I’ve often wondered why people who use their PCs for basic stuff–like checking e-mail and browsing the Web — are required to buy hardware that’s far more powerful than what they really require. With that power comes the complexity of operating systems preloaded with applications and utilities that many people will never use, making PCs unapproachable for people who aren’t tech savvy.
That’s all changing–first, with the introduction of netbooks, and now even more so with the iPad. Apple’s tablet brings appliance-like simplicity to light computing needs, and brought my mother, who is in her early 60s and had never used a computer before, onto the Web. I’ve documented her fresh perspective on the iPad in this interview.
David: What was your expectation of what using a computer or iPad would be like before you used it, and has your opinion changed now that you’ve used one?
Mom: I was intrigued listening to people talking about what you can do with one. Now that I’ve used one, I’m still intrigued–being that I’m still a novice–with all of the information that you can get and what’s out there. My expectation is high –in a good way.
David: Would you suggest the iPad to other people who may be intimidated by using a computer?
Mom: Yes, I would, because I was. Once you get onto it, it’s pretty easy.
David: Has your experience made you more eager to delve into it and learn more?
Mom: Yeah. I’m doing more and more of that lately. I’m learning from my mistakes, and beginning to use Google.
David: What do you like about it?
Mom: That I have an e-mail address – you know. ‘Cause that’s the first thing [people] ask you: ‘What’s your e-mail address?’ So now, that makes me feel that I’m part of something–and then I feel that I can see and do more things now than I did before, because I didn’t have it a computer.
David: How about the iPad itself? Are there any particular apps you like or anything about it or how it works?
Mom: Well, I like it when I can go just push the e-mail, and then it goes to it real fast. I don’t know if a computer does that or not ’cause I don’t have anything to compare it to.
The Facebook [app], you know, I go to it, but I mean I don’t really use it. But now I can see that it doesn’t give you everything that you get when you’re online or whatever.
David: Compared to the Web site?
Mom: Yeah. To the website. You don’t get everything on [the app]. I didn’t realize that at first. But now that I have it that I can go to the website I see more on the website. Not that I really care that much.
David: Do you like any of the other apps?
Mom: The weather is good.
David: Have you tried to find more apps in the App Store?
Mom: I did by accident. It was like ‘what is that?’ Three [update notifications] were on the screen. I thought – what are they? The App Store?
So, I was able to go it, and one of [the updates] was for CNN, and then the other was for the Weather Channel.
David: Oh, to update them.
(David notes: I had installed several third-party apps onto the iPad while setting it up for her including CNN news, Facebook, and the Weather Channel.)
David: So you’re getting the newest versions of the apps, and you don’t need to do anything. ‘It just comes up.’
Mom: It comes up, and it says if you want to [update one] or if you want all three of them. Then the other day one was YouTube or something. I had to tap that I had read this thing, which I don’t do.
David: A [software] license disclosure.
Have you been able to locate apps that you would like through that same feature–when you hit App Store? Is there anything that interested you?
Mom: I haven’t really looked.
David: So, you’re just using what’s preloaded on there.
David: Okay. Is there anything about how the iPad works? Say, the home button for instance. Do you think that button makes it easier or more difficult to operate?
Mom: Well — it’s easy for me, but I have nothing to compare it to. If I get myself into a situation that I can’t get out of pushing the [app’s] buttons, I just push the home button and then turn it off.
David: What — if anything–is still confusing to you, or you think could work better?
Mom: Well, it’s too touchy. Even though I’m better with it now… if you happen just to move your hand or something, you know, then all of a sudden you’re out of what you’re in. That’s bad I think.
David: Like how you accidentally Liked Suzanne Somers on Facebook.
Mom: Yes. I don’t even know how I did that.
David: Okay. Out of these particular apps, the browser, or e-mail, is there anything about those that you think could be better? Or is it a matter of learning to use them and your experience level?
Mom: It’s just learning to use them for me. It’s because I don’t have any experience with a computer. So, it’s it’s as if I had a computer in front of me. I have to learn what’s in front of me and go with that.
David: What could have Apple have done better to help you understand how to use this?
Mom: I really don’t know because I’m getting it from looking at the [interface] things and all. I don’t know, because I sort of pick up on things fast.
David: You do. You were using it yourself on the first day and sending e-mails.
Mom: Yeah. I need hands on more so than reading. You know, I can listen to somebody, but it’s hands on with me. When I froze up that time I was able to [reboot] it over the phone.
David: Facebook froze up, and it caused a problem.
Mom: Yeah. It freezes up on here. That’s frozen on me about three or four times with no particular reason.
David: What we did was to tap the home button twice so you would have multi-tasking and kill the application.
Mom: I had to reboot it, too.
David: Yes, you did that.
Mom: Two more times–after I talked to you.
David: So, it’s the apps that are causing you the most problems.
David: Facebook in particular.
Mom: The e-mail is fine. I haven’t had a problem with that, but it’s the Facebook one that freezes all the time.
David: Okay. Do you have any last thoughts?
Mom: I like it. It’s small. It’s fast. I’m learning. I’m out there, you know, in the world now, more so than I was before. It’s a good tool, but as I said I don’t know…from what I hear from other people, they prefer the computer to this. I can’t compare. But, you know, I do like it.
David: Okay, that’s it. Thank you, mom.