The Killer Surprises Waiting for Steve Ballmer

| Hidden Dimensions

“We're making computers as easy to use as clothes dryers. And have you ever heard of a Maytag users group?”

-- Steve Jobs (1981)

Computing, as we know it is going to change dramatically over the next decade. A slew of new technologies, appliance computing, better security models, Android, and mobile computing will fundamentally change the nature of our computer experiences. All of this new technology is being formulated by Apple and Google, and Microsoft, with questionable leadership, is in a very poor position to react.

We often think about the steady progression of hardware technology and love to fantasize about what our computers will look like in, say, ten years. However, there is a more strategic and more important question to ask. Namely, how will Apple's shift, introduced by the iPad, to appliance computing change the mix and nature of our Macs? And what impact will that have on the basic design of a PC? After all, we know that the PC industry, while still dominant, tends to follow the lead of Apple.

iPad

There are several conceits that Microsoft enjoys these days. If one can figure out how to demolish those conceits, Microsoft will be placed in such a difficult position that even superb leadership would be hard pressed to cope with it all.

Here are some of those conceits that Microsoft enjoys in 2010.

  • A personal computer should have a monstrous OS with 50 million lines of code. A great deal of customization should be available to the users. It should have a lot of device drivers. It should be capable of generating content with various tools like compilers, Web design tools, CS4, and so on -- even though perhaps only one percent of typical users are able to understand and exploit those tools.
  • A personal computer should have a large complex OS that allows developers to create complex applications - which has the byproduct of unintentional security problems. The two together should paint a giant bullseye on the user, enticing people from all over the planet to steal data, identify, and CPU cycles. It should require a lot of time and energy to update and secure this OS.
  • A personal computer needs to have a complex, expensive Office Suite that only a few people can master. For the sake of compatibility with the business side, the same complex suite must be purchased, used at home, and wrestled with.

 

Appliance Computing

One of the things to watch for in a visionary like Steve Jobs is recurring themes. Remember the Apple ads from 1984 showing the original Mac being carried around in back pack? I even recall an ad showing it in a bicycle basket. That concept was premature, but the iPad, thanks to technology, may finally be able to instantiate Mr. Jobs' dream of the ultimate appliance computer.

 

The first appliance Mac

Mac in a backpack (1984): Credit: MacMothership 

(Never underestimate the lifelong dream of a first-rate visionary)

The move to appliance computing will not mean the end of the general purpose computer used to create videos, audio, art, ads, Websites, and applications. What it does mean is that the mix of computers will change. That will be a major disruptive influence on the PC business. Instead of 100 percent of the people being forced to use a very capable, insecure general purpose computer, only those technical people who need one will buy one.

That will have an adverse effect on the general purpose computer market as Apple -- and to some extent -- Microsoft wrestles with the move to tablet computers.

So instead of having the current categories of desktop computers and portable notebook computers, we'll have desktop systems for creating content, used by experts (5 percent) and appliance computers used by the rest of us. (95 percent.)

Even though those complex, Mac OS X-based computers will still be necessary, they won't be the big revenue generators that they have been in the past. This fundamental shift in how computers are designed and used will have a far greater impact on how our computers look in 2020 than simple, fanciful notions in artists concepts that show more of the same, just cooler looking.

Microsoft's Reaction to Appliance Computers

Microsoft has shown a special inability to develop an appliance OS. Just when Microsoft thought that Windows Mobile was the answer to the smartphone question, they have discovered too late that it's really the answer to the mobile appliance computer* question. And at this critical juncture in computing, Windows Mobile is faltering.

It's fairly clear that Apple has finally been able move into a position where Mr. Jobs' dream of appliance computing is hugely disruptive to Microsoft's conceits. Microsoft will now have to deal with the prospect of an appliance OS, not Windows 7, to compete against iPhone OS on the iPad -- something Apple has a ten year head start on.

Microsoft will also need to deal with a new threat: the promise of a more secure, less complex (from the user's standpoint) platform posed by the iPad and its descendants. I've seen first hand how the U.S. Government has struggled to lock down Windows so that users cannot possibly install software or change settings that would compromise security. What is the purpose of a complex, capable OS like Windows 7 being locked down so severely that one can only launch Office, prepare reports, and print them? 

Apple focuses on the consumer space and picks up low hanging fruit from government and enterprise. There will be a strong influence by Apple in those sectors, but most companies won't be willing to commit to Apple. Instead, they'll flop about, looking for an appliance OS they can hang their hat on. Is there one available? Is there a company out there that's building a first class, commercial appliance OS that's being tested now on smartphones but will find its way onto appliance tablets?

