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Techie Talk: iPad Discussion 2.0

Last week I wrote about how Concordia would be giving an iPad to every Concordia student next fall. While my column was part of the annual April Fool’s edition of the Discordian, there was a significant amount of truth to my words.

The reality is that not too long from now, you’ll rely on your tablet as much as your personal computer. It will become yet another piece of technology that is so intimately tied to your daily routine that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

When PCs (and later laptops) became commonplace in every American home and business, people had to learn how to use them. Most people didn’t even know how to type effectively before the personal computer. There were other things too—the screen’s graphical user interface, the mouse, and the concept of software—that were all completely new concepts that were profoundly unnatural for people at the time.

I’m not sure we ever got over that. Still, there are some people that just don’t get computers—and I don’t blame them.

So, why did personal computers become what they are today? That’s easy—the capability of the computer outweighed its learning curve. But overall, they’re still tougher to use than they should be.

That’s why tablets have a niche. They’re the easiest things in the world to use and do many simple computing tasks undeniably well.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a two-year-old name Bridger. His dad had videotaped him using his iPad. He had learned how to successful navigate the device to paint pictures, watch cartoons, and read a simple picture book. As Bridger’s tiny fingers navigated the tablet, it became obvious to me that this would indeed be the future.

And there are many other tablet-toting toddlers like Bridger on YouTube now, too.

There’s more than charm when it comes to tablets—they’re real devices that may very well outlast the desktop personal computers we’ve known for so long.

Apple’s marketing department sees them as the future. They’re referring to them as “post-PC” devices—and for good reason. Last year, the maker of the world’s most popular tablet—with an astonishing 90 percent market share—sold 15 million of the devices.

Even Steve Wozniak, the engineer who created the first mass-produced personal computer sees a bright future for tablets. He recently compared them to the television, saying they’re mass media consumption devices for everyone.

“[The iPad is] for the normal people in the world,” he said.

I’d have to agree with him.

For years software companies have progressed technology by adding more features and more capability. The tablet takes on a much different approach because it does a few things very well.

For instance, the simple task of checking email on a personal computer is often a lengthy task. Wait for your computer to start up. Launch a web browser. Type in the URL of your email provider. Type your username and password. Finally, you’ve reached your inbox. It’s a simple task that simply takes too much time and is unnecessarily complicated for the fast-paced world of today.

Tablet devices have a different approach. Turn on the tablet. Open the mail application. It’s impossibly easy.

The bottom line is that tablets are extraordinarily fast and easy to use to complete routine computing tasks—both qualities that will enable them to challenge the existence of personal computers.

It’s a bit premature to call for the death of personal computers, but I’m confident that funeral isn’t too far off.


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