I remember back in 2002 when I saw a coworker with one of the first iPods I just didn’t get it. I was happy with my CD collection and didn’t see how that little box was going to replace it. Within a few years I realized I’d been more than a little short-sighted in my first impressions of the iPod. The iPod, it turned out, was more than a CD collection in your pocket. It was a device that changed the way we listen to music, buy music, and consume other media like movies, TV shows, audiobooks, video podcasts, and audio podcasts.
When Apple announced the new iPad a few months ago I wondered if we were seeing another game-changing device like the iPod was. In short, I think it is. Here’s why:
Where the iPad Fits
Many of the discussions about the iPad have commented that it’s an under-powered laptop computer or an over-sized iPhone or iPod Touch. Both of those views attempt to fit the iPad into an existing category. I happen to think that when the iPad launched on Saturday it also created a new category of computing. Here’s where it fits: Laptops are for work life, the iPad is for home life, and mobile devices are for everything in between. It’s that simple.
I think the iPad and future tablet PCs that will come out are going to adjust our expectations for connecting online when we’re at home. If you think about it, when you use a laptop or desktop computer it’s usually in a work-like position, meaning you’re sitting at a desk or table or something like that. Sure, you can use a laptop actually in your lap and even recline with it for a while, but that usually doesn’t last long. Work computing is leaning forward. Home computing should be leaning back, and now you actually can and will with the iPad.
The iPad gets a user out out of the desk and into the chair. Paul Schatzkin nailed it when he said, "the breakthrough implied by this new device was not in its hardware, nor its software, but in the way it would be used: by sitting in a chair." I couldn’t agree more. This new "sitting in a chair" idea puts the iPad squarely in a category that we haven’t had before and one in which our expectations for personal computing will change.
Social Media and the iPad
So does this affect social media? Oh yeah. Big time…but in time.
Let’s start with the basics of social media for a second. Social media is essentially comprised of two things: content and conversation. Content is either something you create or something your consume. Conversation is either something you facilitate/join or something observe. So there are four basic options to social media: content creation, content consumption, facilitating/joining conversation, and observing conversation. The iPad is excellent at three out of four of these. The fourth is decent for now and may get better in time. Here’s the breakdown:
- Creating content: Creating content is the one place where the iPad isn’t as good as other technology. There’s no video or still camera, so neither of those will happen with your iPad. There’s no audio input, so recording can’t happen with your iPad, and as of today, blogging apps leave a bit to be desired. The iPad will be good for quick blog posts, but for serious bloggers and other content creators, the iPad won’t be the primary device they choose.
- Consuming content: The iPad was made to consume content in a more enjoyable experience than we’ve really known before. It’s really that simple. This means content consumers now have more opportunity than ever to choose content that’s valuable to them and do so in a way where they’ll be more likely to spend time with it. Good content will win in new ways just like it did with the iPod. Incidentally, I’ll add that the iPad is going to push the app market in many new ways. Many apps for the iPhone aren’t necessary with the iPad because the browser experience is the better option. A few apps like NPR’s app and what it looks like the Wired Magazine app is going to do are much more in line with taking the browser experience to the next level and what we can expect from really good iPad apps.
- Facilitating/joining in conversation: Since Facebook and Twitter are the top places where social media conversations happen, I’ll focus there. The fact of the matter is that Facebook and Twitter are great on the iPad. The browser experience is excellent in both cases. Facebook doesn’t have an app yet and they may not need it. There are multiple Twitter apps available, but Twitter’s site is actually quite good on the iPad too. In short, everything you would want to do to facilitate or join conversation on your iPad will be better when you’re sitting back on a couch or chair than either a mobile option or a laptop.
- Observing conversation: Again, with a focus on Twitter and Facebook, you can observe conversation really well for both platforms. Whether you’re browsing casually or set up a search term that you want to keep an eye on, both are great. For people who don’t have two displays on their computers, I can see them setting up their iPad to be a live monitor for conversation while they work also. Whatever the use, if someone is observing conversation for business or personal reasons, it’s just as easy as you’d expect.
Here’s the deal, the iPad is just as much fun as it looks. It’s easy to use and it’s a different experience for browsing than you’ve had before. Because all of that is true it’s going to single-handedly create a new category for personal computing and social media use will be a one of the many things people will do with it. Organizations that are creating great content will win. Organizations that spark conversation will win. The only people who don’t win are those doing things that people aren’t paying attention to anyway. That’s would be the case whether the iPad existed or not, only now with the iPad there’s room for new winners and new opportunities to get the attention you’re after.