The iPad Isn’t Just for Us–It’s for Aunt Bettys Too

By  |  Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:52 am

Nobody reading this post is ever going to use Apple’s new iPad as his or her sole computer. But there is a group of folks who might: People like my late aunt Betty, who used WebTV to send e-mail. The iPad’s portability and streamlined interface for common tasks make it a compelling device for people–usually older people–who have chosen to opt out of the computer revolution until now.

My aunt never had a PC, and as far as I know, didn’t want one. Would she have been willing to spend $500 on an appliance that she could use in his living room for keeping in touch with her family and reading the paper? Maybe. The WebTV price was set at $329.

I will tell you one thing–Aunt Betty wound’t have cared about how “open” the iPad was as long as it did what she expected. If she could listen to music, watch movies, read, and use it for e-mail and theWeb, she’d probably be pleased with her purchase. The question of whether the iPad could multitask would never come up.

The iPad is meant to sync with a PC or Mac, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t become a fully autonomous, standalone device. It will be interesting to see what Apple does with MobileMe and the iPad.

My colleague Harry McCracken commented that Web TV was supposed to be for young folks, but unintentionally found a market among “oldsters.” It is possible that the iPad could achieve the same success among people who would not typically buy a PC. I’m curious to see the demographics of who ends up buying it–it may not be the “innovators” who you’d expect.

It doesn’t look like Apple is catering to Aunt Betty types, but it should.


Read more: , ,

13 Comments For This Post

  1. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    exactly my thought as I commented on your previous article 😉

  2. maguay Says:

    Makes sense … I mentioned the same to my Dad last night. It seems like it might be the ideal machine for people with light computing + internet needs.

  3. IcyFog Says:

    Yes, agreed. I commented another article with the same sentiment as this one. It could also be geared toward younger children too.

  4. Lazlow St. Pierre Says:

    I think the upcoming Google Chrome laptops might be more suitable for older computer illiterate types who just need a machine for email, web browsing and other basic computer tasks, but I can see the appeal of something like this as well, especially if combined with the docking station with a proper keyboard. People surfing the web at home are going to want to sit down with the screen in front of them, not have to carry it while browsing or type lengthy emails with a touchscreen keyboard.

  5. Simon Says:

    I agree, but they’re also a group who would have been well served by the inclusion of a webcam.

    PS Am I the only one who never manages to post a comment on Technologizer via the mobile interface? I always have to switch to full size…

  6. Matthew Says:

    I don’t know about you, but my Aunt Betty doesn’t have Wifi. WebTV+dialup was affordable and robust compared to broadband+wifi (How did we go so far back in time?) ATT would be an option for these people, but the limit on the cheap account is going to be too small for someone using this as their main device without wifi. I don’t think that my Aunt Betty would pay $500 *plus* $20+ more every month to upgrade her Pentium3 and dialup.

    Even if she splurged, I’m not sure if she would only be able to use ATT 3G anywhere but the porch.

    The original iPod took time, and this will too. I do not think that Apple’s success in transitioning the iPod to an iPhone will be easily duplicated in the transition from iPhone to iPad.

  7. David Worthington Says:

    @matthew – exactly… this is the first iteration.

  8. David Worthington Says:

    @icyfog – great point. this would be very good for kids provided it doesn’t break too easily 🙂

  9. Patrick Moorhead Says:

    Interesting read. To my recollection, very few WebTVs were actually sold. If simplicity is key, wondering why devices like 3Com Audrey and the iOpener didn’t sell well.

  10. william Says:

    @Lazlow – in a lot of ways, this is going after the same market as Chrome OS – an inexpensive lightweight second computer, or a primary computer for someone with lightweight computing needs. It is pretty easy to imagine that at some point Chrome OS will be available on a tablet. It is also pretty easy to imagine a time when the “intimate” tablet is also powerful enough to be a primary computer when attached to a docking station. At some point, the choice might come down to the convenience of having your apps in the cloud vs. the richer apps (but with more hassle) that run on your machine.

  11. davesmall Says:

    I happened to be in an Apple retail store mid afternoon today. Out of curiosity I asked the floor manager how many times a customer had asked if the iPad was available to see today. She answered, “Oh about fifty so far.” Customers know the name and they want to see it and handle it.

    Relative to the iPhone, I had encountered a couple strange situations or so I thought. I know two middle aged people who have an iphone, profess to love it, but really didn’t know how to use it. They knew how to make phone calls and use the apps that come with it but neither had learned about syncing with iTunes, adding Apps, etc. Neither one knew that you could pop a music CD into your computer, copy the songs to iTunes, and then load them onto your iPhone via USB syncing. One of them remarked, “Really, you can do that!”

    I wondered if my encounters were really odd or fairly common. So I asked on of the Geniuses at the Apple store this question: “How often do you see someone who loves their iPhone but really doesn’t know how to use it? sync it? load music and apps?”

    His answer was: “Happens many times every day.”

    I found that interesting since the iPhone and iPod Touch are several orders of magnitude easier to learn and use than a computer. These computer illiterate types are attracted to the iPhone because of simplicity and ease of use. But then they don’t even bother to learn the basics.

    I’m certain that the iPad will attract this same group of computer illiterates. They’ll love it too and they wont really learn how to use it either. How big is this segment of the population? I’m guessing very big.

    I’m also thinking that this market segment would be totally lost if given a Windows 7 Netbook.

  12. David Pierce Says:

    Well, I am 67 and I say this about that (ipad)…What it DOESN’T do is be a full function remote control for my entertainment boxes. It would definetly be a replacement for my 2002 flat-panel which I bought new and use every day for bank, Social Security, pension, on-line searching for example the recently bought-on-line Wall Insert 240v Electric Bathroom Heater I just installed and wired….including the correct info on exactly how to wire it from CB box to line thermostat to heater wires. It would be exactly the perfect device for me if it had a powerful-ass IR blaster to turn on/off all my stuff.

  13. dog house plans Says:
    this is a very nice blog very much interesting especially to all wide readers please come and visit blog often.
    dog house plans

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. And That’s What You Missed on Technologizer Says:

    […] Dave thought the iPad looked like a neat device for Aunt Betty. […]