The future of tablets, operating systems and innovation

TeachPaperless: A Prediction: What Platform Will Be Running on the Tablets in Your Classes?


That’s my prediction. Here’s my rationale: Windows 8 has been designed especially for touchscreen computing. Windows is the overwhelming winner in the enterprise market. Major PC manufacturers from HP to Dell are re-evaluating their business in a post-iPad world. In the short term, no PC company is going to catch up to the iPad. And the Kindle Fire will soak up much of the remaining consumer market for folks who just want to watch movies and read books on a tablet.

Although this article is aimed at the future of tablets in the classroom, it has deeper undertones. The author predicts that Windows will rule the day, but also states that "in many ways it’s a ludicrous prediction". I don’t think it’s ludicrous at all. Over the past 12-18 months I’ve attempted to replace my Win 7 tablet PC with an iPad, an Android tablet and an HP TouchPad. They serve a purpose, but none of them have come close to allowing me to leave my laptop or Win 7 tablet at home.

I’ve met many people that argue that an iPad or Android tablet can be used to replace a laptop, but there’s always a caveat. I recently traveled with a guy that told me his iPad has now replaced his laptop, yet he carried his laptop. When I asked why he told me that he did a lot of “spreadsheet work” and the laptop was better than the iPad for that particular function. Of course the laptop was better because the hardware and software are designed for that type of work. Duh!

What people are really doing is trying really hard to force the iPad and Android tablets to take the place of other machines. I find that funny, really funny. Often times the effort to use the alternate device in place of a laptop requires more “work” than the work they’re trying to accomplish in the first place. It’s not rocket science I know, but the concept eludes many.

Ultimately people are fickle. They’d rather be in style with the latest gadget than simply get the job done in the most efficient manner possible. And that’s just the way it is.

I recently read a very interesting article about the decline of innovation. In it the author states that “In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems—climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation—like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.”

I  happen to agree with the sentiment. We’ve reached an interesting crossroads where style has overtaken function, and it’s disturbing. I remember using a “DOS” version of a popular pharmacy information system (PhIS) when I entered the workforce as a pharmacist. While ugly and not intuitive, it was highly functional and fast, very fast. I could do things in that environment that many systems can’t do today. As that particular PhIS was updated, form overtook function and the software eventually became more of a hindrance than a help. Oh, it was “pretty”, but it was slow and required a lot of “mouse clicks” where previously there were none.

Something to think about the next time we declare some piece of technology an innovative leap when in fact it’s nothing more than lipstick on a pig.

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