Why is it such a great product? I love the convenience myself, but more importantly, it's opened up computing for my mom, like nothing else before it. She's an on-the-go grandma, always out-and-about and doing things. So the ability to connect, without hassle, without having to understand wifi, or needing to use the Settings system, has made the biggest difference.
She uses GMail in Safari. We're trying to get her up on Glympse, so her family can follow her travels, but we haven't gotten that working yet. This is important not just for sharing her experience, but also because she's not such a spring chicken anymore, and if she were to get in trouble, we'd want to know how to find her. This will add to her safety, and thereby make more adventurous explorations possible. (I'm sure she doesn't want me to say how old she is, but I'm 57 and she's my mom, so you can figure it out. On the other hand, I'm her first-born and she was quite young when I was born.)
There are still opportunities to make things easier. I don't think Apple has yet designed the perfect product for a non-technical user. And product designers still don't seem to understand that a fair number of users have friends or family members who set up their computers for them. There's no way most people could set up their own iPad, imho. As long as that's true, they ought to make more of it "set and forget" -- with more comprehensive defaults. For example, in Glympse, it would be nice if I could set it up so that it always shared with me, and that it always shared for four hours. Then she could launch Glympse, and just click the Start button. And make it big, and put it in the middle of the screen. Then the instructions could be: 1. Launch the app. 2. Click the Start button. That's something she could do without getting nervous. And when she gets nervous she starts clicking everywhere, usually with not-good results (though the iPad is better at handling random clicks, it's a total disaster on the Mac).
But on the whole, this is a pretty big milestone. An always-on always-connected, easy-to-use device, that's not all that expensive. We've arrived.
PS: If this continues to work, she will not need her iPhone. That'll eliminate a $70 per month service plan. We'll put Google Voice on her iPad, and port the old number to that. Of course it would be great if there were an iPad version of Google Voice.
PPS: Also it was a bitch buying this wonderful device at the Apple store on Broadway and 68th St. I bought it online for store pickup, and went there an hour after I got the email saying it was ready. So they had ample time. Or so it seemed. Apple stores used to be marvels of efficiency and crisp customer interaction. Nowadays -- not so much. They made me wait, and wait and wait, and had all kinds of excuses. In the old days, when someone they sent to get the product didn't come back, they'd go and get it for you. Now they say it's not their fault. Who cares whose fault it is. When I said "that's an excuse" the store person got really upset. But it was an excuse! I paid the money, now I want to go home. With the product I bought. Geez. They sent me a survey via email when I got home, good move, and I explained all this. Hire a management consultant and teach your store people how to make customers happy. It's really not that hard. I remember Apple aspired to give a Nordstrom-like experience. This was not even KMart.
PPPS: Did you ever read the Chaos Manor column in BYTE by Jerry Pournelle? His approach to tech is my inspiration for pieces like this one. Hey he's still writing the columns on his own website now.