I’m going to join the throng and make a prediction about the much-hyped forthcoming Apple tablet computer (variously the iPad, or iSlate, or iTab etc.). Not whether it will have an OLED screen, or an E-Ink screen, or a new form of gestural interface, or a virtual keyboard, or be an e-book and e-newspaper reader, or be for a family to share and for use in classrooms. Plenty of others are discussing these possibilities with eager anticipation. My prediction is a very simple one: it will be successful. We will buy it, use it and find that it answers needs we never knew we had.
But tablet computers are not a new idea, so why will this device succeed where the others failed? In short, because we’re ready for it. We’re now familiar with touch-screen interfaces and multi-touch gestures due to using devices like the iPhone and watching films like Minority Report (and engaging with many other objects and media, and the ideas expressed in them, before that). Technology isn’t primarily what determines the success of this, or any other, product. The technologies that Apple’s new device will employ, whilst innovative, aren’t enough to get any but the ardent gadget fans and early adopters to use it. People’s practices, perceptions and expectations provide the acid test for any new product. Is it something we can understand the purpose of, envisage ourselves using, and see a role for in our lives? We develop this understanding from the ways we live our everyday lives and the artefacts that we employ to do so, it reflects our culture (to put it in larger terms).
Apple will have a hit with their new device, but only because the iPhone and Tom Cruise got us ready for it.