On Geeks and Apple and why iPad seals their divorce
January 29, 2010
Their contribution with open source software to today’s world is unquestionnable. The idea that a bunch of coders came up with such great solutions as Firefox, Linux, Gimp, Eclipse, OpenOffice, JBoss (and all Java Enterprise frameworks) to name a few that I use on an everyday basis, this idea is just amazing.
Back in the day when I was working for In Fusio, a start-up doing video games and services for the mobile phone industry, I had this wonderful opportunity to work with a bunch of the most talented ones. These guys implemented the first over-the-air download system for mobile phones back in the early 2000’s. In 2 and a half years I’ve learnt as much as I would have in ten years in any other company.
What I’ve noticed though, is that geeks are not passionate about products. They are passionate about technology.
Just like old tribes have rites to pass and become a man, one has to harness the technology to get some consideration from a Geek.
00’s : a decade of Geeks splendor
The last 15 years have been the stage of a continued irruption of technologies and disruptive products : mobile phone, internet, broadband, Social Web, iPod, iPhone, Nintendo Wii and the democratization of the computer.
Geeks loved it because this was a world they would fully understand and dominate : innovation was a matter of technology and they were amongst the happy few to fully harness it, i.e able to hack it.
Besides, iMac have been a perfect alternative to PC, especially since the turn of the millenium with the advent of MAC OS/X based on BSD Unix. Just like on Linux, they would join the brave David to fight the Microsoft Goliath. They were able to hack the system, but in addition, they would be using a glamorous OS and benefit from the glorious image of the Apple brand.
The divorce between Geeks and Apple started with the iPhone. First you can’t hack it, or rather Apple doesn’t want you to. Then, there was the iPhone App store. This is the time where the real difference of vision between Steve Jobs and Geeks became blatant.
Steve Jobs is interested in a) providing the best and simplest products and applications to the broader range of people b) providing a unified user experience and c) fostering an ecosystem : iPod has iTunes, iPhone has App store.
With the App Store, anyone can develop and distribute a piece of software that anybody will be able to install and run smoothly on a glamorous device. Applications became social objects as opposed to technological trophies.
While making the iPhone SDK public, Jobs offered the possibility to anyone to be really innovative. I.e not only along the technological axis but also on the design, marketing and usability ones.
Here is the problem for Geeks : technology is largely democratized. Technological prowesses are no longer something to be proud of. Lovely apps are. What people want is apps that are useful and usable by anyone, regardless of how complicated they are.
Steve Jobs vision has completely hidden the technology behind the usability in the innovation definition. In Geeks law, this is sacrilege.
iPad = the Wii of the computing world
There comes the iPad. No spectacular new technology : iPad is merely a big iPod from a hacker perspective. No multi-task, not possible to develop applications etc … No chance it can gain any traction in the Geeks community.
This reminds me how hard core gamers laughed about the Wii when it came out. The technical specifications were just ridiculous compared to forthcoming PS-3 or XBox 360. However, in the end who won ? Wii because the strategy was not to bring the best technology to the minority of hard core gamers. It was to bring the best product to the majority of people, with a special target on people that never played video games before.
How ? In bringing a product that is fun and dead easy to use.
(Geeks still managed to do incredibly fun things while hacking the Wii though)
iPad = iPhone for senior people
iPad strategy is identical : to bring a glorious user experience to people that shy away from the technology.
My take : this is a fantastic device that will have tremendous success with senior people. Senior people don’t care about technology. They care about products : ease, usability, design. To read their paper. To browse the internet. To play around on a big enough screen with the pictures of their grand children.
And to read books. And to buy books.
iPhone is the perfect products for teenagers and active people : small, mobile, connected, sexy.
iPad will be the perfect product for senior people : comfortable, large, easy : the best user experience to do few things but to do them with maximal comfort.
Single Task as a feature
iPhone is used on the go in hectic times. iPad will be mainly used for relaxing purposes in a single-task environment. Hence the single tasking aspect being more of a feature then a restriction.
I was quite dubious regarding the positioning : I’m now fully convinced that it fits nicely between the iPhone and the Laptop. Laptop will still be used by coders to develop apps for the App Store, and active people with multi-tasking activities.
I don’t think iPad will take the place of the latter : rather it will be a perfect add-on to complete our lives digitalisation process.