There is. It's called Android. With proper security measures, in-house development, and a rather more lightweight OS approach (there's that killer Linux animal, ready to spring again), Android will provide what businesses need to finally deliver their employees safe, secure, focused appliances, customized to their mission. It's the dream of the zero maintenance, thin client, reborn, and it's here right now.

Microsoft's Challenge

Faced with this dual threat from Apple and Google, what can Microsoft do? First, the Windows cash cow will be undermined. As government, enterprise and consumers move to friendlier, less expensive, and more secure appliance computers, the number of PCs that require an OS as complex as Windows 7 will start to dwindle. No longer will organizations and families seriously contemplate buying a computer that's capable of full content creation with complex tools. They'll be hunting for a slate that can be carried around and does only what they need it to do: browse, communicate, entertain.

As the demand for what we've come to know as the classic PC dwindles, Microsoft will be faced with not only building a better appliance OS, but they'll also need to radically modify another cash cow, MS Office. Just putting a complex equivalent on the Internet won't do. When people need to create presentations, they can't be schackled by their connectivity. Contrast that to Apple's delivery of Keynote, Pages, and Numbers on the iPad for just $9.95 each. Now we understand Apple's thinking with iWork on an iPad: a serious but inexpensive substitute that undermines the MS Office conceit.

Microsoft will have a lot of catching up to do. Its overly complex Windows 7 will seem increasingly out of place in a mobile, appliance based society. While the Windows family was uniquely designed to meet the needs of business in the 90s and early 21st century, the heyday of the desktop PC, it will face enormous pressure from the iPad, appliance computers in general (some with Android), and $10 productivity apps.

Even a skilled, accomplished and brilliant leader at Microsoft would be hard pressed to counter this new threat to the PC status quo.

______

Even the acronym spells MAC. I have also recently coined such a device a "smartbook."

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Comments

Gareth Harris

Well said, John. The change to appliance computing is similar to the shift from mainframes to personal computers. But besides general purpose apps like iWork supplied by manufacturers like Apple, there will be a need for lots of dedicated vertical apps [not merely games], just like the early programs on mainframes. Other vendors will supply apps dedicated to business operations, medical imaging, delivery trucks, warehouse putaway and picking and on-the-floor factory control. There might even be a “killer app” for the iPad. Visicalc Redux!

Many people are being distracted by discussing how geeks have a new toy in the iPad, but the real sleeper issue here is the availability and widespread interactive use of dedicated special purpose apps out in the workplace and daily life. For this use, a highly integrated,  unitized somewhat rugged platform with a simple user interface is needed - a breakout device, not insanely great but insanely familiar and user friendly. Is the iPad it? Maybe not, but it is a beginning and expands the path opened up by the Palm Pilot,  iPod and iPhone, Blackberry, etc.

clunker

Here are some of those conceits that Microsoft enjoys in 2010.

? A personal computer must offer several versions of the same OS.

??The OS must offer a modern 64-bit face, yet have a 16-bit foundation and 30 years of backwards compatibility.

? A mobile OS must be as bloated as its desktop counterpart.


2010 Microsoft is like 1980 General Motors: Very rich, very stupid, and living in the past.  Everyone except their own management can see what’s coming…

daemon

Microsoft has shown a special inability to develop an appliance OS.

John, the Xbox OS is a perfect example of an appliance OS. The Xbox has been a wonderfully successful appliance computer for Microsoft!

Woody

I think only a few people get the idea of appliance computing, and how the iPad is finally ushering in the new computing archetype. Instead, many are ranting that “it’s just a big iPod Touch” and kvetching about niggling details of the UI.

What John Martellaro wrote today is something that’s been swirling in the back of my head, mostly unformed, since last week. I’m happy to see it put so well, and that I wasn’t on the wrong track with my thinking.

geoduck

they have discovered too late that it’s really the answer to the mobile appliance computer* question

I think there’s a missing ‘not’ in this. Unless I’m reading the sentence wrong.
<<<<<<>>>>>>

There’s a train wreck coming for MS. Unfortunately even if there are people in MS that see it coming they can’t cut through the layers of pointy haired bosses. 

The biggest issue is not just that they keep putting out last centuries systems. It is that what they put out 3, 5, or 7 years ago is good enough. My company has no compelling reason to upgrade from XP. No compelling reason to upgrade from Office 2003. Microsoft’s biggest competitor is old Microsoft products. Apple and Google are going in a new direction.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I’m not sold on the appliance model replacing the general computing model. An appliance can replace a specific computing task for tasks that are well-understood and can be packaged in an economically competitive way. Apple TV would seem to be a fine example of what a successful appliance should do. It is one in my media center. The value add came well after I bought it with HD movie rentals.

