A 16-year-old’s view of Apple’s iPad: iFail

Tonight when I picked up my son in Petaluma we started talking about the Apple iPad and he told me he thought it was a “fail.” This reaction was interesting coming from Patrick (he was first in line in Palo Alto for the iPhone and has been an Apple fan for as long as I remember.)

Anyway, I asked him if I could record our conversation, he said yes, and this is the result. It’s in two parts, because when we uploaded the first part we got a lot of reaction on Twitter so followed it up with a second part. Here’s the two audio recordings, sorry for the poor quality, we recorded that while driving.

Part I.
Part II.

His major points are:

1. That it isn’t compelling enough for a high school student who already has a Macintosh notebook and an iPhone.
2. That it is missing features that a high school student would like, like handwriting recognition to take notes, a camera to take pictures of the board in class (and girls), and the ability to print out documents for class.
3. That he hasn’t seen his textbooks on it yet, so the usecase of replacing heavy textbooks hasn’t shown up yet.
4. The gaming features, he says, aren’t compelling enough for him to give up either the Xbox or the iPhone. The iPhone wins, he says, because it fits in his pocket. The Xbox wins because of Xbox live so he can play against his friends (not to mention engaging HD quality and wide variety of titles).
5. He doesn’t like the file limitations. His friends send him videos that he can’t play in iTunes and the iPad doesn’t support Flash.
6. It isn’t game changing like the iPhone was.

Anyway, revealing conversation with a teenager who got extremely excited about the iPhone (and saved up to buy his own) the day he saw that.

What do you think?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

147 thoughts on “A 16-year-old’s view of Apple’s iPad: iFail

  1. Handwriting recognition? Why would you want to use a stylus to write on this thing? Why not just use paper and a pen for that?

    I don’t think the gaming purpose of the iPad was to replace a gaming console, but rather to offer the App Store’s offerings on a device with a bigger screen and more powerful processor.

    You will eat your words about this not being a game changer. The iPad will change the way we look at ultraportable computing, especially for casual users with a need for something more portable. I think it will also push the iWork suite into the mainstream, since I doubt Apple will allow Microsoft to release an iPad version of Office.

    For my views on the iPad, check out my blog at http://insidemikesmind.wordpress.com

  2. hmmm… While I agree with your son being of the same Gen as him, I just don’t think the iPad is targeted at the Gen Y Hip-and-savy crowd.. I’m not rly sure what mkt it is targeting right now, but I think it’s the business/baby boomers crowd (large font, lots of business files to read, practical apps enlarged etc.) + the die-hard Mac device fans and/or book lovers. Somehow I’ve always felt the iPhone was a perfect device except it wasn’t really good for reading ebooks/large files nor was it appealing for ppl with bad eyesight. But I’m still not rly sure what Apple’s game plan is.

  3. I beg to differ. The print media industry will forever be changed because of iPad. It will deliver us the future of hyperlinked newspapers and magazines and revitalize a dying industry. Remember, Apple is always thinking in the future. Sometime real soon many people on this board dissing the iPad will be wondering how they ever lived without it.

  4. A point…in schools we are moving to the cloud with less and less reliance on the “school's network”. Many schools are becoming Google Apps for Education schools and using the Google Apps for their work and collaboration. I see the iPad as a realistic tool in a 1-to-1 initiative for students. We still need computers that are “blinged out” for the multimedia production and processor-intensive applications, but this will be a player in the K-12 market, IMHO.

  5. I have a macbook. I have an iphone. I have a windows laptop. I have a bunch of linux and freebsd boxes too. I’m still considering it, mainly because I do spend an awful lot of time staring surfing the web, listening to music, and watching youtube videos. The larger form factor is somewhat compelling for those, as well as for ebook reading.

    If your already have a macbook and an iphone, you probably don’t find netbooks very compelling either. Yet, netbooks have been selling incredibly well, even though to a first approximation, they aren’t particularly good at any of those tasks.

