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Steve Jobs with Apple iPadLike a staggeringly large number of people round the world, I have been eagerly awaiting the launch of what is now the Apple iPad.  I even followed a live blog to get the latest blow by blow account of Steve Job’s presentation.

Of course tablets are not new but there are three reasons why I think Apple will succeed this time and they all link to usability.  Not the ‘usability is just making it easy’ type of usability but the ISO 9241-11 version, where usability is defined as: effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction.

1. Effectiveness

The iPad comes with almost all of the iPhone apps currently available, a mind numbingly large number of effective (and some less effective) applications. There are so many that the few lemons don’t really matter. And there is probably an app that just shows a lemon for you to pretend to put in your gin and tonic! It wouldn’t be the weirdest commercial success for apps.

2. Efficiency

Lots of people know how to use it. More than 75 million iPod Touchs and iPhones have been shipped and as Steve Jobs pointed out, they already know and love the multi-touch interface. Of course, I’ve not got my hands on one yet but I suspect the on-screen keyboard is surprisingly good.

As a committed Treo user I was very surprised at how well the iPhone keyboard works and I suspect the large iPad one will work well. There is also a proper keyboard for intensive use, when required, so I do not think that will be a problem.

3. User satisfaction

It almost goes without saying that the iPad will be a satisfying device, Steve Jobs couldn’t help cuddling it. It looks sleek and very attractive to hold and carry and the iPhone interface is a joy to use, especially for browsing.

I was asked a couple of days ago if the lack of a cover was a problem for a tablet. You only have to look at the market for iPod covers, holders and other accessories to realise that far from being a problem, the iPad has just opened up a whole new market.

The other question I was asked was whether people would buy it instead of a laptop, (which would be more powerful) or an iPhone (which would be more portable). I doubt that is the big market. All the early adopters will already have more of these existing devices than hands or eyes already. This is a new device and its integration with iBooks will help to ensure that it carves its own niche.

I could be wrong but I think Apple have another winner – an effective, efficient and satisfying device – a ground breaking device, which takes usability very, very seriously.

Tom Stewart

Published 29 January, 2010 by Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart is Executive Chairman at System Concepts, and a guest blogger at Econsultancy. System Concepts can be followed on Twitter here, and Tom is also on Google+.

35 more posts from this author

Comments (15)

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Kayas Fayyaz

Kayas Fayyaz, EMEA Digital Marketing Manager at Experian

Hi Tom,

Over the past few days I have (like most others) been reading a lot about Apple’s iPad, especially post-announcement. I have to admit that your post is one of the most sound that I’ve come across.

I think you’re absolutely right that the three factors you’ve covered, in terms of usability, will be the crucial factors that drive the iPad to an integrated level of success. By integration, I mean integration within our daily lives. Many are failing to recognise what the iPad will essentially deliver: a media consumption point through simplicity. The iPhone/Touch has allowed us to do this in a portable environment but the iPad introduces evolution of successful content-engagement mechanism for the periods when users do not need to be on-the-move.

I guess only time, sales and revenue will tell how successful this device is but I am in complete agreement with you- usability is what will drive this product. As some say “If it’s broke then don’t fix it... but you can always remix it.”

Kayas fayyaz.

almost 7 years ago

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Sascha

Hey Tom

I'm completely with you. Apple simply knows how to satisfy customers. I hear a lot of people saying that they don't know where this "huge iPhone" could be used. But I think just because there is no demand right now doesn't mean that Apple won't be able to create demand. That's what they can do best. With awesome products.

almost 7 years ago

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Ben

Another dribbling article from a MAC fanboy. How on earth can you suggest its groundbreaking? It isnt, not at all. Tablets have been around for years, and other than that its an iphone without the phone, so an ipod touch. Its not at all groundbreaking or new, infact its a step backwards, at least you can fit an iphone in your pocket.

If it had a fuill OSX build on it, they might have been onto something, but why anyone would want something as restricted as that, when they could have a netbook, is beyond me.

It will sell, because of sad apple fanboys like youself who belive all the bullshit there fed by Jobs and his cronies.

almost 7 years ago

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Alex - SEO, PPC, Analytics Consultant Melbourne

I think it's a neat device, but really - I have to agree with Ben. It's a giant iPod Touch. Nothing more. It has a 10 hour standby battery life, which would give it maybe a 2 hours of "usability" before you have to plug it into a wall or - a PC. 

The best use I've heard for the iPad so far is giving glitsy gifts to people/clients who have everything. Besides that, it's a mac fanboys wet dream but to real technologists and digital marketers it's just a step towards something interesting, but in itself disappointing. 

almost 7 years ago

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Lawrence

Agreed. It's a winner, ergonomically speaking.