For me, $225 or so from time to time is the cost of being a gadget freak. I don’t expect to be wowed by every gadget I buy. I don’t expect many of them to remain useful to me a year or two years from now. Appliances, however, are expected to have longer lives. Some examples…. I dropped about two large on some very cute red stackable front-loading washer/dryer a few months ago. I expect that they will work well for over 15 years, like the Maytags that preceded them. Coffee pots… For Christmas, we got the grandparents the low-end Keurig coffee makers. One of my grandfathers was still using the same percolator I remember his using when I was a kid. The Keurig will likely be his last coffee maker. I do not see a single computing device on the market today that, if purchased today, will be in use 10 years from now.

Back to Apple TV… It has not been a market success. It certainly won’t gain any momentum now outside of people who love Apple and appreciate Apple design. The same $225 can get you a Dell Zino HD. You can run iTunes and Boxee on it. You can even browse the web with it. Your kids can play games on it. Aside from being able to rent HD movies, it can do everything out of the box that an Apple TV can do. There are a plethora of software suppliers who will inexpensively (or freely) turn that box into something that blows Apple TV with FrontRow away. These suppliers are focussed on the content sources and the interfaces. It’s not just a hobby. By leveraging the low barrier to entry of a market standard computing platform, they can deliver the whole solution inexpensively while giving end-users the option to bale out or repurpose their hardware without much sunk cost.

To me, this “new” Apple approach (read Be, Inc.‘s IPO prospectus if you think any of this is actually new) is really the same old thing with the same results for Apple. They pick up a 5% - 10% niche in general computing space, maybe pick up a surprise hit with a throw-away device. The rest of the world develops a fairly standard platform that scales from slow and cheap to pricey and fast. Users can combine software and hardware to make their own solutions. Integrators step in to help the less adventurous. Just watch how the iPad plays out. It will be instructive to misguided whole widget proponents when Apple’s competitors ruthlessly undercut it with better, faster, and cheaper hardware that can be paired with software as users want.

aardman

@Bosco, the article didn’t say appliance computing will completely replace general computing.  It said for a lot of people, appliance computing will serve well enough but for power users like you, I presume, general computing will still be around.  Somebody has to write all those apps for the iPad and no that can’t be done on an iPad.

The thing is, a lot of people are over-equipped for their computer needs.  My wife has a MacBook.  Mainly though she uses it to view work related websites and to work on the occasional spreadsheet or report.  Plus backing up her aging PDA via bluetooth. The iPad has everything she needs.  She doesn’t write software, edit videos or photos.  She doesn’t burn to disk, download to flash drives, or fax documents.

I, on the other hand, edit a lot of HD videos and photos, plus some high quality printing.  I will always need OS-X, regardless of the appliance computing revolution.

As Mr. Martellaro said, it’s just the mix that will change.  The thing is, if households shift to this dual OS mode (own a full OS machine and an appliance computer), compatibility between the two machines would be a desirable feature.  This is where MS gets into trouble because if they are unable to crack the appliance OS market, then a lot of consumers might very well drop Windows in favor of the MacOS-iPhone/iPadOS tandem.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@tundraboy And what the “computers are too powerful for most people” narrative misses is that a fairly “standard” hardware platform will scale down and provide a better basis for an appliance-like experience than actual custom made appliances.

I know that most here are just Mac people. The most interesting segment of computing right now, however, is netbooks. They are driving a couple trends in application software. One is full screen or kiosk views, dictated by pixel real estate and small physical screen dimensions. The other is “touch overlays” for convertible netbooks. Basically large icon app launchers with built-in desk accessories. People want to use these devices like appliances, and the manufacturers are obliging. However, since they are WinTel underneath, users can customize for whatever they like. And they do all the standard WinTel things (like browse the web including Flash) right out of the box.

In taking a whole widget approach to iPad, Apple will fighting uphill against what Nobel Prize winning economist F. A. Hayek would have labeled an information and coordination problem. A dispersed network of competitors specializing in their own specialties within a market will outperform a centrally planned entity every day of the week. There is far more experimentation that goes on in the unplanned side of the market than on Apple’s campus. As such, there will be far more innovations (tiny as they may be) outside of Apple than inside Apple. Apple further stifles innovation within its own product space by actively precluding third parties from adapting its products or even plugging into them. This may work for the high end, but eventually price trumps bullshit. It is the story of the consumer electronics and computing industries, and it isn’t changing just because it’s 2010.

Apple will be credited with finally igniting the tablet space. A year from now, Apple will be seen as offering an expensive, locked in, proprietary system that gets refreshed occasionally while 90%+ of the market goes for inexpensive, flexible, and constantly innovating.

