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Making Stuff

Posted Nov 22, 2011

The conventional wisdom about the iPad is that it's for leaning back: reading, watching, browsing, a consumption device for a consumer market. Let the information wash over you, the thinking goes, because it's just not a good device for making stuff.

The iPad is a device suited for sitting or reclining, which certainly makes it a device of contemplation, and yep, that's the perfect state of mind for reading or watching a movie. But it's a mistake to think of it as "only" a new-fangled book or tv screen. Contemplation is not the same as passivity.

True enough, you'll never beat the world record for typing speed on the thing (216 words per minute, it turns out), but typing is only one form of input. Stubbornly linking productivity to typing speed ignores opportunities for what this new form factor of computing will yet enable. The tablet's easygoing touchscreen input makes it particularly promising for art-making, whether that's 3D modeling, music, drawing, or even collaborative collage.

So I was especially pleased to see the iPad ad that Apple released just yesterday. As usual, Apple emphasizes personal connection and emotion rather than technology in the new ad. But in a departure, it also shows people making stuff with iPad: designing basketball plays, mixing music, cutting a skate video, building a model car. Leaning back? It sure looks like everyone's leaning in to me.

"Getting lost in the things we love has never felt quite like this," the ad finishes. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the era we live in is how easy it is for any of us to grab a tool and start making. The iPad is just one of them, and it's a heckuva thing.

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