I know how you can get a free iPad. It’s easy; just buy a $60,000 Hyundai Equus.

In a recent article in USA Today, Korean car company Hyundai says it will scrap the user manual for its new, top-of-the-line luxury automobile, the Equus. Instead, they’ll provide an interactive “app” on a free iPad (watch the commercial). The article goes on to say that many luxury car user manuals are as long as 1,000 pages. Now, I know you’re thinking this is a cool application for the iPad, and it is.

But first – 1,000 page long user manuals? Really? Are you kidding me? Who in their right mind would put up with that? No wonder we can’t figure out how to run the gizmos in our cars; the user manual overwhelms us. Its size and complexity (not to mention its incoherence in some places) frustrates us. When we can’t operate the navigation system or the entertainment system; when we can’t connect our cell phones or understand what all the “idiot lights” mean, we call for help. From the dealer or company’s perspective, repeatedly responding to inquiries, on the phone or in person, is very costly and a drain on productivity. As automobile sophistication goes up, the ability to explain it goes down. This pushes customer satisfaction down and drives company costs up.

To counter this trend, Hyundai’s move to shift the user manual to the iPad is brilliant. Not only is the iPad-based manual more illustrative and interactive, but e-Learning modules, knowledge bases, video demonstrations, discussion boards, social media, and other interesting techniques can be used. And, if Hyundai is smart, they can update the manual on a regular basis, including having more-focused help where customers are most perplexed.

This illustrates a new and important area for integrating e-Learning, mLearning, and performance support. It’s where we need to go to and a strategy we need to master. That is, identifying a problem – learning or performance – and then thinking differently about how technology can help. The iPad as user manual is not a knee-jerk reaction like throwing training at any problem, no matter what the cause. Neither is it a more conservative solution like simply rewriting the manual and putting it online (although I am sure most manuals would benefit from a review by someone who can actually write well). It is, in some ways, transformative; a complete rethinking of just what user support can and should be for the operation of an automobile (and, literally thousands of other products could benefit).

I wonder though, who came up with this idea? Was it a training or performance professional? Did it emerge from the e-Learning group, or did Apple suggest it? Perhaps Hyundai engineers thought it up … or the marketing team. Maybe it was a customer idea. I’d like to think that someone in our field put the idea forward, but if not, that’s OK. I hope that ideas like this will inspire us all to rethink what we do.

As neat as this idea is, I do have some thoughts for Hyundai to consider, so i hope they're listening ... 

  1. I love the iPad, but Hyundai, why didn’t you just build the app directly into the navigation system or put it on a system-compatible DVD? OK, perhaps those weren’t practical or “cool” enough ideas for some reason. So let’s move on.
  2. According to news reports, you’re giving customers an iPad with WiFi but no 3G. I understand you don’t want them to pay for connectivity, so I hope your entire app is loaded onto the iPad. I would hate for someone with a flat tire to have to get on the Web for a solution when there is likely no connectivity available.
  3. I love the idea of an iPad in a glove box (wait a second, there’s a car with a practical glove box big enough to hold an iPad? What will they think of next?). But you know people will not keep the iPad in the car. They’re going to take it into the house and their kids are going to play with it. So you’re out in the middle of nowhere with car trouble, but you left the iPad on the kitchen table. Now what? Perhaps Hyundai might have a fallback solution you could keep in the car. I know – how about a book? Just kidding … sort of.
  4. In the unlikely event that the iPad is in the glove box when you actually need it, I would certainly recommend that Hyundai provide a car charger.

All kidding aside, the iPad as user manual – or user performance support – is a great idea in so many ways. So Hyundai, can I have one? You can decide – the iPad or the car.