I’m on a quest for the iPad killer app. Not the Apple need one, with two million units sold the first two months. It’s more of a personal quest to discover if the iPad has a place in my computing & information universe.
There’s always the cool factor, of course. There’s street cred in having an iPad – although interestingly I’ve had better luck getting in touch with members of the appropriate sex with the Kindle. The iPad evokes “oh, cool” – the Kindle generates genuine interest and conversation. But I digress. I’ve been toying with the iPad, tried Apps, taken it to meetings, on trips, and into the living room. All nice, but not quite convincing.
Taking the iPad into the kitchen, however, has been a runaway success. I like cooking, and I like being in my kitchen. Over the years I’ve collected a lot of recipes, and I have the classical information management problem. I’ve tried folders of clippings, post-it notes in books, binders with printed recipes, neatly typed into a LaTeX and sorted by category and type. And still I’ve found it impractical. I’ve tried recipes typed into a computer and found that I either always had the recipe on the wrong computer or had trouble managing multiple versions of the recipe documents.
Enter Google docs. A while ago I started entering my recipes into Google docs. It’s ideal – I can access it from any computer, I can update from anywhere and access it any time I need it. Just take a laptop – any laptop – into the kitchen when cooking, And this is where the iPad comes in. It’s ideal for this; Google docs works perfectly, browsing files is fast and easy, the device sits neatly next to you on the kitchen tape, you don’t have the screen sticking up so you don’t knock it over, and it’s easy to turn on and off, put aside with one hand, etc. Clearly the iPad will be the way I access my recipes in the future. It lets me do the job without taking focus away from cooking.
This tells us something about what the iPad is. It’s a perfect information appliance – especially for this kind of light use. It’s perfect for accessing information when the information access isn’t your actual task. It’s so easy to grab it, get at the information, and continue the actual job. The iPad does not get in the way or force you to think of information access as a separate process. In that way it’s more like a piece of paper than a computer. In this the iPad is transformative; it’s not just a smaller, sexier, cooler computer, or an overgrown cellphone. It’s a new device that promotes better and more integrated information access. If you’re doing something where information access is an integral part of the job, the iPad might very well be the answer. For me that kind of task is cooking, and the iPad sure fits the bill. If only they would come out with a rugged, water- and flour-proof version.