It’s surprising to think that little more than four years ago we lived in a world where the iPad did not exist. A time when consumers thought they could meet all their computing needs with desktops, laptops and smartphones.
Shortly before the first iPad was launched rumours were circulating that Apple had a new, rather unique device, possibly a tablet. But technology journalists wondered what could be the value in such a product. They speculated that if there was a need for it then surely it would already be available in stores being bought and being used? In the field of technology there is a never-ending supply of ideas for new products. Some seem like great concepts, some are purely technological speculation. But not every idea has a place as a sellable product in the retail market. There are countless examples of clever products that have failed to resonate with consumers and businesses because of a lack of a clear defined purpose.
On January 27th 2010 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco USA, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple stood on the wings of the theatre’s stage. He was wearing his familiar blue jeans and black mock turtleneck outfit. He knew that the audience would only get his product, see how it could benefit them, if he delivered his presentation astutely. If he couldn’t communicate its purpose then he might blow the product launch. It was time to reveal it to the world…
Jobs meant business. He strode on to the stage with a serious expression, but the corners of his mouth were upturned, betraying the twinge of a smile, which was quickly tempered. The theater was packed out with reporters tapping away on their laptops. There wasn’t a live broadcast of the event so their live blogging acted as the eyes and ears of the public captivated by what this fascinating new product could be. Then Steve Jobs made his reveal “We call it, the iPad.” There was a huge round of applause.
He began to explain its very clever features. But already people on the internet were commenting. Some cynical “it’s just a big iPhone.” Some more reasonable “what will it do?” and “Why do you need a new device to these things?” All these questions were hanging in the air. Then with one simple, genius, action Steve Jobs answered them all. He walked to the left of the stage where there was a conveniently placed comfortable chair and he sat down! Relaxed. Almost oblivious to the wide-eyed audience watching the large video mirror of his iPad screen.
He then narrates his actions. He browses the internet, he looks at his photos library, uses iTunes, he watches a video. Hardly ever looking up. There is no hard sell, no tedious discussion of hardware specs. He just spends a good ten minutes using it. This simple innocuous demo shows to the audience and the world where the iPad can fit in our daily lives, and it is the start of a paradigm shift in our relationship to technology.
Before we were using computers hunched over desks, or clumsily balancing a laptop on our knees. But Steve Job’s iPad reveal changed the common perception of computer usage. It went from being a chore to be endured to achieve tasks. To a pleasure to be enjoyed, a pastime for the masses. This vision to see how a technology is designed to serve people shows why Steve Jobs, with the help of his team at Apple, was so visionary.
On its release the iPad sales are so stratospherically high that it becomes the fastest selling product in the technology industry. It defines a new category of computer, the tablet, that becomes an unofficial standard for the Post-PC era that has yet to be bettered. For a device that some critics thought was pointless, the iPad has had such a profound impact on how we use computers, where we use them and what we use them for, that the field of computing has moved forward irrevocably towards the future.