Wednesday, 1 February 2012

are we living in a post-pc world ?

yesterday I tweeted a link to a Guardian article by Jean-Louis Gassee about how the rise of the iPad means we may be living in a post-pc world.

JLG used to run product development at Apple, helped run BeOS and later had a major role with Palm so his opinion probably both matters and is based on some considerable industry experience.

It's undoubtedly true people want iPads. Not Android tablets, even though they may have a similar end user experience but iPads. We can argue about why this is so but people want iPads.

The consequence is that a lot of the applications development focuses on developing for the iPad which has a ratchet effect meaning the iPad has by far the largest software base out there, be it for new house searches in Sydney or whatever.

This has some interesting side effects. Consider you favourite newspaper application. This of course actually pulls content using http from the newspaper's content management system and displays it. No website or browser involved. The newspaper may front end it's content management system with a website (or sites - the Guardian now has a UK and a US website with differing content) - but the website is just another delivery mechanism.

Equally take a look at the Guardian on Facebook - it's an app displaying content and you could just about imagine a scenario where Facebook became simply an application or plugin multiplexor, just as iGoogle could evolve into an application portal.

What we can conclude from the iPad and Facebook experience is that people like apps more than browsers and that people like iPads.

Apple controls the app store through iTunes, a service it honed during the iPod era, and thus potentially controls access to content. Your tablet's browser of course provides a escape hatch to this expansive but walled garden.

What is also apparent is that the chromebook has been less than a resounding success. While it is possible to do most of your day to day work (email, write drafts, meeting notes, surf, blog etc) with a browser alone the applications don't feel as rich as a desktop application and don't have the attractiveness of a tablet app.

Much as I like Google docs, a local wordprocessor gives a richer experience. What using Google Apps gives is pervasiveness - access your content from anywhere  with any browser.

A superficially persuasive model for education - give the kids chromebooks and let them connect to moodle and wikipedia - but not the moment they need to write something serious or create something. A chromebook is simply a stateless ookygoo - great for travelling, but unlike the ookygoo (or any other netbook or lightweight laptop/ultrabook) dependent on the internet to be more than a kilo of gubbins.

So are we living in a post pc /post browser world?

It would seem so. That doesn't mean that we won't still have things that look like personal computers around - we will as long as we need to write letters, email things, run presentations, hack code and anything else that creates files and stuff but these will go back to being work tools.

iPads and their descendants will be what we use at home and recreationally. We'll use them to watch movies, read books, share photos and listen to music - I've already seen real people - tourists outside Old Parliament House - using an iPad to take photos of each other.

Browsers will still exist, but increasingly they won't be the prime content access mechanism for mainstream content - the stuff everyone uses like newspaper websites, wikipedia, youtube and the rest and become something a bit specialist for searching and accessing information.

So we'll end up with a screen full of icons, each of which do some special thing - just like in Windows 3.1 ...


Arthur said...

I think we'll use them at work too. Already most of the senior management here use ipads extensively. It's not quite at the point where they can use only an ipad but it's not far off.

Give the ipad3 the ability to drive an Apple Cinema display and, used with an external keyboard and mouse, it could easily be an only computer.

dgm said...

It's quite interesting - you see these little Android netbooks from China every now and then - they give you a lot of the core functionality (email, web, basic text processing) for around a hundred bucks.

The only real difference in cost between them and a tablet is the cost of the capacitive screen. It's also kind of interesting that you can get resistive screen tablets for something between $150-$170 in China. Given the way Chinese script works using a stylus for text input/recognition is probably fairly intuitive and natural feeling ...