But I think the most exciting thing about this product will be the iBookstore which has the potential of doing for publishing what iTunes did for music, for the benefit of the end user as well as the industry.

The way I see it is that the laptop has replaced the desktop and the iPad (and its future clones) will replace the laptop.

almost 7 years ago

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Karim Dia Toubajie

I think the context for the iPad with regards to users needs is the most important factor here regarding usability. If I was to buy an iPad my needs are as follows:

TASK: As an eReader

Apple's push for the iPad on the eBook market using a backlit-screen (bad for one's eyes) and with poor battery life (relative to dedicated eBooks from Amazon/Sony - 10 hours compared to > 1 week!) suggests that the iPad would NOT be effective for this purpose.

If a users goal was to use it for reading books, I think they would not be satisfied.

TASK: Casual Web Browsing

For casual browsing (involving little typing) I think the iPad will be very usable and satisfying, an electronic magazine you can pick up off a coffee table and navigate with simple intuitive gestures. I can imagine Corporate organisations cancelling their newspaper subscriptions for their reception areas/lobbies and replacing them with a handful of iPads...(although maybe prone to robbery!)

TASK: Web Browsing - Intermediate/Heavy Typing

For typing intensive tasks, long emails etc I think the iPad will be less effective. I may be alone here, but I find typing onto a hard flat surface very uncomfortable, not efficent or effective and fundamentally unsatisfying (at home on my sofa I use a Logitech DiNovo Edge keyboard - outstanding usability as far as I'm concerned).

I have heard that Apple have plans for an iPad keyboard docking station? I am not sure if that's true but if it is then why not go straight for a NetBook?

In Conclusion..

Therefore for my own personal needs as a user (and I am assuming many thousands of users fall into my segment) I think that the usability of the iPad would be excellent for certain tasks and terrible for others.

almost 7 years ago

Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart, Founder at System Concepts

Nice to see that this has generated well-thought out, considered comments although not sure I really am a dribbling MAC fanboy.  Sadly, a couple of the posts show that the readers have completely missed the point.  This is not a product aimed at ‘real technologists’ or digital marketers.  It is a product aimed at a very large number of people who do not care about looking under the bonnet (hood to our US colleagues) but simply want to drive about to fun and interesting places.  Of course, it is just an opinion but I think it will be a winner.  I am reminded of the story about the retailer who dismissed the value of the telephone for his business.  When told he could use it to speak to customers who lived miles away, he reputedly answered that he had no customers who lived that far away. 

almost 7 years ago

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Nick Fine

I just can't get over the perception of the iPad being a large iPhone/iTouch.  Sure, with increased screen real estate the ergonomics for the keyboard entry is apparently improved, as well as opening up user interface design options. But, and this is a big but, I still fail to understand the customer proposition.  Why would I, or anyone else, use one?  It just seems to be technology for technologies sake without a target audience or application.

On the downside it's large, heavy, no doubt battery life problems (which typically hamper many new Apple developments, including the most recent 3GS) and relatively expensive.  It doesn't provide the breadth of interactivity options that a laptop does but does appear to suit a particular niche of use:  collaborative work - but the target audience for that kind of working is signficantly smaller than the iPod/iTouch users.  So who is it intended for?  What is its function?

Don't get me wrong - I'm all in favour of direct manipulation, gestural input and forward thinking interactivity.  It just feels that the iPad was conceived by technologists and not interactionists, with the tail wagging the dog.  Can it be used as a dashboard?  No, not easily because it is inherently a horizontally balanced design (unless propped up or put on a stand).  A laptop can.  Can it be used for working on 'Office' style documents?  Not easily - a laptop can.  It seems the only differentiators between the iPad and a laptop are the removal of keyboard and mouse inputs and the addition of a touch screen.  At least the iPod brings portability to the party.  What does the iPad bring?