    I’ve seen a lot of geeks talk about how the device is a disappointment. We heard the same thing when the iPhone came out. Yet, Apple has sold 40+ million iPhones to date. There is something that people see in the combination of features that perhaps the average geek pundits aren’t seeing.

  6. I think your son sounds like a 16 year old that no one would take seriously if not for his name. But hey, nepotism isn't against the law.

    Most 16 year olds don't have a macbook and an iphone. The iPad is going to sell like hotcakes. Make sure you reinterview your son when he's proven wrong. Part of growing up is realizing you never had a clue.

  7. wow. this is so much better than that droid post. very real world. i think u will be right on this one.

  8. Never used an iPhone, I see. Flash is unnecessary with Youtube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion, and over the next year, the same will be said for all the other video sharing sites. FLV is dead, and everyone is moving to h.264, which the iPhone/iPod/iPad can play just fine.

    So no, he won't be disappointed at all.

  9. Patrick's a natural, hope he continues doing tech review stuff.
    iPad doesn't sound bad, it just doesn't change anything.

    I was inspired though by watching the video. We need something revolutionary in the computing industry. Writing up a post tomorrow on a revolutionary computer that is converging on invisible, it will use state of the art gesture, neural interface, and a projector (glasses or a wall). Think of a light headset with a pocket device like an iPhone. Now if I can find someone to build a prototype I'm in business ;)

    I'd rather save money for a new “phone” once the 4G network spreads out more. Here's to hoping I can share a 4G plan between my desktop/smartphone/other devices.

  10. I think your son, who already has a laptop and so on, is not the best target for this tool. Moms and pops and those who don't have laptops and whose dads aren't tech gurus are a large market.

  11. It's been a while since a YouTube video doesn't work on my iPhone and I watch a TON of video. I really don't think that's as big a deal as you might thing. I remember when Firefox came out and tons of websites didn't work with it. Now that isn't a problem at all anymore. The same will be true here.

  12. Oh, you've got a wise young man there! Pretty smart for his age. iPad may not have met the expectations of the younger generation but don't you think this gadget may work just fine for the elderly? Maybe, let's just wait and see until its release.

  13. When you go to youtube.com (it redirects to the mobile version) or a site with a YouTube video embedded using Safari in iPhone OS, clicking on a specific video opens the YouTube app player, then sends you back to the browser. Links to youtube.com in Mail send you straight to that video in the YouTube app. (The YouTube app on the iPhone OS is pretty well done, often easier to use than the main site as it's lacking the clutter.)

  14. When you go to youtube.com (it redirects to the mobile version) or a site with a YouTube video embedded using Safari in iPhone OS, clicking on a specific video opens the YouTube app player, then sends you back to the browser. Links to youtube.com in Mail send you straight to that video in the YouTube app. (The YouTube app on the iPhone OS is pretty well done, often easier to use than the main site as it's lacking the clutter.)

  15. Yeah, I figured someone would say that. The thing is that you can't go to Youtube.com and view videos. If someone sends you a Youtube link, it probably won't work. Forcing a change of user behavior=FAIL.

    Also, I haven't used the app on the iP*, but the Youtube app for my phone is clunky and doesn't work well. Not a great user experience.


  16. Yeah, I figured someone would say that. The thing is that you can't go to Youtube.com and view videos. If someone sends you a Youtube link, it probably won't work. Forcing a change of user behavior=FAIL.

    Also, I haven't used the app on the iP*, but the Youtube app for my phone is clunky and doesn't work well. Not a great user experience.


  17. Just want to point out that YouTube already has a dedicated iPhone OS app, and they've started an HTML5 beta which doesn't use Flash at all. I agree though, that the apps are absolutely what will make or break the iPad, more than even the iPhone or iPod Touch. I don't think it'll take over the world, but I do think it's got more to it than a lot of people are saying.

    Also, I'm willing to bet playing Mahjongg in a well made app would be a much better experience than with a mouse. Of course, the key is again the app.

