop we’d buy.) When we do need both laptops it’s usually because one of us is traveling and wants something for media consumption. Not creation. So in this world we’d still take the laptop on vacation with us instead of the iPad (as it’s for editing photos and videos to send to family) but when I’m just traveling for business I’d use the iPad as something to entertain me on flights.
This usage of an iPad only became clear because my life is more complicated than a single man living by himself. And I only have a 3 year old daughter! Imagine a family with 3 teenagers. As the complexity of the system grows, the chance for an iPad to replace a piece of that puzzle only gets larger. This is not something that would be apparent if you just live with an iPhone and a Macbook Pro.
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Does this mean I’m buying an iPad? I have to be honest and say that I’m not. Just because I can imagine this future it doesn’t mean it’s worth spending money on now. This is something I’ll consider when my laptop needs to be replaced, but that’s still several years off. And who knows what will exist by then?
My ultimate point is that there are millions of individual situations but many tech writers tend to be pretty similar to each other. So we miss out on hearing about some of these alternate lifestyles when it comes to technology reviews. I hope that by sharing my thoughts I can add another perspective to the mix.
I have to stop now because if there’s one thing that talking about Apple products can do, it’s putting babies to sleep. And she just can’t take any more!