Steve Jobs has the personality, temperament and behavior of a nine-year-old. I've suspected this for a while, and now I can prove it.
Don't get me wrong, he's a brilliant nine-year-old.
He's headstrong, opinionated and directly connected to his emotional and creative cortex.
I know this because I spent hours at the Apple store on launch day listening to adults moaning and groaning, and analyzing the iPad. And at the same time I watched kids, some older, some younger directly connected to the same emotions and energy that Jobs has. The iPad won't make sense to folks who've grown up in a pre-digital world. It's a device built to herald in the post-digital era. In Jobs' mind, devices should be minimalist; beautiful, simple, elegant, clean. They should do less, not more, as data moves from the device to the cloud.
Don't get me wrong, this is a device that "time-traveled" to use from the future. For the time being it is going to have to live in the present. You know Jobs is pained by the issues that AT&T has caused iPhone users, and similarly the iPad is built for a world with ubiquitous wi-fi. Today it's a device that solves lots of media browsing problems, but it isn't the Swiss Army knife that critics like Jeff Jarvis are hungry for. In fact, the iPad is purposefully not lots of things. Which is problematic for adults hungry for a simple device that makes all their other digital ephemera obsolete.
The iPad is the future wrestling with the present. It's adults vs. kids. It's digital natives vs. digital carpet baggers. And the fault lines of the debate can be seen along these lines.
Which brings me back to the Apple store as folks touch, caress, poke and prod this new and unfamiliar device.
So, here's how adults wrestle with the iPad;
- How can I manage 'another' device?
- What will it cost, can I afford it?
- What if the next version has more stuff. More gigs, megs, features, stuff. I should wait.
Then, watch the kids with the device;
- This feels good.
- I like my media being control by my hands.
- I want to play, watch, and read on this.
Jobs knows this. He knows that the iPad will be a massive hit with children. Middle School. Even High School. But that's the dividing line. If you've got a bag full of devices, the iPad is a luxury. If you've got years of legacy ideas about keyboards, mice, hard drives, the processors, then you'll have to try hard to understand how the iPad is a device that comes in a time machine from the future.
But, it does. The world is a wireless world. The world is a wi-fi world. The world is a world where both your data and the computing power you need resides in the cloud. The iPad is built to run on services like Amazon's EC2, where you can spin up as many processers as you need to crunch data, and use the always-on wireless broadband connection to send data to, and pull results from the cloud.
We're not there yet but the pieces are all in place.
And the iPad brings it that much closer to reality.