Monday, February 15, 2010

The iPad and college students

I got around to watching Apple’s iPad demo yesterday, and it confirmed the thought that had already been running around my brain: the iPad is meant for college students.

Consider the name. For a student who already owns an iPod, the name alone makes the new device sound like a logical next step.

Consider the timing. Coming in late March (Wi-Fi) and April (3G), the iPad looks like a perfect high-school graduation present.

Consider the price. For a family sending a daughter or son to college, the iPad is an attractive alternative to a low-end Windows laptop (and half the price of a MacBook). If the iPad carries an educational discount, it becomes an even more appealing purchase. As e-textbooks become more common, the iPad makes a Kindle superfluous. And an absence of heavy-duty programs poses no problem: a student who needs Excel or Word can always find it (and a printer) in a college computer lab. (Then again, Microsoft could develop an iPad version of Office.)

Consider, finally, posture. As I’ve toyed with the idea of buying an iPad, I’ve been vexed by the question of how I might use the dang thing. I’ve imagined sitting, ankle on knee, with my legs falling asleep. I’ve imagined sitting on tiptoes, so to speak, legs slightly lifted to keep the machine from sliding off my lap. And then it hit me: the iPad is perfect for the posture I see every day in college hallways: sitting on the floor, back to wall, legs extended or pulled up into an inverted V.

And sure enough, the iPad demo shows a sweatshirted, denim-panted male stretched on a sofa, his legs pulled up into an inverted V. He reappears in a chair, his legs pulled up again (propped against a convenient table, I suppose).

The market that the iPad is to conquer: college students. That’s my hunch. (Now let’s see if I’m right.)

One thing that puzzles me: Apple’s demo says that the iPad offers the best browsing, e-mail, movie, and photo experiences. Shouldn’t the iPad function as a gateway drug, leading the user to a (more expensive) Mac? I suspect that anyone who’s charmed by the iPad’s elegance and decides to get a Mac will not be worried by the contradiction. Reality distortion field and all that.

[If you watch the video, look closely at 2:23–2:43. See how little those legs move? The iPad in practice will probably be a shakier proposition.]

Related posts
The iPad and college, continued
iPad news
More on the iPad and college
“Sort of gimmicky”
Steve Wozniak on the iPad and college

comments: 5

Jer said...

We'll see. I suspect you're right because Apple always goes to the college student well first these days, but I think that B&N are subtly (or not so subtly, I suppose) positioning their Nook to be the college student device this year with their digital textbook rentals. I don't know how much those two devices are seriously actually in competition with each other, though. (Because after reading digital books on both LCD and eInk screens I know which one I'd want to be staring at late at night when I'm trying to do my History homework, and it ain't the iPad).

Elaine Fine said...

One thing that these people know how to do well is sell stuff. The iPad seems to be the gift that keeps on selling. It has three stores in one easy-to-use and relatively inexpensive device, but you have to spend more money to buy those apps, those books, those movies, and that music. Then you'll keep spending it. Perhaps we might look at it as a great big Apple credit card that redefines the way you spend money.

Smart people those apple folks. They win by making $500 instant-gratification device that "conforms to you," and makes buying far easier than ever before. What more could any college student want?

Thom said...

I don't know. Much as I'm usually sucked in by Steve Jobs's reality distortion field, I don't really see the point of the iPad. I think that for most college students, word processing and presentation software are essential (and in some cases, a spreadsheet would be, too), and I don't see most of them willing to spend time in a computer lab to use that software. I may be wrong, but I don't foresee the iPad replacing laptops at all for the college market, and honestly, I'm not sure what the intended market is.

Daughter Number Three said...

I love Elaine's point about how Apple, in effect, is making us pay for a vending machine.

I would point out to Thom, though, that the iPad will run the iWork programs -- Keynote, Pages and Numbers -- which can save files in PowerPoint, Word and Excel formats. So the students will be able to do their work on it.

However, this point reminds that the iPad requires a docking computer, the way an iPod does. And they can then print their files once they've sync'ed with the computer.

So it's not a substitute... just a convenient $500 add-on.

Dave said...

At NC State, we put the iPad in the hands of five student bloggers to see what they really think. The results were surprising... it seems universally loathed as a educational resource so far.

Check it out:
http://www.ncsu.edu/features/tag/ipad/

Dave Pond
Web Writer / Editor / Producer
NCSU.EDU