Nick

almost 7 years ago

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larry

I just don't understand why people complain that the iPad is "just" a big iPod touch -- a big iPod touch is exactly what I've been waiting for . Have these critics ever tried to read a book ,surf the web, read or write emails on the tiny screen of an iPod touch? It's just too damn small. I WANT a big screen iPod. Then they would reply -- "If you want a big screen, then why not get a netbook?" Why? Because a netbook doesn't have multi touch and it doesn't have the beautifully simple interface of the iPhone OS. What do netbooks have? Windows!?! Windows is not optimized for touchscreens. The windows interface on netbooks is still geared for keyboard and mouse and not for multi -touch. The crappy windows interface, geared towards desktop systems with mice and keyboard is the reason why windows mobile and windows tablet pc's did not take off.

almost 7 years ago

Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart, Founder at System Concepts

Larry

you are absolutely right.  Even if the iPad is little more than a large print iPod touch (and I think it will become much mroe than that), a lot of people will still go for that (a growing number in fact, as the silver surfer population increases) .  The only real criticsm I have of my iPhone is that the screen is too small.  I can't wait.  Although I must confess a slight worry that the UK site does not yet mention iBooks.  Hopefully that will be resolved by launch as its the integration of hardware, software and service that makes such a compelling case. 

almost 7 years ago

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David Watts

Tom

I suspect, as with the iPhone, the key lies in the quality of the apps that are developed that exploit the technology.  For me this was the shift change with iPhone - when i got mine i thought it was a cool phone and alternative to a Blackberry - then i started finding apps that enabled me to do things i hadn't thought i could but that were really useful (this last point clearly being the critical benefit!).

As one of the other comments suggests how successful the iBooks bit is seems to be central.  If enough of us like it as a piece of hardware to read books then maybe it has a more exciting future.

almost 7 years ago

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sam woo

"Therefore for my own personal needs as a user (and I am assuming many thousands of users fall into my segment) I think that the usability of the iPad would be excellent for certain tasks and terrible for others."

THis is silly. This is true for any product. Subtitute the word "car" for "iPad" to see how silly this statement is.

"Therefore for my own personal needs as a user (and I am assuming many thousands of users fall into my segment) I think that the usability of the car would be excellent for certain tasks and terrible for others."

almost 7 years ago

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Mike

Nick Fine, re target audience... I'm presuming you are fairly IT literate and a bit of a power user? Do you ever have friends or family ask you for help in choosing a computer? If so, what is the first question you would ask them? I've been in this situation many times and the question I always ask is, "What do you need it for?" 99% of the time, the answer is, "Surf the web, send email, store some music and photos and maybe watch the odd film" What would you recommend? Netbook or Ipad? No brainer really, unless you want to spend all of your time helping your friends/relatives fend off viruses, download updates and generally explain how to operate the netbook... People like that are the target audience. Not IT professionals.

over 6 years ago

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Nick Fine

Well, since I posted that I've been out and bought an iPad, with the logic being (a) how can I hold an opinion on a device I don't have first hand knowledge of (b) I'm an interaction designer, and therefore it's the perfect rationalisation to buy one under the guise of understanding next gen interaction (c) I can wireframe on it (!) and (d) it's ace for watching movies in bed :)

I take back everything that I said about it, and that isn't me backtracking just because I'm an owner.  I just couldn't see the application clearly until I bought one and customised it (via apps) for the way I live my life.  Yes, it is a big iTouch - BUT THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT (that I was clearly missing).  The increased screen estate provides so many benefits, but the main one (imho) is the landscape keyboard which for all intents and purposes allows me to type at around 90% of my 'normal' speed - something I absolutely cannot say for the iPhone/iTouch, which extended data entry of any type can be a huge barrier/frustration.

I'm finding that the additional size turns it from big iTouch into a laptop/netbook with sufficient functionality and usability to make it my only mobile computing device.

Summary:  cynic turned fanboy :)

over 6 years ago

Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart, Founder at System Concepts

You will not be surprised that I too bought one as soon as it came out in the UK. I bought it as a toy and planned to use it to entertain my grandson on a long flight. It did that job brilliantly and I'll be writing more about it as an essential tool for toddlers before long. But I wanted to respond to your conversion. I have been very surprised how useful it is for business. The instant-on is wonderful. I keep my laptop on hibernate but the iPad is ready for business in seconds. So checking email on my Exchange server is quick and easy. And I love the multitouch interface. Skimming through my inbox is fast and efficient. I noted that my old friend Jakob Nielsen criticsed it for having apps that were inconsistent. I think he's right that it happens but wrong to suggest it's a big issue. There are so many apps (perhaps too many to handle?) and they are so cheap that it's easy to bin the bad ones. The apps market is evolving rapidly so it will not take long for savvy developers to refine their iPad apps. I haven't quite ditched the laptop yet but I did have the iPad as my only device at an all day meeting recently. Round the table, some people had piles of printed out papers for the meeting and some had latops with trailing cables and assorted power bricks stretched across the table and floor. I just had my iPad with the docs in Pages (£5.99 - expensive for an app but worth it!) and it lasted all day. Maybe I am a fanboy.

over 6 years ago

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