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What the iPad's two-year-old-friendly interface means for developers, publishers and the world

By now I would hope you've all seen the amazing, adorable and humbling video of a two-year-old interacting with an iPad for the first time. If not, go watch it now (it's after the break, too).

In just five minutes I had my entire world view shift; I started humming Children of the Revolution; I got to pondering the possibilities of a future where babies interact with computers before they learn to walk. You won't ask about a child's first word -- it'll be about a child's first click. A report just in from Gartner predicts that, by 2015, 50% of all computers bought by under-15s will have touchscreens. Gartner cites the 'iPhone phenomenon' as the starting block, but I'm sure the iPad will be the nail in the coffin for dull, mouse-driven interfaces.

You see, like guns, computers are equalizers -- you only need to master a few tactile movements to use a gun, or a computer. Once on a computer and behind the anonymous veil of the Internet, age, appearance and background are inconsequential. When I was 13, I would parade as a 20-year-old in chat rooms; no one was any the wiser. Will we begin to see children, via early exposure to technology and increasingly easy-to-use interfaces, parading as adults?

In fact, how can you even define what an adult is or isn't? In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on computers, and thus motor skills that do not require physical maturity, how do we draw the line between child and adult? With the barrier to entry of mouse and keyboard manipulation removed, and no sensible way to tell young or old apart, where does that leave us?

This is an interesting problem for almost all levels of media production and consumption: how do you tailor your content when young humans are exploring computers, and thus the Internet, from the age of two? If Apple can craft a UI that a baby can use, will other vendors follow suit, or simply ignore a huge number of 'early adopters'? [hah!]

Seriously, I have no idea if Apple's intention was to revolutionize computer interfaces for the next generation -- the Children of Cyberspace -- but if the iPad takes off as both a toy and educational aid, Apple may have just struck gold. Again.

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Tags: apple, children, children of cyberspace, ChildrenOfCyberspace, future, gui, ipad, iphone, kid, user interface, UserInterface

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