  18. My thirteen year-old nephew was dancing around the house yesterday, in anticipation of getting his own iPad. (He didn't even know Apple was announcing anything new.) It's exactly what he wants in a day-to-day computer… it does what it's supposed to do, at a speedy clip. on a big-enough screen, with the same touch interface that he's accustomed to with his iPod. And unless he jailbreaks it, he can't really screw it up the way he routinely does his Windows PC.

    Yeah, he's still gonna need that old laptop when he wants to do heavy video editing, but that makes up about 10% of his total computer usage. The kid practically lives on Youtube and various social networking sites, and there will be no better way for him to access that stuff than the iPad anytime soon.

    I'm seriously not kidding, by the way. He was DANCING WITH EXCITEMENT.

    1. “The kid practically lives on Youtube”???

      Isn’t he going to be disappointed when his shiny new gadget doesn’t support Flash?

  19. As for textbooks, some publishers put theirs online and students log in to use it from home. So, the heavy physical textbook stays in the locker for use in the classroom. The online version is used to do homework. Touch netbooks would be great to replace the paper textbook altogether.

  20. Whats sad is that even as wholly flawed as this iPad offering is, it will blow Microsoft Tablet PC efforts out of water, as it has the consumer cool factor, ease-of-use and ready infrastructure, and thousands upon thousands of third parties.

    Tablet OSX would have been ideal, but then that would start at $1500 upwards, so they had to knee-cap it to bring it into the consumer reasonable range. Here's what they should have done, Tablet OSX, new UI, preferred-supplier OEMs (3 or so) as to scale it to the economic reasonable. of course that business plan is something the transhumanist-worshipping San Fran smuggy elite cultic Appleites never seem to understand.

    I don't see the netbook market dying, next gen here, and with 2 or the rarer 4 gig chips, can make it scream for most people, slow maybe if you are insane and try to render video or heavy graphics stuff, but then it has a full OS, you can actually work with it, and costs are half of what iPad does.

    The mood from even the Apple Cult is mixed….not AppleTV-level cold, but pretty close. iFail for sure, but it won't be Microsoft-fail levels either.

  21. Maybe. But if my mom can't play Mahjongg and my dad can't watch Youtube, they'll never buy it. And there won't be an app for everything. They're the prototypical casual Internet users. This will be another niche device that gets very popular in certain groups but doesn't take over the world.


  22. Your son is wrong, but his reaction is not surprising. I think, rather as with the iPod, it takes hands on use to help people understand the sheer intimacy of the UX with this device. In the promo video, it is clear that this is going to become the most 'personal' computer to date. I believe that this will be the true 'computer for the rest of us', i.e. the remaining billions of computer-phobes and avoiders, and of course everyone who wants to carry some fun, and light productivity capability with them, everywhere they go.
    As with the original iPod in early 2001, people took a long time to get it. Once they did get it, the iPod became the indispensable device for 250 million buyers…. and counting. Even the after-market for the iPod is a multi-billion $ industry. I believe you will find the iPad achieves even greater success in less time.
    Consider the rather poky, clunky, 5GB, monochrome 2001 iPod cost 499 in 2002 $s. That's a lot more in today's money. Now compare its spec with the entry level iPad 16GB wifi, at a 2010 price of ooooh $499. Absolutely astonishing value in features, style and functionality terms.
    So I think your son is wrong, but so what? It's his opinion. Let him try one for an hour, on his own, and ask him again.
    As to the twerps like Tamar Weinberg and others, with their self-congratulatory, derogatory comments about another great innovation from America's greatest exemplar of success and user-centricity …… I know just where the 'lame' adjective should be applied.
    This is an amazing, deeply personal device. As a UI designer, I recognise what it will mean to the billions who never felt comfortable with a computer. Most of all, it will come to be seen as the first computer that combines genuine, off-the-office-treadmill, human-scale productivity while also being great fun to use. This was a brave thing for Apple to do. A huge commercial risk, in fact. I think users and AAPL shareholders alike will find great merit in it.
    Don't judge it until you have real, personal, experience with it. In an adult that is plain dumb.
    To the adults here who dismiss it, sight unseen I say, shame on you. Your snarky comments speak volumes about your own personal failings, your risk-cowardice, your easy terminal-cynicism as a first response to everything, your jaded views, low self-worth etc etc. 'fess up now. You know it's true, else why do you advertise your shameless lack of integrity by commenting on something you have never seen or used? Says a whole lot about you. Don't you know that? Eeeesh!
    As for your son, his response was honest, if not informed by hands-on knowledge. I have a similar experience to relate. In 2001, I bought my teenage daughter that first iPod. A week later she gave it back saying 'thanks dad, but no thanks.' Today she has an iPod Classic and an iPod Touch. It was the tidal wave of interest that followed in 2002, 3, 4 etc that made her a fan.
    Every honest adult who consumes media, must acknowledge that Apple is their only champion for value. It is changing grasping industry after grasping industry to secure deals for its customers that put them firmly in charge of what they buy and how much they pay for it. In phone deals, in music, movies, tv shows, books, magazines, newspapers etc. IPad is but the first-gen example of the device that puts so much power into the hands of the consumer.
    And so many of you somehow failed to understand this? Ouch! Get aware guys.

