The iPad’s promise for potential.

I tried. I really did. I told myself I wasn’t going to get one on day one. But then I found myself in a Best Buy, touching, filling my face with new glowing hotness, and asking “so, do you have any?”

“Oh yeah. We got a lot, actually.”

“Oh. Cool. Can I get one?”

That’s all it took. No pre-order, no line waiting, nothing. In and out in five minutes. Aimee even encouraged me:

“Well, whether you buy it now, or in two weeks doesn’t make a difference. Why torture yourself?”

A good woman, she is, that one.

Throughout the holiday weekend, I’ve had the chance to play with the iPad, not as much as I’d have liked, due to the requisite familial obligations one experiences at such times. I played the role of early adopter, as my relatives fawned over the lovely screen and Jetsons-like functionality. I convinced at least a few people to probably seriously consider it, and I solidified Justin’s resolve for the wait for his pre-ordered 3G model.

But really, how is it?

Well, it’s definitely something special. Gorgeous, svelte, futuristic. Enjoyable to use, with a host of new apps that make fun things even more fun. I can see myself doing a lot with it, traveling, showing off pictures of our new house, spending even more time on Twitter than I already do.

It won’t, however, replace my MacBook Pro. At least not yet, and not for a really long time. But that’s ok. It doesn’t need to. Steve put it right in between the iPhone and the MacBook in his presentation, and that’s exactly where it belongs. Furthermore, so many – SO many – people are decrying its very presence in the market, foretelling of the death of freedom, exploration, and open platforms. Cory Doctorow, I’m looking in your direction.

But this horrible, Orwellian outcome is not what I see happening, and others agree. Joel Johnson made a great counter-point to Cory, all of which I completely agree with. See, I’m not all about the iPad right now. It’s a cool new gadget, but what I’m about is potential. What it can do, not what it does do.

As a kid, all I did was think about the future. Robots, computers, flying cars, the whole thing. As an adult, well, I’m still waiting. A lot of what we were promised has yet to appear. Rather than wallow in my disappointment, however, I’m prepared to embrace what we do have. And what we have is one of the most inventive, creative, fascinating computer interfaces the world has ever seen. What we have is the potential to redefine how the world interacts with and utilizes technology, and how that technology shapes our lives. When I think about how the iPhone changed my own perception about just what a mobile device was capable of (and that was after spending years dissecting almost every other platform in the market), I get very excited.

I get excited because for the first time in my life, I feel like we are witnessing an event – a place in time that in years to come, we’ll be able to point at and definitively say “that’s when it changed”. Not because I’m an Apple fanboy, but because I am at my core still a child, filled with wonder, and filled with the hope that the future will be as good as I’d always pictured. I often feel like my life would be simpler in another time; that I should have lived in another era. I was convinced for years. But I started to realize that I would have been exactly the same kind of person even then – a DaVinci, drawing and dreaming fantastic things; a Disney, visualizing and creating entirely different worlds in which to play and live. Which is not to say that I fancy myself as important as these types of people – I’m still just a speck of dust on the windowsill of innovation – but that no matter which time I would have found myself in, I would always be dreaming of the next step, and when it would arrive.

It’s a different kind of thought process. Inability to maintain the status quo, constantly shifting, changing, looking for more. It’s why I need to rearrange furniture peridocally, why I organize information differently when I find a more effective method through which to access it, why I can’t just be satisfied with what I have. It’s not because I’m delirious, or that I like spending money. Ok, I do. But it’s because I want to be a part of the next step, as soon as it arrives. I’ve waited long enough.

My childhood was spent trying to grasp at the possibilities of the future. Now we can put one of them right in our hands, today. How can anyone hate potential? What kind of person looks at something beautifully designed and crafted and immediately hates it? Someone I’d rather not spend the future with, I guess.

I don’t think the iPad is the answer to the world’s prayers. But it is damned cool, and I’m more than happy to use it and enjoy it in whatever role it ends up playing in my life. And I’m really glad that at least one company is willing to take risks to shape the emerging face of technology, and do something different. You might not agree with everything they do, but the minds at Apple sure know how to manufacture a specific feeling. For me, this time it’s the feeling that things will not be the same from now on.

Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.