Old People, Non-Geeks: The iPad's Unlikely Saviors

Forget the kvetching techies

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Even if nerds kvetch and refuse to buy an iPad, the device may still sell with some big demographics: casual tech users, the disabled, the elderly and women. Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath makes the case. The iPad, she argues, will be explosive less for tech-elites than for "'non users' -- people who might never have been able to take advantage of computers before." She gives a personal example:

An older member of my family was given a computer, took lessons, and worked on a few projects. She would love to be a proficient user -- to exchange news and photos with her family, and to be able to look up newspaper reports. You would think her computer has all the ingredients necessary to be a successful, world-opening device for someone who can't get out as much as she used to -- it's wired and wireless, with high speed Internet. So what's the problem? The mouse! The movements needed to manipulate a mouse have proven impossible for her to master.

Freelancer Jason Fry, formerly of The Wall Street Journal Online, agrees. He argues that non-geeks will take to the iPad because it offers a casual way to surf the Web, watch videos, and read digital books. It's not for techies -- it's for everyone else:

For geeks (and I'm a card-carrying member) this kind of stuff is a recreational sidelight to the real business of a device, but not everybody is like us. Lots and lots of folks are happy to spend time watching something, and then settling in with a book, and then casually surfing some favorite sites, and now they have a device that improves on current ways to do all three of those things. It finally makes the digital version of all three a "lean-back" experience with a normal-sized screen. That's new, and I bet it will be welcomed.

PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff agrees, arguing women will particularly benefit. "Looking at the iPad through the prism of gender turns the whole argument about its prospects inside out," Ulanoff contends. "Women are not grousing about what they can connect to the iPad and its lack of ports, because they'll use it as is and focus on how it serves their daily needs."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.