'You can't break anything,' or how intimidation affects tablet use

My grandmother's Oldsmobile helps me understand the success of the iPad

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Oldsmobile sedan from around 1991. Silvery, huh?

James Kendrick, who knows a thing or two about mobile after many years of coverage, wrote a great piece about tablets. The premise: tablets are most effective when they’re the least intimidating. I couldn’t agree more, and I know quite a few examples. Including my grandmother’s Oldsmobile.

Here’s the crux of Kendrick’s argument about tablet success, and lack thereof. Kendrick writes that there’s a common response when he asks people outside the tech industry if they have a computer at home: “No, just the iPad.”

That’s a good thing for these people, because it’s due to the lack of intimidation felt by using the tablet. They aren’t viewed as computers or complicated, they are just tablets. Many tablet owners end up discovering through experience that the tablet can do a lot of the things those complicated computers can do, but without the fear.

My grandmother Purdy drove an Oldsmobile sedan, and she drove it like somebody had just told her that steak was on sale, but only if she got to the store before everybody else. This made me nervous when I was about 10 years old, and then, like now, I like to mess with things when I get nervous. So I reached out to see what would happen if I held down one of the radio preset buttons while tuned to a particular station--would that set it as a preset? I reached out, but looked up at my grandmother, realizing that, even though she was in the thick of a backwoods Formula One race that only she was timing, she might not take kindly to my experiments. But her response stuck with me: “Go ahead,” she said, before taking on an indifferent tone. “You can’t hurt anything.”

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