What is good technology?

I had a few moments to kill before a doctor’s appointment, so I went to the mall next to his office. At the mall was an Apple store, and in front of the Apple store was a huge line. I asked the guy at the front of the line what he was waiting for. “The new iPad 2 is here,” he replied. (I resisted the urge to snicker, “What a dork.” Especially since I once waited overnight in line at a Black Friday sale a couple years ago.) It got me thinking about what kind of technology is so good that people would wait outside a store for it on a Tuesday morning.

The iPad does qualify as one of those good technology products. It was everywhere at the WritersUA conference I attended. People used them to take notes, check email, and do a little Web browsing between sessions. The advantage of the iPad is that you can do all these things while walking around. You can hold it in one hand as you swipe and tap with the other. I brought my laptop with me, but I had to find a place to sit and take a moment to open the lid before I can use it. I also had to be near a power outlet, because my laptop only has a 3 1/2-hour battery life. An iPad’s battery can last 10 hours, so you can use it all day without bringing a charger.

The iPad is good technology because it’s useful. It makes it easier to do the things you want to do. It’s also less expensive than competing products. Costco currently has a competing tablet computer on sale for $579, but you can buy an entry-level iPad for $499. Sure, some of the competing products may have more features and better specs, but price does matter.

It also shows that good technology isn’t necessarily the best technology. There are plenty of products that had superior technology, but failed. (Just ask this heartbroken former Amiga user.)  When products are too expensive, too complicated to use, or just don’t serve a clear purpose, they’re not good technology no matter how advanced they are.

Good technology is useful technology. It helps people do what they want to do more easily and cost effectively. So, if companies spend their money to make their products more useful and affordable, they can have people waiting in line on a weekday morning for it as well.