A couple of days ago I brought the iPad to my parents, and it was really nice. I was very curious to see their reaction, and thus I decided to reserve some time in the evening to stay with them in the first minutes.
My parent is more interested in technology than my mother, but she was also curious and quite excited to see the new device, and what it could do. So we opened the box and there it was: a brand new iPad 2, where I had loaded some songs, videos and pictures for them to explore.
I made a short introduction by showing them the main stuff: music & video playing, looking at pictures. My mother was particularly interested in how simple is to see, at different sizes, the pictures, and she was amazed to see that you can put them bigger with your fingers.
At that point we connected the iPad to their wifi network, which had been setup with a few days in advance.
Then we went to one of the main interests for them: to use email, as they have some good friends using it. So we created a new account at gmail. Then showed them how to introduce contact information in the Address Book. And at that point, we made a test mail from my iPod, so that they could see how it arrives to their mailbox. It was like magic, judging from their faces.
I showed them how to find information with google, and how they can see pictures or videos or links from the net. We used the name of our hometown, and it was surprising for them to find so much information about such a tiny village. Then we made, as example, a cuple of bookmarks for the newspapers they prefer.
There are still many things to do, but for the first session, I think it was enough, as I did not want to be too exhausting.
All in all I think they are very pleased, and realized that it is not so complicate to use a computer, after all. And THAT is, in my opinion the very key of this device: an iPad is a transparent computer. As simple as that: they forget about tech and go to the core: to use internet, to watch videos, to see pictures, to listen to music... That's what led me to call it the transparent computer: they are actually using a computer, a fully fledged computer doing more things than many fully fledged computers of, say, 5 years ago. Yet their feeling is that they are just playing with a toy, a simple toy, for that matter.
By the way, it was funny, since yesterday, around 2 PM, I received a call from my parent. They had received already a few emails from their friend. He said the iPad had 3% of charge, and wanted to know if he should wait until total battery exhaustion before plugging it. Since they got the iPad around 9 PM of the day before, it means they had finished a full battery (10 h) in their first day of usage; in other words, it seems they are testing the iPad exhaustively, and I couldn't be happier about it.
On a personal note, this was the first time I had used an iPad, and I fully understood what I have read before: this kind of device needs to be in your own hands, to understand its charm. It goes well beyond the "a bigger iPhone" description: the bigger size, and the feeling of instant response from the device, made it a real pleasure to use, and I am not surprised to see its tremendous worldwide success.
PS A friend, after reading the above post, suggested that an iPad is about the same as a laptop.
This is my reply:
To you and me, yes.
But trust me: a laptop, for my parents, is a no-way. They would never use it. In fact they have seen around many computers at home, and never got interested in using one: it is overcomplicated for them.
This reminds me of the Prince shows discussion: we are a very specialized part of the population, but often we do not realize about that. Let me explain:
In Prince shows: we know his discography and his live history by memory, and we are well aware of his highs (and lows). Thus any new album, or any new show, receives a fair amount of criticism, because we can not avoid to compare with the past. We know, maybe, too much for our own good, regarding purple music enjoyment in the 2010s. On the contrary, general public, and particularly newcomers to a Prince show, are enjoying the full experience without prejudices -either good or bad-; and the usual response is that they get blown away, since Prince remains the master onstage.
Back to technology: we have been using computers for many years; we are used to the windows interface, to the mouse, to the keyboard, to the way of working in the current OS. But all of that is unknown to my parents (with the only exception of keyboards, which they used in the old typewriting machines, in an entirely different configuration).
And this makes the task of confronting an actual computer something frightening for them (and for many people in their situation), they feel they ignore just about everything and could not find their way without continuous external help. Remember, they are almost 80 years old, and they are not exactly in the right time for time-consuming learning periods.