Apple’s “Verse” Ad Claims the Humanities, Delineates the iPad Line

So the first thing that’s notable about the new iPad “Verse” ad is not just that it’s a reinforcement of the Steve Jobs line about Apple being about the intersection of technology and the humanities, but that it outright claims the territory in its entirety. The iPad, this ad tells us, is the Humanities Device. Other tablets and mobile devices will have all manner of specifications and gimmicks – be it native stylus integration, feature parity with a traditional laptop, an emphasis on office and productivity, etc. – but the iPad is for “poetry, beauty, romance, love,” or, at least, the expression of those things through technology. It’s kind of a bold mantle to claim, especially to do it so overtly. The iPad is for creativity and living, all the other devices are just computers.

The second thing that strikes me is that this is not an ad for iPads generally, but specifically for the iPad Air. The iPad mini is not mentioned, and while I couldn’t quite tell from the fast-cut footage of the ad, I presume it wasn’t shown.

So what’s that about? Is the Mini not about poetry and beauty? Apple could have ended the ad with only the word “iPad” in the final text, but it chose specifically “iPad Air.” Now, okay, this could be for any number of banal reasons: the iPad Air is a newer brand than the Mini and so needed the extra marketing push; the Air is more available from a production standpoint than the Mini, so Apple wants to sell more of those sooner; or, who knows, maybe another ad in the same vein is coming for the Mini.

But I think Apple make these weighty statements of the company’s values without broader intention. More generally, I think it builds on the momentum of the “Misunderstood” ad, reinforcing Apple’s brand as one where technology and human emotion are complementary. But for the iPad line specifically, I think it confirms my own feeling about the differences between the two models, that they have different strengths. The iPad mini, though in many ways the technological equal of the Air, is simply not big enough to take full advantage of the platform’s creative powers. By mere dint of having a smaller screen, it’s more difficult to make stuff with it. The Air, however, with its big display, its lightness, and the fact that it’s almost too thin, begs to be a tool for creation.

On the other hand, the Mini excells as a casual consumption device, and I mean that in the best way. In my original review of the Air, I characterized it as a “zen device” which is easily and comfortably available to do the things I want to do on a computing device, as opposed to what I have to do (as I might on a laptop or smartphone). In many ways, because of its diminutive size and weight and Retina display, it’s arguably moreso that kind of zen device than the Air, if what you choose to do with it is lose yourself in a book or browse the Web or the like.

But if you want to then use a sketching app to illustrate your impressions of said book, well, you’re better off with an Air. If you want to experiment with a song inspired by the book, or type out a long form critique, or edit video of the video podcast review of the book, the Mini is not your best choice. To use the metaphor of Apple’s ad, the Mini will let you read a lot of verses very comfortably, and more easily and in more places. The Air, however, is the pen you’ll use write your verse.

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