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Packaging a Promise: Four Ways the New iPad Meets & Exceeds Baby Boomer Expectations

The iPad. It’s new. It’s cool. And, it’s a terrific designexperience that is likely to excite and delight your grandmother…and you. It isa stellar example of what designers should consider when creating systems forolder, no actually, all users – from systems that deliver fun to medicaldevices. Designing for discriminating baby boomer consumers is more thanusability, more than function, it is delivering it all in package with apromise and a bow.

Observers will be jousting over the pros and cons of theiPad versus Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Nobles’ Nook and Sony’s Reader. Letthem duel about what makes the best tablet-like device in the coming months.Instead of discussing what might be best in class, take a moment to look atwhat the iPad puts into one package. As with most innovations, it is notnecessarily the ‘new’ that stands a product apart from the competition, but howwell it integrates a variety of factors that are fresh, familiar, andfunctional to the user. With elegance, Apple’s iPad is truly a marriage of ‘something old, somethingnew, something borrowed and something blue’ providing a design andfunctionality experience that is likely to please older and younger usersalike.

Something Old – The bride’s poem begins with something old –the promise of continuity. Many expect innovation to be a clean break with thepast. The challenge for a company is to innovate without leaving the consumerbehind. Moving too far too fast from what the consumer understands can resultin user shock slowing product adoption. Older users have more experience thanyounger buyers and they use that experience to frame expectations, determine whatmakes sense and decide what is real value.

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The iPad uses the familiar to deliver new. One example isthe iPad’s iBooks application. iBooks deftly uses the touch screen interface,while linking to the familiar – the turn of the page. Whether a finger dragfrom the middle or a virtual dog-eared pull from the corner the user canexperience something new while anchoring the experience to a mental model inthe past – the paper page. More than a cute feature, it offers the familiar,leading the user without leaving the user.

Something New – ‘New’ both in marriage and technology is apromise of optimism and hope. The iPad certainly delivers new – high design andhigh-tech comfortably fitting into the users hands. Unlike models offered bycompetitors, the iPad offers full color and the capacity to personalize fontsand focus making it easy on aging boomer eyes at any angle – from sitting onthe sofa to lying down comfortably in the summer sun.

Something Borrowed – The bride borrows something fromanother happily married couple with the hope that their good luck will come toher marriage. What family better to borrow from than Apple.  Apple’s iPod has set the standard, andnow the expectation, of unlimited access to entertainment and apps that fillthe imagination. Moreover, the Apple family can promise that a world communityof ‘programming creatives’ will continue to develop something new making thepurchase more than a device, but a dynamic service experience.

Something Blue – Blue has been a traditional colorassociated with weddings for centuries. Blue symbolizes fidelity and true love.Less a design element than a promise, Apple provides a halo to any product itreleases. Apple has become more than a brand but a lovemark – a company that regularlydelivers beyond even the greatest of buyer expectations.

The Apple iPad is a fine device. The observations here arenot to forecast how it will compete with other tablet-like devices, but tohighlight it as an example of excellence in integration of design form,functionality and promise – making it a technology and design lesson forproduct developers across all consumer-facing businesses.

For an additional look on how the iPad may change reading and not just the tablet category of readers – see Loic Lagarde’s excellent post on his blog Vitamins for the Future

Demographics on who is using the iPad as of July 2010 — more women than you may  Yahoo’s Latest iPad Usage Report: More Women Are Tapping


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