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Reinvention through the iPad – A blank slate awaits

Apple iPad

In Latin, tabula rasa means blank slate. In epistemology, in a theory first advanced by Aristotle, tabula rasa also refers to the notion that individuals are born without any preconceived ideas, and that knowledge is cast from outside experience and perception.

I also think it is a perfect metaphor for Apple’s new iPad.

I’ve had my iPad for over 48 hours now. I’ve held off writing anything until now because I really wanted to understand how I was using it. I wanted to have some serious hands-on time with the device. And, truth be told, I’ve only scratched the surface even though it has barely left my side for the last two days.

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve had moments of frustration – born naturally from being a Beta tester of any new Apple product. But in the grand scheme of things, these are merely quibbles. Many will be likely be fixed by future iterations in the iPhone OS – and indeed, we’ll have a sneak peek this Thursday when Apple shows off the roadmap for iPhone 4.0.

True, the WiFi connection has been a bit wobbly at times. And the thing sure is a fingerprint magnet (note to self: invest in a better screen cleaning cloth).

But despite these hiccups, I’ve had what you might call the iPad awakening.

See, the iPad is truly a blank slate. It’s nothing without its apps. Your command of the device is completely dictated by the sum of the experiences contained within. The beauty is that the hardware (which is simply a big piece of glass) quickly becomes irrelevant and disappears. The user experiences can be so natural, so fluid, so graceful – that the way you end up interacting with data and content seems effortless.

I don’t care how “kick ass” your laptop is. You still feel like you’re using a computer. It feels like work.

The iPad makes you forget you’re using a computer. It’s fun.

Steve Jobs wasn’t kidding when he called this device magical.

Fire up a new app and your “computer” magically morphs into a completely new device every time. Your whole focus is on the experience therein. Rich Barton, CEO of Zillow, calls this feeling “intimacy” and I would agree. But it goes deeper than that too; it’s intimacy without distractions.

(A side note – huge kudos to the Zillow team for releasing their iPad app, which is, hands down, the best real estate search experience out there today).

So when using an iPad, it can switch from being a top notch real estate search tool, to a world-class stock terminal (Bloomberg), to a window into all of your documents stored in the cloud (Memeo Connect Reader) – all in seconds. In every instance, the experience is different yet captivating and inviting. It makes you want to come back. Or never let go.

So what does this mean for real estate? Everything and anything. Whatever you can imagine. After all, it is a blank slate. Open to whatever you bring to it. And create for it.

A Tabula Rasa.

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23 Responses to “Reinvention through the iPad – A blank slate awaits”

  1. Jeff Bernheisel says:

    We’ve been playing with ours (well it’s technically Garron’s, but we’re living vicariously through him for now) here at M and Homequest. The possibilities we keep dreaming up are endless!

    This device, if it does nothing else, will push us to our limits from a development standpoint. Zillow jumped out in the lead with a killer search tool, but I have a sneaking suspicion there will be some other Real Estate search platforms built specifically for the iPad that will give them a good run for their money.

    But for now, you’re right, it’s a giant blank slate waiting for whatever we can throw at it.
    -Jeff

  2. Melissa DelGaudio says:

    Joel: this is the first thing I’ve seen written that’s actually gotten my interest piqued. Up to now, it seemed to me that the iPad was a non-event. Apple’s answer to a question that no one had asked.

    I will definitely wait for the 3G version, but I’ve gotta say … I’m intrigued.

    And my killer laptop thanks you for the nod. :)

    • Joel Burslem says:

      Melissa,

      I think the bottom line here is you really have to try it and have some hands on time to really grok this device. Words, pictures, videos do little to really put it in its proper context.

      It has shortcomings for sure. But it’s exciting to see the potential for what a piece of consumer technology can be.

  3. Jessica Swesey says:

    Thanks for the fresh take, Joel. I’ll eventually get one — waiting it out a bit. My initial reaction to this product was, “what a nice-looking giant iPod Touch!” But then I started to see the possibilities for content delivery. I think I get it more now and this review helped.

    Also, it would be sad if no one else created a real estate search app to rival Zillow’s. No more MLS printouts on home tours, please! If I could just pull up the listings and jot down my notes… nice.

    • Joel Burslem says:

      Jessica,

      That was my original take too – but I’ve since come around 180 degrees.

      I tell you what gets me really excited (as a dad to be)… what the iPad and it’s successors will mean to our kids. This thing is the best kids book ever built.