    I'm giving you pearls here.*
    Embrace the iPad.*
    It'll make you Prrroouudddd!* (Especially if you are American)

    This rant was inspired by Al Pacino's performance in Scent of a woman.
    (*with acknowledgments to Bo Goldman)

    It's meant to be FUN schtoopid!
    Hooo. Ahhhh!

  23. I do hope Microsoft does release the Courier. I think the biggets drawback with the iPad is size. Can't see myself walking around with it.

  24. I do hope Microsoft does release the Courier. I think the biggets drawback with the iPad is size. Can't see myself walking around with it.

  25. Chad, who is this 90% of America? I know a few classes of people that aren't tech saavy:
    1) Those who don't like technology. Never had them.
    2) Those who use tech at work and have a laptop for work. Now they need a second device that really does no more than the device they have to have for work?
    3) Those that have a laptop that the family uses. This is often the laptop for paying bills, writing reports, doing Quicken, etc… Not sure if the tablet is going to be a better device for them.
    4) Single people who occassionally use the computer to check email and maybe use the web for Facebook. These people will probably benefit — but I think they're more like the 10% case. The problem here though is these people are probably the ones who least want to use a touch keyboard (although they'd be happy to be rid of the mouse/touchpad).

    To me this device is for Apple technophiles. There's enough out there to make the first batch look like a success.

  26. Exactly what my son said. To me it seems more like a concept than a finished product. It has to have text books, without a doubt. It has to be able to use flash. It has to recognize handwriting for note taking. Until it does that, it is a toy that is nice looking but not even as good as my iPhone (which I absolutely love).

  27. What do I think? I think your job is in danger – Patrick is good ;)

    Personally, I'll be buying an iPad on day 1 – Can't wait to optimize our service for it and build new functionality for it.

  28. Not everything is driven by 16 year olds! The G3 version, depending on plan affordability could be the first affordable, user-friendly computer for my 78 yr old mother in law!
    For me, I have been using a 5.5 lb lenovo tablet for the last 4 years. While I enjoy the handwriting recognition, I would give it up (depending on how good the iPad typing is on the screen) for the iPad in a minute.
    I travel a lot, this thing make sense. The bookstore and e-reader built into the device are huge pluses!

  29. Heck at that age, all I talked to my Dad about was….nothing. Insightful comments that raise issues that should have been identified at the start of product development.

