The rise of the tablet, the cloud and ubiquitous computing

There’s a great article in the April 2010 issue of Wired that spends a lot of time talking about the Apple iPad and the paradigm shift created by the development of new technologies like it. The author does a nice job of not only looking at the fantasy like love affair everyone has with the iPad, but also the reality of what’s not perfect about it and where other aggressive competitors can take advantage and drive the tablet market even further.

One part of the article I found particularly interesting was a comparison between the strict Apple-centric vision of computing and the open less stringent vision of Google’s. “In some ways, Chrome is even more radical than the iPad. Spawn of a pure Internet company, it is itself pure Internet. While Apple wants to move computing to a curated environment where everything adheres to a carefully honed interface, Google believes that the operating system should be nearly invisible. Good-bye to files, client apps, and onboard storage — Chrome OS channels users directly into the cloud, with the confidence that the Web will soon provide everything from native-quality applications to printer drivers”

My vision of what computing should be is more aligned with Google than Apple. Saying good-bye to the desktop wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit. With the new age of mobility in both the consumer and health care markets it’s time to let go of the idea of the desktop and move on. I grow more confident with the cloud based computing approach as I move more and more of my daily routing toward that environment. Sure, I’ve had a couple of bumps along the way, but who among us can’t say they’ve had problems with a piece of hardware or software during their life.  Overall the benefit of moving from machine to machine without the need to copy or transfer files has been great.

With that said there is one thing that needs to be addressed before Google’s vision can become a reality: how to handle production when there is no internet access. This is the battle cry for those opposing a cloud model, and the argument has some teeth to it. For example, I’m composing this blog post on my Dell tablet PC using Microsoft Word 2010 beta during my flight from Phoenix to Atlanta for the unSUMMIT. Without the use of a some type of word processing client I’d be jotting this down on a napkin.

Applications like Dropbox have shown me the way; store items locally on the device for fast and easy access with a cloud component for synchronized use from anywhere. Now all we need is for Google to create some form of desktop office productivity suite to help us when we can’t connect. Gears was ok, but it’s going bye-bye.

The article in Wired makes it clear that the iPad will help revolutionize the tablet industry because of its physical design and target use; simplicity and consumer entertainment. One side effect of the design interface is the inability to use it in a truly productive fashion. I’ve seen it written in several places that the iPad is great for consuming information, audio, video and text, but not nearly as good for creating the same information. While in Seattle last week I saw a Talyst Executive with an iPad and decided to ask him how he liked it. He basically said what I’ve already heard; it’s great for light work and reading, but not great when he wanted to be “productive”. He believes that will change as the iPad matures and developers create more robust software. I find that interesting as the technology to be productive already exists and is sitting right here in front of me. I mean, c’mon, even though the keyboard is considered outmoded it’s still pretty darn effective for typing.

I still think one of the greatest devices on my yet-to-be-invented list is a MacBook Air tablet with a 10” or 12” screen. Such a tablet would deliver the stability of the Mac OS, be light weight, compact, have great battery life and offer that productivity that everyone is looking for with the iPad. I’ll probably never see such a device because Steve Jobs would consider it an abomination of his vision for the future of computing, but I can dream.

I love Apple hardware, including the iPad, but I still have a need for a keyboard and mouse. And as long as I need those things the tablet PC will be my workhorse. I hope Microsoft will get off their duff and begin rolling out something new and exciting in the near future. Unfortunately with the death of the Microsoft Courier project and the HP Slate I’m not optimistic. Here’s hoping that Google, or some other entrepreneur, can succeed where Microsoft and HP have failed.

2 thoughts on “The rise of the tablet, the cloud and ubiquitous computing”

  1. Remember, the iPad let down is from people with the wrong expectation. It’s a consumer device, and it’s fitting the niche it was built for. Reading books, surfing the internet, watching movies and listening to music. It definitely wasn’t built for writing novels, but it could be great for artists.

  2. Yeah, I hear what you’re saying, but you can’t tell consumers what they can and can’t do with a piece technology. So to that end it has failed some expectations regardless of what it was designed to do.

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