It Doesn’t Make A Damn Difference What You Call The iPad

We geeks love the nuance of our geekiness. We debate the merit of things like blog comments at length (or more likely ad nauseam). We overanalyze our iPhone’s mute switch. And now we have turned our obsessive need to categorize onto the iPad, questioning if it is a personal computer or not.

As Terry Lucy puts it:

So here’s my definition of a personal computer:

A Personal Computer (PC) is a device that one can interact with seamlessly. A device that can store memories, media, books, TV and film for the user to consume on-demand. A device that the user can create and share their own content from. A personal computer is a device that is easy to use for anyone. […]

When Apple released the iPad, I would argue that it actually released the first, truly personal, computer.

And that’s a truly remarkable point1, but as Patrick Moorhead argues:

The way technology is headed in the future, calling the iPad a PC will set precedence that will only lead to even more confusion and misinformation. […] Let’s stop classifying the iPad as a PC, it only serves to confuse people.

My thoughts… who gives a crap? We need to stop obsessing about what we call the device and focus on how we use them. People are going to gravitate toward the device that best suits their needs. For a filmmaker, a desktop is likely the most personal. For a writer, it could be a MacBook Air. For a college student, the iPad is likely ideal. For a person on the move, the iPhone might be more personal than them all.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call the device sitting upon your desk, on your lap or in your pocket. It matters what you do with them. We are quickly getting to the point where several of the things in our lives could be classified as personal computers. When it comes to everything from our desktop to our phone, these devices are inarguably computers. As to the personal nature of them, well, that is up to us. When it comes to classifying our devices, their names are irrelevant; the only things that truly matter are our needs and the ability of our tools to meet them.

Don’t get me wrong, the introduction and impact of the iPad are important, as Shawn Blanc2 rightly points out:

It’s fascinating that such a small and inexpensive tablet device actually has a shot at replacing someone’s large and expensive desktop computer. But what else is fascinating is that the device and the market are less than two years old and people are already starting to make that transition.

The impact matters. The distinction is a waste of time.

If you truly want to know how personal a device is, go make something with it. Test its limits. Hell, test yours. See what you can accomplish. You’ll quickly know if what you’re using is personal, a computer, or better yet, both.


  1. I’m not being sarcastic, that actually is rather remarkable.  

  2. Note: Both of the quotes above also came from this Shawn Blanc article.  

12 Responses to It Doesn’t Make A Damn Difference What You Call The iPad

  1. You’re right, it doesn’t matter if we call the iPad a PC. PC is a clumsy and inaccurate term. What it means for most people is “that beige box full of interchangeable components that let’s me get on the Internet.” 

    Those of us who have been in the tech industry for more than a few years understand why “personal” is so important. Computers use to be big, sit behind glass walls, and be ruled by technicians. A computer of my own, controlled by me, was a revolution. 

    The revolution continues. What the computer looks like is different. 

    • You know what… I’m going with your definition…

      While my earliest memory of a computer was the personal variety (Hello Apple ][gs), it’s always been about the relationship to the device rather than any official definition. The dust is far too unsettled to figure out what is and what isn’t at this point.

    • And I’d argue that my iPhone is far more a personal computer to me than my iPad. We all have a different definition and the official one is dated. Hopefully we don’t have to spend or watch people spend a month debating it :)

  2. Yeah. It only matters that it’s awesome and has improved my productivity dramatically. I thought you were talking about the actual name “iPad” and that reminded me of what my sister, who hates Apple for absolutely no reason, said when it came out. Direct quote: “I hope Microsoft comes out with a tampon.”

    If I’m lying I’m flying.

      • Yeah, once I saw the next generation in person, they could have called it a shiny purple boo-boo and I’d have been fine with it. I’d walk right into the store and say “I’d like to buy a shiny purple boo-boo” with a straight face. What the conversation turned into for me was the fact that the first series didn’t multi-task. Now that I have one, I cant even imagine going back.

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