  30. Hie people !! Well those points seem to have sens but don't forget that it is the first version of the Ipad. When Apple lauched Iphone a lot of apple's fans (and more generally technology savies) were a bit disappointed about some technical features. What did Apple ?? they took the point and improved the iphone. Now we are at the 4th generation, 2-3 years after the initial launch (2007). Personnaly I believe that Apple will react very fast to what consumers will say about Ipad. And improve it following this way.

  31. Whilst there may be people who don't want one… You don't have to sell one to everyone to still make money on it. My parents with an average age of 60 see it as an easy access device. I could see them getting one in 60 days alongside a surprising older demographic which seem to be expressing an interest despite not being heard on the young dominated internet forums.

  32. All points seem to echo my reaction; it's just a big iphone, why would I buy it? BUT when I think about buying a Kindle, the iPad makes that purchase look ridiculous. why on earth would anyone buy a Kindle ever again? for (admittedly more money) the price you might as well get something you can read books on AND do all sorts of other stuff. Apple definitely just ate Amazon's lunch…

  33. Valid points; Apple could have unveiled more than an over-sized iPhone. I'm sure that developers will innovate and increase the value of the iPad but it had the potential to offer so much more!!

  34. I don't think that the iPad's target group is primarily highschool kids but rather grown up's who tend to spend longer in front of their computer instead of the TV.

  35. Just as when the iPhone came out there were lots of articles explaining how it would fail because it didn’t have this or that feature, so with the iPad. Steve Jobs is looking well into the future. Touch is going to be the future of computing and the iPad shows us the first glimpse of the road ahead. Until yesterday I couldn’t see that I would want to give up using a mouse to navigate a screen, but now I begin to see Apple’s thinking.

  36. Just remembering how Robert, you said the value of the iphone is the apps. Remember that post? How the iphone was sticky because your life ran on it. This thing uses those same things. It takes the value you perceive in the iphone and extends it. That's pretty amazing. Can't wait to see our responses in a year

  37. My 15 year old fanboy sone is pretty excited about it. It's not much more than a big ipod touch, but what could be better than a big ipod touch? My guy also saved up to get the first iphone, and bought a macbook too – I think this product is pretty gorgeous, and just raises the bar. And I think a little time will tell. The hype was so huge, I don't think anything could have matched it….

  38. Good for your son. His agenda: his rating scale.

    I recall back in the day of Zenith IBM compatible PCs, they ran an advertisement with a grid of evaluation criteria, and showed their machine was superior. When I weighted the grid for me, I chose another brand.

    iPad is simply as Jobs said, “Better than a netbook” for the things I need it to do. I was debating a new iPod touch (my 1st gen does not do voice “in”) or jailbreaking an iPhone (when 'o when will that lousy deal with AT&T end?) to get Skype on a mobile device.

    Yes, the lack of a camera is a mistake. One I can live with… the bigger concern on anything Jobs offers, “How do I get enough RAM to actually use the thing?” It was very tedious, doubling the RAM in Mac Mini. I can just imagine the look on my wife's face as I disassemble the iPad.

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  40. I think Patrick is right on the most points, whereas I don’t think 16 year old students are apples target group for this product.
    Some of the complains might be solved by apps. But no web-cam, no flash capability, no multitasking, no GPS… that’s really disappointing for me as well!

    Did I mention no flash?!

  41. Good points, but he's basically saying it's a fail because it doesn't do “everything” in it's very first version. I think the game changers will come in future versions

  42. I think HE IS WRONG. Flash IS coming, even though it is going to be in an unusual way. Textbooks WILL come if the demand is there. Handwriting recognition Will come via Apple update or 3rd party app.

    The camera, I agree should have been included. But as for not buying it because he already owns an iPhone and a Mac…. One of the first things they said at the event was this product was designed to fill the gap in the market between the two. I have PC laptops, and the awesome Sony Ericsson Satio 12.1mp smartphone. The iPad is designed for users like me! I never got an iPhone because it has no decent camera, and although I will be getting a Mac, i still NEED PC’s as they are what I make my money on. iPad is a fantastic product, I will be reserving one today

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