Jun 13, 2011

The Future: Now in Tablet Form

There has been some debate between myself and @atomicpoet about whether or not Apple somehow has killed the WIMP interface, or the “window, icon, menu, pointing device” paradigm, with their iPad tablet system (and maybe iPhone & iPod Touch). Of course, I’m playing Devil’s advocate with this debate because, just like the Devil, I always have an Ace up my sleeve during the game.

Yes, I believe Tablets and touch interfaces have a future, but at the same time I am not likely to say that the classic WIMP paradigm is going to die either. After all, who was the first person to write their entire book solely on their iPad2? That would be computing suicide simply for the lack of ergonomics involved with using the on-screen keyboard.

Of course, @atomicpoet then later informed the world that getting a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad is a must have, and I replied asking if he was getting the wireless mouse to go with it. I know a wireless mouse doesn’t exist for an iPad, because there is a lack of pointer on the tablet. However, despite this, just like any PC with a touch screen (HP anyone?) you’re going to find out quickly why having a wireless mouse when the Tablet is docked is a good idea.

Having to constantly reach your arm out and tap, swipe, zoom, pinch, etc on your screen in front of you to use the interface when you are also using the wireless keyboard is going to make your arms tired.

Besides, I was told by a very reputable person (Steve… something or another) that Laptops and PCs didn’t do anything well and that Tablets simply did everything well. Except, apparently, the whole keyboard thing… or probably the whole "copy your entire music and video collection to the paltry internal storage” thing. And when you hook up that keyboard to type, doesn’t it seem like you’ve essentially just reverted your “Magical” Tablet into … a half assed, underpowered laptop computer?

Well, except for the lack of having a mouse… which you’ll realize that you need after a few hours of reaching forward to interact with your docked tablet in a now completely non-ergonomic and tiring way. Like I said, I fully believe Tablets have a promising future, but like most things, they aren’t the end-al to be-all solution for the advancement of our technology.

I get the idea that they are a touch screen, and the interface is brilliant for a touch screen. But this is assuming they remain a touch screen for the primary input under the premise of a mobile computing device. The moment you begin to realize that you need to start adding peripherals to the tablet device to make it more productive, you also must realize that it’s a glorified LCD screen meant for mobile access on the go. I call this “short attention span” computing, where everything is pretty much broken up into a quickly digestible bite.

It doesn’t really do anything better, except under the premise of providing “apps” which are essentially short for “applications”, and I’d wager that “apps” is actually an excellent metaphor since these are programs which are scaled down into short-term attention span snippets and not really constituting fully robust “applications” as you would see on a full out computer. Maybe I’m wrong about this… but I somehow don’t expect to see GarageBand or Photoshop running on an iPad anytime soon.

For one, the storage on these tablet devices simply doesn’t allow it, and if you’re dumb enough to “rent” space in the cloud to make up for the fact they screwed you out of storage to begin with, then you deserve to lose your money (suckers). Secondly, the internal processing specifications is paltry compared to your actual laptop computer or home computer. Third, and foremost, these damned things are expensive appliances – they aren’t upgradable.

There is a solution to this collective brain-fart we call “marketing hype”, which also coincides with the crux of my argument.

Did it ever occur to anyone that the future is neither Tablets nor WIMP style computers, but a Hybrid of both? You know… a laptop where the screen detaches and becomes a mobile Tablet (however limited in ability) but then when docked to the Laptop itself, becomes much more powerful (1TB Hard Drive, 8GB RAM, nVidia Graphics Chip, etc)?

Remember, a Tablet is just a fancy touch screen. Imagine the 17” LCD screen on your laptop today, and if it could be undocked from the laptop and instantly become a mobile Tablet.

Presenting: The Future


Lenovo IdeaPad U1 hybrid notebook

Seeing this picture gave me an epiphany as to why Windows 8 is being designed as a hybrid Tablet/WIMP Operating System. With Windows 8 running on a hybrid notebook like the one above, Microsoft would be able to tout a computing environment that truly “just did everything” and leaving iPad owners feeling pretty stupid for shelling out $699 for a device that is paltry in comparison.

I’ll have a Tablet one day, and I guarantee it. But mine will dock to a gaming laptop that will empower me to actually get some serious work (or play) done. My tablet will play Crysis 2 when docked, and you will tell me about the next iteration of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja.

I’m not against tablets, but I believe they are an intermediary technology at best. A stepping stone to something much more powerful, but on their own aren’t anything to be excited about aside from the part where I say “I can’t wait till they become my screen on a laptop so I can dock and undock”.

I don’t know why we, as self-proclaimed rational thinking people, are acting as absurdly stupid as we are. We’re being easily conditioned to accept less and less for the same price. $699.00 for a device that comes with 64GB of storage? Have we lost our minds? Being told “more storage and power aren’t everything” and actually believing it is making me lose hope for the future of humanity.

I have a portable hard drive that fits in my pocket and gives me 1TB to keep my files. Hell, the internal hard drive on my own laptop is 500GB and puts the iPad2 to shame. To make up for the intentional storage screwing that you’ve already taken, Apple will soon be offering cloud storage and 5GB free, but anything more than that will cost you a rental. I have more storage than what Apple is offering you in my left pocket of my jeans right now – in the form of an 8GB USB Flash Drive.

Seriously, you’re dumb enough to rent storage space to make up for the fact that Apple fsked you over intentionally. We’ve been reduced to drooling idiots, apparently. You can’t even do what you want with your own purchased device, as the App Store will confirm. There is a reason people are constantly trying to jailbreak these devices.

I’m not an Apple, Microsoft, or Linux fanboy by any means. I just look at what “just works” for what I need to do. Apple is too totalitarian about their computing ecosystem for me to ever bother, Microsoft (while not perfect) gives me at least some level of control over my computer, albeit not nearly as much as Linux would. Windows, to me, is a comfortable middle ground.

But aside from that, Tablets alone aren’t a solution. In fact, they don’t seem to “just do” anything particularly well – other than sucker you out of money constantly and deliver less of everything as a result. So I suppose Apple has made the ultimate technology… one which they convince their customers that paying $700 – $900 for a tablet, that is essentially the same price as an entry level laptop many times more powerful, is acceptable. Oh, and also a walled garden under the rule and authority of Apple and only Apple called an App Store. You’d think Steve Jobs hated Open Source or even third party developers.

I think the future is in the Hybrid Tablet/Laptop running Windows 8, to be honest. It’s the best of both worlds, and would run just about every single existing Windows program on Earth out of the box, which makes the fabled Apple App Store a minority bragging right at best.

Don’t even get me started on the Kindle or Nook. My books don’t need batteries and are never “leased” or “licensed”.


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