Old cranks now learning to love their iPads

Remember when everyone was like “I’m returning my iPad? It’s the garbage?” That was SO early Spring 2010. The new hotness is increased iPad affection with a soupcon of wistful disappointment that comes to the folks who originally attacked the iPad and are now smitten. It was so fun to have a flat, glassy enemy back in April!

First, anecdotally, Disrupt this week featured so many iPads you could have feasibly placed one on every seat in the auditorium and still had iPads left over to pave halls by the loading dock. The iPad is the new iPhone but the tamagotchi effect – that thing you see where people just endlessly fiddle with their iPhones in public, rubbing them like hamsters – just doesn’t happened. The iPad sits, open, on your table in front of you and you occasionally brush your hand over it like a sleepy wizard. It doesn’t require as much attention as the iPhone.

Then you have Fred Wilson who, at first, was against the iPad and then he was for it. Why? Because it is unobtrusive.

Here’s what I think is going on. The iPad hits a sweet spot between a “device” and a piece of printed matter. If you see someone at dinner whipping out a phone, they’re a douche. But the iPad requires a bit more preparation and since it looks like a book or a magazine, we process its intrusion differently. If you pull it out in mixed company, it’s to show them something. It’s not so you can check 50 email messages and send tweets while everyone else is toasting the bride and groom.

Because the iPad looks like a book, the rules of book reading apply. If you’re outside using it, you’re available. You wouldn’t shush someone as you skimmed the Do’s and Don’t in Glamour just as you wouldn’t shush someone while using the iPad. It’s not a private activity, really. The screen is big and there’s always something you can share on the iPad’s screen with the other person. It’s inclusive rather than exclusive.

So go ahead and hate your neighbor and go ahead and cheat a friend, but don’t claim the iPad hasn’t hit a sweet spot with far to many people to dismiss it.