At a dinner outing this weekend, I was discussing with some friends the ways in which Apple and Steve Jobs have managed to continue chiseling out the portion of the electronics and computer market that they hold. I mentioned that I own a PC with Windows Vista, and I connect it with my Motorola Q9c so that I can take all of my business with me. I regularly feel like I am using some archaic form of communication, like all of the people around me live in a world of the future with super fast devices, slick applications, and devices with no keyboards or clunky input ports.
My friend empathized with me, but then said that Jobs had gotten a little to big for his britches this time with the ipad. He mentioned that no one was going to want to use it because there were no input ports, no place to insert a CD, no way to really use it as a laptop. This is not the first time I have heard that comment, and mostly I hear confusion from people who have no idea what Apple is trying to accomplish with this new direction. I mean, there is already a tablet PC, and it rules that market, so why try to carve out a piece of that territory? What is the point of taking on a whole new direction?
I am not a computer expert (obviously, with my “archaic” equipment) but I am an above average computer user and I use my technologies regularly in my day to day activities to keep my self up to date and organized. I like the innovations of the last decade, and I utilize the benefits of that innovation whenever I can. I have not converted to the Apple equipment because I am not comfortable with it. I just know Windows and I don’t want to suffer the learning curve of switching to the iphone or the Mac or itunes (though I would probably still use Media Monkey anyway).
One thing that happens to me, though, as it does to many proficient or even average computer users, is that we begin to look for more open source programs that can make our life a little easier with Windows. Many times, that takes some work to get them just the way that we want them, but more and more programs like Mozilla Firefox, Open Office, Media Monkey, and the Google virtual buffet of applications offered without charge are complete packages that we don’t have to fool with much after we download them.
Even open source operating systems are more accessible these days, and I have been on the brink of dual booting my laptop with Ubuntu several times out of sheer frustration with Vista. All of this does beg the question: “Where is the new direction in computing?”
I have mentioned before that I am a victim of wireless fixation, and always have been. From the time I begged my parents for a radio controlled car to my recent conversation with my wife about making our projector television wireless so that I don’t have to use the VGA cable anymore, I love to lose the wires. From WiFi to Bluetooth to data packages on cell phones. If you ask me, that is the new direction. less mechanism, less wire. In other words, no longer do we need to insert a CD in a disk drive. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have actually used my disk drive in my laptop anyway. If I need a driver for my printer or a song from an album, I am going to download it. I want the path of least resistance.
And that, my fine feathered friends, is what Steve Jobs is giving us. For too many years the industry has been dominated by software development as the innovative element. The problem is that Windows is no longer innovative. They just add layers to the old product, making the newer versions of the old software cumbersome and mostly obnoxious. Apple is using hardware as the push mechanism for innovation in software.
When Windows Vista was launched, computer manufacturers had to make their new hardware fit the monstrous new software. When the ipad gains steam, there will be innovation to spare trying to make the device more and more interactive and user friendly. This is not in the same market realm as the PC notebook or the tablet PC. It will not replace those pieces of hardware.
Imagine, though, an interactive touch screen computer that runs on your wireless network or your 3g network, with a 9.5″ screen and essentially a limitless possibility for software. You don’t need a CD input – all of you music is already there and the music you want is just a touch of a button. The applications are computer ready – there are no drivers. This is innovation. This is my virtual straw that breaks my virtual camel’s back. I am on my way to the land of the Mac enthusiast, and the chances are that I will see you there someday. Maybe not now. But someday.
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Also, there is a great article from CNN Labs on 12 things you should know before buying.