The iPad has been out for a day now, so that should have been enough time for all the pundits and Apple-know-it-alls to gripe about what is missing from the iPad, what should have been done differently, etc, etc, etc. And they are all very wrong because Steve Jobs really doesn’t care what you think or want. I know that has also been said before but before you dismiss me as another me-too thinker, let me share a short story with you.
When I was a puppy, we used to play a lot of games like cops and robbers. My parents were good Catholics, so that meant there was a rather large litter of us, all pretty close in age. My dad didn’t make much money and my mom was a stay-at-home, always in the kitchen, don’t bother me kind of mom, so there wasn’t a lot of money for toys. We made a lot of necessary accessories like pistols and billy clubs out of tree branches and whatnots. (It was a long time ago; guns were ok toys back then, even pretend ones made out of twigs.)
When I was about nine or ten years old, we got a catalog in the mail that had a whole section of cop badges you could order. Suddenly, without question, our cops needed badges. I started making badges using the Styrofoam trays meat was packed in. Turns out, if you traced the outline of the badge from the catalog, cut it out and then traced the inside detail lightly with a dull pencil, it would make an embossed badge. Paint that with silver paint used for model cars, tape a safety pin on the back and you had yourself a slick looking police badge.
Then I got to thinking that if I thought this was a good idea, other people would to. I made a few more and sold them to other kids who played the cops in our games for I think $.25 or something like that. Nobody really needed the badges to play a cop in cops and robbers, but it sure made the game more fun. After a bit, nobody wanted to play a cop unless they had a badge.
But here’s the thing: I made the badges because I wanted to create a game where the police characters sported really cool badges. I didn’t much care if they had all the features that others wanted (like a multi-color seal or gold eagle and silver base) or even if they were necessary for the game. In my mind, a world that had cops without badges was just not going to be a world I wanted to be in, pretend cops or not. If other kids thought it was a cool idea and wanted to buy a badge, that was ok, but it wasn’t necessary for me to have a market for silver-painted styrofoam badges for me to make the badges.*
And that ultimately is how I think Steve Jobs sees his world. He created the Apple computer because he wanted a world where small, personal computer existed. He created the iPod because he wanted a small, portable music device that worked in a non-technical way. Same kind of thing for the iPhone and iPad. The fact that lots of other people want these kinds of things too is incidental.
Steve Jobs is just making silver-painted Styrofoam police badges.
*The product line branched out to cop hats (made out of blue construction paper, kinda cool really) and belts before I grew up, discovered girls and that was that.