About a year ago, I wrote my most popular post of all time: What iPads Did To My Family.
The timing was good: the iPad was just getting into people's hands, and people were interested in the intersection between brand new tech and how we all react to it. Yes, it's only been about a year ...
Best as I can figure, the post has been read more than 500,000 times. If you really want some fun, scroll through the 100+ comments.
I thought I owed people a follow-up post -- sort of a sequel to the story.
It's been a year -- what's changed?
The iPad Is Incremental
At the time, the heated debate was whether or not iPads could replace full-functioned desktops, laptops, etc. The answer -- at least in our household -- is most certainly "no".
For example, I have four students in my family -- three children plus my wife. There is jus no way you're going to voluntarily pick up an iPad to write a term paper, take online courseware, etc.
Sure, the iPad software is plenty functional, but the keyboard is for occasional use only. For me, I sometimes have to write stuff up while at home -- I use a traditional desktop or laptop for that.
That means that the aging fleet of PCs and laptops will stay for the time being -- albeit reduced somewhat in status and priority. No upgrades planned here anytime soon.
The Personal, Portable Browser
The iPad, however, has joined the mobile phone as a "must have" in our family.
One goes with us everywhere we go: vacations, shopping, anytime we're out and about. For example, if you're walking around in a new city, you can bring up big maps, find interesting restaurants, etc. in a way that's hard to do on a smaller smartphone screen.
As a more useful example, we'll be shopping for something, and we'll be reading product reviews, doing comparison shopping, etc. while we're standing right there in the store or car dealership.
Tap, tap, tap. You can see the brief glimpse of despair in the occasional salesperson's face as they walk up to us and see what we're doing.
No surprise, all of our iPads going forward will now come standard with AT&T 3G for those times when there's no WiFi around. The 3G service isn't all that expensive for occasional use, and we can take it out of the country -- for example, on a recent trip to Niagara Falls.
Video Streaming, Anyone?
Back at home (and on WiFi!) it's changed a lot of our viewing habits.
Between NetFlix and YouTube, we don't spend as much time staring at wall-mounted TVs as we used to. Now we tend to cuddle up in a comfy chair (or bed!) and dial up something mindless to watch. Much better than channel surfing, even with 500 channels. Tap, tap, tap -- and very few ads.
Email, Twitter, Facebook, web surfing, et. al. -- all best consumed on the iPad. Occasionally, you'll want a lot of real-estate on a screen (e.g. doing detailed research), but for everything else ...
The New Indispensable Business Tool
I go through periods where I'm a bonafide road warrior -- and, as anyone who travels knows, WiFi access at hotels, airports, etc. can be sketchy at times. The 3G access means I can get online to my email, etc. whenever and wherever I happen to be. No fuss, no muss -- just turn it on and go.
During my frequent airline flights, the iPad is loaded up with music, video, reading, games, etc. -- plenty to keep me entertained while firmly wedged into the center seat. I also get to indulge my "closet musician", taking the rough tracks created on my Mac version of GarageBand and listening to them critically on the iPad version. Time flies when your brain is busy ...
I have also come to the conclusion that insanely long battery life is the new "killer app" when travelling. I'm not hunting for power outlets in airports anymore.
For example, I recently had a 20-hour workday where I used the iPad continually -- both WiFi and 3G. I got home at 1:30 AM, and it still had 25% battery left -- which (as experienced users will know) represents many more hours left to go. Needless to say, I didn't stay up to see how long it would last.
In meetings, the iPad format is perfect for reading email and attached docs, viewing your calendar, or maybe taking a few notes if someone is saying something interesting.
Or maybe idly surfing the web ...
I do still carry around my MacBook Air, but it gets a lot less use -- mostly composing longer documents, or doing detailed presentation editing, or anytime I need a bit more screen real estate to read something.
Everything else, it's iPad for me.
Games, Games, Games!
The touchscreen interface means that games are a lot easier to play -- physically, I mean. No mouse, no keyboard, just point/tap/swipe/etc. Tap, tap, tap. If you're stuck in a center airplane seat with no elbow room and a seat reclined into your face, that's a big deal.
Although a few hard-core gamers in my house (e.g. my 17-year-old son) prefers consoles and PCs, everyone else in the family is quickly gravitating to native iPad games as the preferred time-waster.
Plants vs. Zombies, World of Goo, Angry Birds, Scrabble, et. al. -- our iPad game library continues to grow.
Packaged Entertainment For Younger Kids
Although my kids are getting older, we frequently have families visiting with younger members. The problem is that we don't have much around to entertain them -- we got rid of all that junk years ago.
Way back when, we'd use to pop in a "Barney" video tape, and they'd be quietly hypnotized so the grownups could visit. Now we hand over an iPad with a few cool age-appropriate games, and the result is even better. The kids get hypnotized, and we're free to carry on. Tap, tap, tap.
Two downsides, though.
There's usually a fuss when it's time to pry the iPad out of the kids' hands (tears are common), and more than a few parents have been dismayed when their precious offspring eschew the approved educational software and end up with a strong preference for gleefully destroying zombies with animated plants :)
Older Kids, Too
I have a daughter (20), a son (17) and my youngest daughter is 15. I occasionally ask them -- what would you like as your primary computer, a laptop or an iPad?
They think long and hard about it each time I ask.
The first answer is inevitably "both!" (yeah, right) but if I force them to choose, it's a laptop. After all, they're all still students, and I don't think it's a practical proposition to do all your schoolwork (or your office work for that matter) from an iPad.
For them, the iPad is incremental, and not a replacement for a traditional laptop.
Technology So Good, You Don't Think Of It As Technology
The best personal technology isn't perceived as technology.
It quietly assumes a place in your daily life, and you barely notice how often you're using it until you stop and think about what you did before.
Such is the case with the iPad. Its powerful functionality and slick integration means we don't really think about it as technology, it's just now a part of our daily lives. And we're starting to forget what we used to do before it was around.
Any Interest In The Other Tablets?
Lots of cool tablet devices in the pipeline. I'm sure that each will find a few followers here or there. That's fine -- choices are good.
But, at least in my family, there's no need to consider alternatives. The iPad fits in nicely with our busy daily lives. It's quickly become a friendly and familiar face around our house. The refrain of "where's an iPad?" can often be heard when we're together. We miss it when it's not around.
Why would we replace a good friend?