Jim

All of these articles predicting that the iPad will replace the general computer for a certain class of users ignore the fact that the iPad, as an iPhone OS device, REQUIRES a PC or Mac for backup/restore, OS updates and carrier network access. It is NOT a standalone device as currently configured. The tech specs for the device clearly state that it requires a PC/Mac with USB 2.0, iTunes 9, Mac OS X/Windows and an iTunes store account.

Nemo

The problem won’t be that enterprises refuse to commit to Apple’s appliance computer; the problem will be, as it has always been, that Apple won’t limit its innovation or compromise its taste in order to satisfy the requirements, the check boxes, for enterprise CIOs, while Google will be willing to compromise innovation and taste in its Android and Chrome OS to satisfy the CIOs’ check boxes.  Enterprises will favor Google, because of its willingness to compromise taste and innovation to satisfy their check boxes requirements.  Consumers will choose Apple, because it won’t compromise on its sense of taste, its relentless pursuit of useful innovation, on the quality of its products, and on its visions, its sense of where the puck will be.

If Apple sense of taste doesn’t fail it, if its innovation lead to the best user’s experience, and if vision of future is the most compelling, Apple will prevail.  It will be the competitor, whose response to market forces, defeats all others.  What Bosco doesn’t get, in his misinterpretation of Hayek, is that a lot of other competitors is only a threat if they too are competitive lions.  But, if they are only Lilliputians, chasing short-term profits by making the cheapest piece of crap that they can, which pretty much described the Microsoft ecosystem of OEMs, they are no threat to an innovator like Apple, Inc.

deasys

John, the Xbox OS is a perfect example of an appliance OS. The Xbox has been a wonderfully successful appliance computer for Microsoft

A “wonderfully successful appliance computer” that has racked up over $4 billion accumulated loss since introduction.

I don’t like your re-definition of the word “success,” daemon…

other side

I think only a few people get the idea of appliance computing, and how the iPad is finally ushering in the new computing archetype.

Which means the Lisa, Macintosh, Newton, eMate, iPod, and iPhone didn’t user in the new computing archetype?

Instead, many are ranting that ?it?s just a big iPod Touch? and kvetching about niggling details of the UI.

It’s a clumsy iPod Touch, complicated by an exposed file system and remaining dependence on a desktop PC.

To use an automotive analogy, the iPad is more 1910 than 2010.  While the iPad is a notable effort, we’re still a long way from a true information appliance.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Wow, Nemo and I are in full agreement (on his first paragraph). Do you know why people compromise? Because they realize deep down than nobody has all the answers. They distrust people who claim to. They know that sometimes, their wants and needs compete with and are even exclusive to the wants and needs of others. So people sit down and figure out what they really want and what they can do without so as to get along. You can be just like Apple and claim the mantle of innovation all you want, but if people won’t do business with you because they don’t want all the baggage, your innovation is but a bragging right. Meanwhile, companies that do compromise to get along will be bringing the things you claim to have innovated to the customers and collecting the checks. Nobody in the equation gives a crap about how innovative you claim to be. There’s no value in it.

John Elberling

the XBox a ‘wonderful success’? not a net money losing flawed hardware fiasco? not locked in a battle with Sony for second place far behind Nintendo?

that was satire, right?

take away the core XBox market of teenage boy Halo (and other war and gore games) addicts, and you’re left with buptkus.

John Martellaro

All of these articles predicting that the iPad will replace the general computer for a certain class of users ignore the fact that the iPad, as an iPhone OS device, REQUIRES a PC or Mac for backup/restore ...

I’m betting that will change over time—with new products from Apple.

Nemo

Does Apple have all the answers?  Do its innovation have value? Well, Apple certainly does not have all the answers, but it has had more of them than any of its competitors in all of its markets, except for Apple TV, and with respect to Apple TV, I advise you to stay tuned.  As for whether Apple’s innovations have value, I simply refer you to Apple’s gross margins, profits, and revenues, as set forth in its latest quarterly filing with the SEC.  Compare Apple’s financial results to the gross margins, profits, and revenues of its competitors in the markets for any of its products, except Apple TV, and you have incontrovertible proof that Apple has more of the answers than any of its competitors and that its innovations have more value than any of its competitors’ innovations.