      What an exciting time we now live in.

  4. Brad Coy says:

    I can’t wait to check this out.

    To what Jessica said. I would love to be able to hand one of these to a client while we were touring property with an app for not only taking notes, but saving favorites (with alerts set up for changes in price and status), and eliminating properties from a signed-in account altogether to rid of some noise.

    • Joel Burslem says:

      Jeff

      Can’t wait to see what you guys cook up. I know it will be cool.

      Here’s a couple of power user tips for you in the meantime – upload your listing presentation slides to Google Docs as a PDF and then pull it up using Memeo Connect Reader. Now imagine sitingtdown with a client and showing them that…

      Adobe’s Ideas app deserves some attention too for its photo markup capabilities.

  5. Marc Davison says:

    So many people are looking at the iPad and focusing on its shortcomings. Or the little bugs here and there. Joel, you focused on the few things it does do. The things that are mind blowing. And amazing.

    Personally, I’d rather have a tool that performs a finite set of miracles than an infinite number of unimpressive tasks.

  6. Chris Smith says:

    Great description as I felt the same way within the first few days. I am actually fond of it and my thoughts are that the iPhone is a small iPad not the iPad is a big iPhone. Zillow nailed it with their app as did ZipRealty who really surprised me by being the first franchise with one. The best part about your write up is that this is FOR SURE the best consumer real estate search experience available and that’s a big deal if you sell real estate!

  7. Mike DelGaudio says:

    @Marc, I respectfully disagree with you there. I’d take the latter any day. Give me a regular set of hand tools that can build an infinite number of “unimpressive” but useful things over a single “magic” device that can only stamp out, say, a finite number gorgeous kitchen tables or Aeron Chairs or something. I’d probably need those unassuming non-magical little tools to build and maintain the miracle maker anyway.

    Likewise, so far as I can tell, you can’t even *make* iPad apps with an iPad, so for some of us we’ll still need that unimpressive device with that darn intrusive keyboard and mouse to handle the infinite number of unimpressive tasks that makes these little miracle apps happen.

    That said, I think the iPad will be a dandy little device. But I don’t see it being my *only* device any time soon, years even.

    Hopefully we’ll see Apple open up and allow true innovation with their device. Not holding out hope, though.

    @Joel, You and Adam Engst are on an incredibly similar plane with your thinking: http://db.tidbits.com/article/11152

  8. Marc Davison says:

    Mike,

    I hear ya. You are not alone as Apple, in general, only commands a tiny portion of the gadget marketplace which places me in a distinct minority over what we prefer from our tools versus the rest of the world.

    That said, for me, given what I do and how I do it through a device the iPad could easily become a all I really ever need. As Joel pointed out, everything we do is cloud based so I require almost no onboard software other than iTunes and Keynote. Between Google Docs and other cloud based apps I use, a Skype app that allows the iPad to be my phone, the only things the iPad is missing is the ability to fold up and fit into my back pocket.

  9. Joel Burslem says:

    @Mike Interesting article. Definitely in line with my thoughts. John Gruber wrote an equally eloquent argument in favor of the iPad here: http://daringfireball.net/2010/04/the_ipad

    I think we all basically saying the same thing. The iPad experience will be defined by the apps created for it.

    To those who say it won’t replace their main machine; I’d agree. For now.

    But give it some time… let’s see what’s released in the app store over the next few months. Give it a few more revs in the OS too… Apple’s iPhone 4.0 presentation this morning already showed us what’s coming.

    I suspect it won’t be long before it becomes a tool you can build all kinds of cool things on.

  10. Amy says:

    Mike,

    I hear ya. You are not alone as Apple, in general, only commands a tiny portion of the gadget marketplace which places me in a distinct minority over what we prefer from our tools versus the rest of the world.

    That said, for me, given what I do and how I do it through a device the iPad could easily become a all I really ever need. As Joel pointed out, everything we do is cloud based so I require almost no onboard software other than iTunes and Keynote. Between Google Docs and other cloud based apps I use, a Skype app that allows the iPad to be my phone, the only things the iPad is missing is the ability to fold up and fit into my back pocket.

  11. Mike Wiseman says:

    Man I love reading this blog!

    Brad’s idea above is unreal cool, imagine how blown away that client would be!

    All your docs on there too, sign with the finger, totally streamline your business… Great possibilities.

    At first I was unimpressed, now it’s on my birthday list. I don’t do birthday lists, because I never need anything.