The Techies Are Wrong about the iPad

Steve Jobs is right again. It's a computer for the rest of us.

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Fourth, as with the iPhone, Apple pulled off a remarkable balancing act in that it has designed the iPad in such a way that in can simultaneously appeal to both newbies and nerds. For low-tech users looking for an affordable entry-level PC, the iPad is a computer without all the distractions. For example, when my family outfitted my 90-year-old grandfather with a new computer a few years ago, he was constantly thrown for a loop by small frustrations like one window being hidden behind another. Had an iPad been available then, it would have been a perfect way to connect him to email, the Web and the drawing software he grew to love. For the tech-savvy with $500 to drop on a gadget, the iPad offers a convenient way to consume and enjoy digital media without being tethered to a computer all day.

Despite these considerable strengths, there are a few areas in which Apple’s commitment to simplicity may have gone too far. In particular, the iPad offers no conventional system of files and folders for storing work. On the whole, this works fine. Word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents can be easily imported to and exported from the iPad’s iWork productivity apps (each of the iWork apps is $10). Other types of documents can be viewed, edited, exported, and emailed if the appropriate application in installed.

Some PDFs that I’d emailed myself, however, were never stored on the iPad beyond the moments in which I was reviewing them. The iPad was able to quickly and gracefully open my emailed PDFs but offered no way to save the files to the iPad for future access. Consequently, to read one PDF over several days, I had to repeatedly search for an archived email, re-download the PDF and then open it as if for the first time.

Though annoying, I imagine this sort of quirkiness can be easily fixed with a future software update or third party app. Consequently, I expect it’ll be solved by someone in the not-too-distant future. So, score one point for the techies and four for Apple. And, Apple’s success with the iPad is only good news for us all as it genuinely advances Jobs’ vision of building computers “for the rest of us.” The iPad is a remarkable device today and this is just the beginning.



Omar Wasow is a Ph.D. Candidate in African American Studies at Harvard University. He was the co-founder of Follow him on Twitter.