Chandra Coomar

@Bosco
You are still missing the point on the iPad and conveniently glossing over some inconvenient truths about the netbook market.
iPad is for the ‘rest of the world’ who never ‘got’ computer either on the basis of life being too short for that kind of complexity, or out of simple fear of tech.
More than 30% of netbooks are being returned to shops by dissatisfied buyers.
iPad pricing leaves NO headroom for any competitor at the same quality level.
And finally, the most obvious point of all. That which is closed today can be opened tomorrow, if Apple sees good reason. And the change can come from a simple software upgrade.
iPad can have an extended useful life through upgrades. Just as original iPhones remain useful today.
I think you are may be one of those who are fearful of change and yet change is all around us. We live in a perfect storm of change and it is only going to become more intense. But it may also get a lot simpler too. And iPad is perhaps an example of that most useful of things - the inexpensive adaptable tool.
Why would I want or expect my iPad to last 10 or 15 years? At the price, 3 to 5 years is good enough value for most people. Even then, there will be secondary or tertiary uses for it.
My Macintosh SE 30 is still working fine, with the original system battery too, which I flat-out do not understand. It has lots of moving parts. iPad has one or three. Why should it not last as long then?
@John! You did it again Sir! A fine article. Thank you.

melgross

@tundraboy And what the ?computers are too powerful for most people? narrative misses is that a fairly ?standard? hardware platform will scale down and provide a better basis for an appliance-like experience than actual custom made appliances.

Bosco, what may be forgotten is that the OS that the iPhone/Touch platform is using, and the new iPad platform will be using in a more sophisticated form, IS OS X. It’s stripped of everything that has no function on these platforms, but it is indeed the OS from the high end that’s been adapted for this use. So you are getting what you want here.

You are also making assumptions about wigitizing the platform that aren’t true. The iP/T platform hasn’t wigitized it, and neither will the iPad.

They are more specialized. It is true! That’s what this entire thing is about.

With most people buying a computer and not buying much more software except for the game here and there, plus perhaps Office Student/Teacher edition, and then only using Word, why do they need a fully open, complex system? Other than being used to buying one, and being told by those selling them that they do, they don’t. Besides, this will be able to accommodate other software. They will be able to do everything that they can with iWork and eventually, iLife.

This first edition isn’t intended for use alone, though it could be used that way. Later, bigger models will likely be intended for stand-alone use.

When that happens, perhaps a couple of years from now, then its possible Microsoft will be in trouble. They have no OS that’s equivalent to this. Win Mobile is just a phone OS with extensions. Can Windows be shrunk down the way OS X was? Who knows? If it can’t be, then MS will be forced into developing yet another OS, and how long will that take? Will companies write software for it? How long will it take for HW companies to develop products around it? How far ahead will Apple, and perhaps Google be at that point in time?

geoduck

Those that discount the future of the iPod forget that the original Mac was very primitive by modern standards. It was a game changer with one floppy drive, no network, no hard drive, and the OS had to be on the floppy with your application and documents (or you had to swap floppies back and fourth. It was exceedingly primitive. That’s where the first version of any new paradigm starts out. The iPad is missing many things, but over the next 5 years it will grow and evolve.

BTW John, I reread the line I questioned above. This time I got at what you were saying. I was wrong about the missing word. My Bad.

However I disagree that WinMobile is the answer to the mobile appliance computer question. I don’t think it’s the answer to anything. It’s a lousy OS looking for a purpose, or at least waiting around until someone puts it out of our misery.

John Martellaro

BTW John, I reread the line I questioned above. This time I got at what you were saying. I was wrong about the missing word. My Bad.

Happens to the best of us. 

And amazed no one caught any typos! Phew!

ilikeimac

After all, we know that the PC industry, will while still dominant, tends to follow the lead of Apple.

Oh you want us to comment on typos?

Nemo

John:  Your typos and other infelicities of style are no yet so numerous as to indicate that your progress to the river Styx is imminent, so I wouldn’t worry.

SciArt

If anyone ever desires to benefit from our significant body of knowledge regarding information appliances gained from substantive research and development 20 years ago… yep 2 decades, just reach out and we’ll be glad to oblige.  For a a glimpse, see pdf download at this link… still cutting edge stuff in many respects… and this was years before the “www”....

http://www.pollentransport.com/2010/02/the-coming-of-appliance-computing.html

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Chandra… I love how anyone who see’s through Apple’s utter BS regarding the magical iPad is now labelled as someone who doesn’t appreciate what the (stupid) regular people struggle through with computers these days. Look, I have many friends and family members who really don’t get their computers. Most of those are PC users, a couple of Mac users too. So Bosco, why don’t you hand down one of your Macs to the confused PC person? Hell, you’ve even got a few Intel Macs that are doorstops these days. Because it would confuse and irritate them that something they thought worked like such and such no longer works that way. It might even work better or actually even work, but since it changes their world, it’s not an upgrade to them. They get by with what they’ve got the way they’re doing things just fine. They’re not hurting anyone and they’re not even terribly inefficient at it.

