iPad: magical indeed

May 3, 2010 in Technology

CrunchGear has a post up called Apple: Can we stop with the "magical" already? - aimed at Apple's iPad marketing, which refers to the device as "magical and revolutionary."

The author feels "that Apple’s dedication to the “magical” party line is a bit disingenuous" because the iPad, yes, is not actually a magical device. For comparitive purposes, he mentions truly magical things such as Pegasus, griffins and Dumbledore.

On the other hand, I love that Apple is calling the iPad "magical." Not because I'm so disillusioned by its limited functionality, but because I know that the term references a quote by Arthur C. Clarke in which the great author and visionary stated that

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

No, my iPad doesn't conjure rabbits from top hats. But it does an astounding variety of things that could only be dreamed of before. Photos, email, web - they may appear to be stripped down versions of the option-heavy applications we know and love on our desktop PC's, but their simplicity belies powerful engines of intuition driven by beautiful interfaces. The majority of people will never discover that their iPads have user's guides (check your default Safari bookmarks) -- and they will never need to. Wave your hand over the device, and pretty much anything you desire will appear.

It's funny how we love to complain that the iPad isn't good enough. It's not fast enough, high resolution enough, open enough. It can't do this, it won't do that, wait for version 2. We said the same thing about the iPhone three years ago. We'll say the same thing about whatever Apple reveals next. We'll still be wrong. How jaded have we become? Imagine what the great technological dreamers would have thought of this device: Verne, Wells, Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein. These men spent their lives trying to communicate the wonders of devices like the iPad - and even they could not have imagined its potential.

The fact that we take our iPads for granted, expect much more, and wish Apple would stop claiming that something so vanilla is in fact "magical" is itself incredible. Stop for a moment to consider how amazing it is that the little slate even turns on, much less responds to your touch or performs any computation at all. The iPad is gamechanging because it fundamentally transforms the scope of interaction with the personal computer. It moves the PC to a new level entirely.  How many technologies are so successful that they even make it to such a milestone? The automobile is largely the same device it was a century ago - Henry Ford would have little trouble recognizing it. Incidentally, we've discussed this on TGR before - with the same "magical" focus.

Personally, I love the Clarke reference. Sadly, his novel 3001 was probably the closest he came to experiencing our glossy iPresent (or his iFuture). Let's not be upset with Apple for invoking his memory. Their devices are created by people who live and breathe The Future and work tirelessly toward it (even though we only find that out with a $-sign attached). Let's at least do them the courtesy of respecting the richly paved path that's brought us to this point. Had we not achieved the overwhelmingly successful democratization of technology, we might actually insist that our tech journalists apply insight to their work, rather than simply attitude.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: