My Parsons students gave a tepid shrug of the shoulders vote to the new Apple iPad this morning. They were not impressed and a quite a few were annoyed. Many asked: No camera? How can we make our own videos and post our pictures? No phone? So we need to carry both an iPhone and an iPad? We need to talk on an iPhone to discuss what we’re seeing on the iPad? And if we need to carry around our Mac laptops anyway to do serious work, why would we want an iPad that can’t? They both show movies.
Essentially, the Parsons School For Design students are saying that in an era of user-generated content, the iPad is about the consumption of media, not the creation of media. It doesn’t give you the normal tools to make stuff. It is so weird to them. And to me. What the iPad appears to be is a vehicle for traditional, main-stream media—movies, TV, books, newspapers. Which is OK, but maybe not for $1,000 (the iPad price for 3-G accessibility). Yes, there will be thousands of new apps that allow up to five people to work the larger iPad touch-screen. In that sense, it is social. But that’s not the same thing as enabling millions of users to do their own thing.
There were about 20 students in this session, mostly in Design & Management and Design & Technology, with a smattering of Liberal Arts and perhaps Fashion. Many were seniors and all were creators—design students who make things all the time in class and out of class. From iPhone apps to new models for retail stores to new clothes, they are makers. And most of them are sophisticated users of technology. Most were also women and I could see from their expressions that “iPad” didn’t exactly resonate with them. No smiles.
Innovation is a collective, collaborative engagement that acknowledges and reinforces social “rituals.” Creating and sharing media content is perhaps the most important Gen Y ritual there is today. It is central to Gen Y culture. Why Apple chose to ignore it in designing the iPad is a mystery that is annoying to the Gen Y students in my class. So this may not be good for our secular Moses, Steve Jobs, who brought the Tablet down from the mount yesterday.
With the iPhone, Apple didn’t have to prove itself to young consumers. They took to it immediately for obvious reasons. Not so with the iPad.
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