If you really want to improve their lives with computers, do it incrementally. Don’t start a friggin revolution and call everyone who poo-poo’s it a power user elitist who just doesn’t get it. As someone who everyone asks for help and advice—that more often than not, I just don’t want to give because they already know what they really want to do and just want to be able to say “but Bosco thought this was a great plan” when everything goes to crap—I know that the most important part of tech advice is to assess how much the asker wants their world rocked. Usually, it’s not much.

And the conservative incremental approach that most people adhere to is actually really good for them. It means they don’t get duped big time by black hole technologies. It means they can usually repurpose investments in technologies to things that better suit their needs.

Look, if the iPad is a pretty but pricey foto frame that can browse (some of) the web in a pinch, fine. Good luck with that. If it or anything like it is going to revolutionize computing, you’re gonna need way more crack for your crack pipe.

Dean Lewis

That’s very cool, SciArt! I can’t believe I spent my formative computer years in the 80s and I don’t remember the Cornucopia. Nice.

As for the naysayers on the iPad, appliance computing, and all things making information easier for the masses (whether they be techies who need a larger-screen quick access device or non-techies who want email and internet in their hands), there is an old saying: Lead or get out of the way.

John Martellaro

Oh you want us to comment on typos?

Yes. Personal e-mail is best—unless you want everyone to be confused by your public comment—after I fix it.

melgross

Wow!, talk about elitist!

Don’t take my sophisticated PC away from me. Is that the line you’re using to convince us Bosco?

Do you really think that conventional computers will ever get to the point that people who aren’t computer literate, but who use them anyway will feel comfortable? I also know plenty of computer users who aren’t professional, and who have little idea of what they’re doing. I get calls constantly about the smallest things. That’s from both PC and Mac users, though the PC calls are more frequent from those same people.

I feel confident that many of these people would leap at the chance to get something that is simpler, and easier to use, and is locked down to the point of not having to worry as much about getting virus’s and other malware.

You should put your crack pipe down for a minute and stop looking down at everyone. You seem to be afraid of the iPad and what it represents. That’s too bad, but it won’t change anything for everyone else.

kevin

Netbooks are still too slow in starting up (even from sleep) and too slow to play HD video without stuttering. Will the next Windows update make them faster?

“A dispersed network of competitors specializing in their own specialties within a market will outperform a centrally planned entity every day of the week.”

How do you explain away iPod/iTunes/accessories?  If your answer is the incompetence of Microsoft, then that’s why netbooks aren’t going anywhere either.

kenaustus

I’m starting with a basic premise that the iPad will be very similar to the iPhone in terms of success and continued development.  Especially with 140,000 apps already waiting for it to hit the shelves.

The challenge I (and other consumers) face is finding the best balance of computers/devices for the home.  I can see the iMac as a central computer for some projects, like photo editing. Then a notebook for mobile computing if there is a lot of typing, or large data needs.

Where we use the iPad in our home (or life) is something that will develop - just as it did with the iPhone.

joeldm

I think what Bosco misses is the part of the Windows equation (and I assume that is the model he is representing) that includes viruses and spyware, incompatible drivers and updates and reinstalls that hang-up halfway through.

Most people are not geeks. I know because I fix PCs. Most people HATE dealing with computer problems and see them as useless wastes of time that they must endure to use a computer to do basic things like answer email, type letters and download photos.

“Scaling down” to a nearly worthless netbook does nothing to ameliorate these issues. Barebones netbooks still run full-blown OS’ with all the frailties of their bigger brothers. And please, please, PLEASE don’t give me that BS about Linux! Yes, it’s a great, secure system . . .for geeks.

It’s not a real solution. I’ve installed Ubuntu in the last few months for clients who took a recent warning from their banks NOT to use a Windows computer for online banking and it was brutal. Ubuntu, despite how far it’s come is NOT ready for prime-time. You cannot give someone a PC and a copy of Ubuntu and expect a happy result.

But what you may be referring to is the raft of tablets that will probably be released over the next couple of years that will run Linux in some flavor as the Android phones do. And they will get better, but they will all be about 1-2 years behind the iPad and lack the infrastructure, the appliance-supporting infrastructure that Apple is so very good at and already has in place (along with those millions of credit cards in the iTunes store).

None of this stuff exists in a vacuum. Geeks look at specs, my neighbor Betty just wants to check her email. There are more Bettys than Boscos. Bosco can make all the claims he wants about how you can “geek” your way to the same experience, but Betty’s eyes are just going to glaze over and go back to her iPad and look up “Stockholm Syndrome” to explain why people STILL continue to abuse themselves daily with Windows!

JoeL

Joe

@Bosco “Users can combine software and hardware to make their own solutions.”

