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iPhone mums take the lead

'iPad Fem' by Chris JohnstonGobsmacked; that's how she felt.

My 23-year-old co-worker is no stranger to consumer technology. She packs a MacBook and a touch screen mobile phone, has an iPod stacked full of music and can happily lose an entire night to FaceBook. But one morning last week, two mums and a dad — all in their 40s and 50s — put her to shame with their passion for new technology.

The moment came when my co-worker and I bumped into a woman I knew who had recently bought an iPhone. Having just acquired one myself, I asked her how she was finding it.

The woman's enthusiasm was palpable. Launching into an excitable endorsement of all the software 'apps' (applications) she'd installed, we quickly began comparing phones and app lists. Immediately, one of the women working at reception (another iPhone convert) was leaning over the counter and passionately joining in the conversation.

When I finally turned back to my co-worker, the expression on her face was unprecedented; a mixture of disbelief and displacement. Not only did she feel socially excluded for not having an iPhone, but she was also 'weirded out' by the experience.

'Older people aren't meant to be into technology like that', she pronounced over coffee.

Her comment was a turning point in my thinking. I was once again reminded of the incredible impact Apple is having on personal technology. Over the last few years, Apple has managed to combine sexy device design with simple tactile user interfaces, popularising the way people engage with technology, in a manner that feels intuitive and anything but technological. More aptly put, Apple is creating 'human' technology; changing our lives, organising them, connecting them to others.

It should come as no surprise, then, that women are one of the fastest growing consumer groups of Apple products. According to various surveys conducted in the US late last year, women now comprise 40 per cent of the iPhone user base, with 29.5 per cent of all iPhone users being 'iPhone moms'.

Next month, the iPad launches in Australia. Essentially a jumbo version of the iPhone, the device will be roughly the size of an A4 piece of paper and allow users large screen interactivity with broad-range connection to the internet.

Think of it this way: this is the laptop that's not a computer, and at your fingertips (literally) will be the ability to watch videos, read the latest novels (even physically flip the page), play games, sell things on eBay, write emails, track your daily calorie intake, check your FaceBook profile or use any one of the 100,000 apps already available for the iPod or iPhone.

The techno-elite are still picking apart the details, focusing on the device's limitations, but I believe, in time, the iPad will redefine how people in the home interact with technology. This is especially true of people like my wife, who 'hates computers' but can already see herself with an iPad in her hands.

It's the beginning of true couch-based computing. With an iPad, the internet will be just two button presses away; the family budget will be an app, fully integrated with online banking services; the bookshelf will become digital, as will the daily newspaper or latest issue of Who Weekly; shopping lists will be created, sourcing what's on special at the local supermarket; family photos will be sorted and shared (in between television ad breaks); take-away meals will be ordered through a free app, updated with the latest menu and deals.

Where this ultimately leads us is both frightening and exciting.

On the one hand, Apple is creating a framework for the meshing of technology and the home in a way no other company has so far been able to. And, if the iPad becomes the success I believe it's capable of, we open our families and homes to being governed by a proprietary-driven structure. In the short term, at least, Apple may become to families what Microsoft is to businesses.

The flip side is a potentially radical change in audience mix and a new direction for technology. With the iPad's accessibility it's likely that women will make up an even larger percentage of the user base. The result will be more apps and programs written with them in mind and, as a consequence, women will, more than ever before, steer future technology along new paths. Applications might be much more about the family, day-to-day life, connecting services to the household and empowering and entertaining the entire household.

Apple has proven with the iPhone that they can turn middle-aged mums and dads into app-toting techno-evangelists. With the iPad, that potential is even greater.

Perhaps, a glimpse of that future comes from my own wife.

'What I want', she tells me, while we're watching TV, 'is an app that would let me enter something into a calendar on the iPad, which would then automatically show up on your iPhone calendar. That way you could never forget anything I need you to do.'

Hmmm ... on second thought, maybe we should hold off buying that iPad next month.

Drew TaylorDrew Taylor is a game reviewer and features writer with The Salvation Army's National Editorial Department. 

Topic tags: drew taylor, ipod, ipad, apple, app, app store, itunes



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Existing comments

Disturbed that this reads a little like an ad. Are there any downsides to these products (please don't assume I'm a technophobe!)? What about the economic and class exclusions arising from the costs of the products and their operation? What is implied by your comments about 'proprietary-driven structure[s]'? Aren't you patronising women as well? I expect more of a critical edge from Eureka Street.Enjoy your enthusiasm, though.

Frances | 09 February 2010  

The app looked for at the end of the article already exists, it's Apple's MobileMe.

Robert Kenny | 09 February 2010  

So what the hell is the big deal of downloading an "app"?

Is it like opening a book, as compared to writing a book?

Hey I'm not a "Mum", I'm a grandpa, I make photographs in a darkroom. It's a little more tricky than hitting a download button on the latest "app" but more satisfying than sucking on someone else's creativity.

Ross Chambers | 11 February 2010  

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