Apple isn’t targeting people who can or desire to “make their own solutions.” The majority of consumers don’t want to learn how to navigate the modern computing OS; just like the millions of people who love their user-friendly cars without tweaking it. They just want it to work even if they don’t know how it works. They want to get to a destination as hassle-free as possible every time they get behind the wheel. They want their driving experience to be pleasant.

Apple is taking that same approach to computing. The iPad takes the “computing” out of the computer experience. Apple figured out the computing needs of the non-techie majority and created an computer appliance for them.  Right out of the box…

Jim

Why is Apple’s brand character and product development approach so terrible and frightening to some people? How does the iPad harm the Free World? Where are the storm-troopers rounding people up and forcing them to buy the thing? Why is creating and offering a choice that departs from the conventional wisdom so offensive?

And isn’t the iPad simply a “conservative and incremental” step up from the iPhone/iPod Touch? I hear a fair number of people might actually be buying those gizmos, so I would cautiously submit that the platform might not quite be a “black hole technology.” 

If the argument is simply with the coverage Apple gets, why blame Apple? They have not paid for a single pixel of iPad coverage in the media. It seems that people have an interest in writing about and reading about their products. It would also appear that some of those products have been successful over the past 12 years, because I doubt that this level of unpaid media interest could be sustained if the majority of observers (no pun intended) despised their products.

“Don’t start a friggin revolution,” indeed. Please God, don’t allow people to even consider plugging an iPad into their Windows 7 boxes! There’s nothing worse than choice, and only a certain few, special oracles know which questions deserve an answer.

Tech Watch

Poor Microsoft.

Ballmer still doesn’t understand.

Microsoft is just in the process of changing the name of its OS from ‘Windows Mobile’ to ‘Windows Phone’, when it realizes that it will be needed to run on more than phones.

Microsoft’s next mobile OS, ‘Windows Phone 7’ will fail. Microsoft, in a desperate move, will buy RIM (BlackBerry) for $34 billion, precipitating the collapse of Microsoft. Handset OEMs will be shocked at the deceit.

Apple is one step ahead of the Taiwanese OEMs. It priced the iPad as a loss-leader, to undercut below what is profitable for OEMs to make a copy device. Acer has already cancelled its ‘slate’ plans.

Jim

On the other hand, I would just, again, caution the over-enthusiastic that the iPad as currently spec’d cannot function as a standalone replacement for a Mac or PC, and requires a Mac or PC to use. So “Betty” will have to own a complicated old computer in order to use her easy new one. I’d save the “revolution” talk until Apple starts shipping suitable ammo.

geoduck

A corollary:
Once upon a time all cars had manual transmissions. Then automatic came along. “Real” car guys (and I include myself among those) still want to change gears by hand. Meanwhile a heck of a lot of cars are sold with automatic transmissions because MOST users just want the car to go somewhere. For them it’s the destination not the trip.

The iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch environment is like an automatic transmission. It’s locked down, takes care of itself, and for a lot of people will be just what they have been hoping for to get to a destination. For those that need or want to jam gears manually, there will still be OS-X, Windows, or for the real hard core Linux. For some of us (speaking as someone who installed Linux on my iPod just for the fun of it) the trip is as important as the destination. But we are increasingly atypical. Most users don’t want to see the computer, they just want to get somewhere.

melgross

Jim, I’m not so sure this is true though. Its something we’ll just have to wait to see. It seems as though having a “regular” computer will certainly make things easier, but with 64GB storage, and a way to print, depending on what you want to do with it, a separate computer may not be required, even in this early stage.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see what developers come up with to this end.

geoduck

but with 64GB storage, and a way to print,

Add to that a connection to a cloud system for file storage, MobileMe etc. and IMO most people will be happy.

melgross

Well, it has Safari, so a lot of that should be possible.

We just don’t know enough yet.

James

This is what surprises me-everyone’s profound inability to be forward thinking. Make no mistake-this is the direction we’re heading in. The hardware will catch up and features will be added that round out the functionality. It doesn’t matter who is releasing the products, we have already begun to shift in this direction, and it will only continue to build steam. Just wait and see where we are a year from now. wink

I’ve shared it before and will again: they said the same bloody things about the Mac (with it’s GUI and mouse, and yes I know the tech originated elsewhere), the iPod, and the iPhone. Nobody knew what the hell to make of any of these products at first (go watch the original iPod event on YouTube. That was definitely greeted with a gigantic “Meh.” in the beginning, or the reactions to development on the iPhone prior to the first SDK hitting the streets). It’s the farther reaching arc that is exciting, and I think this piece hits that in all the right ways.

Tech is only going to get simpler and simpler. Our inner geeks may hate that idea, but I really do believe eventually it’ll be as much an invisible afterthought as the gears inside a wristwatch.

Jim

@melgross:

Well, I guess it depends on your definition of “required.” Apple has posted Mac/PC requirements on this page:
iPad specs

...so you will at least need a Mac/PC with iTunes to get the thing up and running. And unless there is a change in the OS update process yet to be announced, you will have to download iPad OS updates through iTunes on a Mac/PC, same as for an iPhone or iPod Touch. (Which is very sensible, because if your iPad had no Mac/PC backup to restore from and an over-the-air system update went south, you would be royally screwed.)

I suppose you could make the lifestyle choice to go through the hoops necessary to live with nothing but “the cloud” as backup, but at this stage of the game, that would require a lot of user intervention and setup that contradicts the notion of the iPad as an “appliance.” And I’m not “Betty,” but I would prefer to have a simple brick on my desk to which I could back up everything on my iPad, rather than be solely at the mercy of a plethora of cloud provider sites, servers, and a wireless provider connection.

I personally think that the iPad we know about today, in combination with a desktop machine, is an intriguing alternative to owning only a laptop. Time will tell if Apple intends it to be anything more. But why the rush to proclaim that Apple is trying to eliminate the Mac/PC when it has stated no such thing? They have clearly stated that they are trying to create a third category of device which will coexist with PCs and smartphones.

Lancashire-Witch

I?m betting that will change over time?with new products from Apple.

Is this a private wager with Bosco? 

John, We haven’t got our hands on the iPad yet, and you’re alluding to more new products. Not another rumor, please.

This reminds me of the oft repeated User’s lament that I first heard in 1965. - “Yes, very good; but what I really want is the next version/release/phase (etc) .....”

But I’m a ‘user’ now, and so I say that getting rid of the ‘USB sync’ will be a major step - and I can’t wait.

melgross

Forst of all, I’d like to say that I’m not one who had confidence in the “cloud”  as a backup solution. At least not at this time. But there are those who do.

As far as getting it running, OS upgrades and such, yes, it seems as though a computer is needed. But it’s also possible that a computer isn’t needed on a one to one basis. Meaning that one computer could be used for several iPads. Multiple accounts and such. We’ll have to see. But if thats true, then it’s already a step away from needing one computer, one iPad. Perhaps a household could have four iPads, and one cheap computer for backups and updates.

Jim

@melgross:

As far as getting it running, OS upgrades and such, yes, it seems as though a computer is needed. But it?s also possible that a computer isn?t needed on a one to one basis. Meaning that one computer could be used for several iPads. Multiple accounts and such. We?ll have to see. But if thats true, then it?s already a step away from needing one computer, one iPad. Perhaps a household could have four iPads, and one cheap computer for backups and updates.

Yes! That’s the scenario that I see as possible right now, and which I haven’t seen alluded to elsewhere.

melgross

Since we can have multiple accounts in iTunes, I thought it was obvious. But I haven’t seen it written about anywhere else.

furbies

If anyone ever desires to benefit from our significant body of knowledge regarding information appliances gained from substantive research and development 20 years ago

The Cornucopia looks very pretty. but I’d hate to have to lug it about with me…

I too see the iPad as an iPod touch/iPhone on steroids, but there are more and more apps for the iPod touch/iPhone/iPad every day, and if Apple develops the device technology & OS, perhaps we will see a convergence between the desktop and the handheld develop.

I used to own a WinMobile device, but binned it as soon as the 64GB version of the iPod touch appeared. I know the WinMobile devices have more customisation and the user can download & install apps from anywhere, but the twists & contortions I went through trying to install them was horrible. Even being able to tell if a particular app would install, let alone run was a pain.

Maybe Apple is a little draconian in the eyes of some regarding where & how users can download and install apps for the iPod touch/iPad/iPhone but at least it’s all in one place and Apple has made it easy to use.

Just my AU$00.02 cents worth.

Saw

Microsoft?s next mobile OS, ?Windows Phone 7? will fail.

Cool. How do you know this? Are you from future?

Saw

Today is 10 Feb 2010, I would love to see where the iPad will be 1 year later.

melgross

As far as Win Mobile 7 is concerned, if the rumors are true, which, hopefully, we’ll know by the 15th, MS might be making a big mistake.


After bragging for over 2.5 years now that Win Mobile is better than the iPhone OS because it offers multitasking, and that the ecology is better because you can buy programs for it anywhere, they seem to be going in the opposite direction and copying Apple again.

As people here have likely heard, the rumor is that 7 won’t have multitasking, but rather notifications, a la the iPhone. In addition, there will be an app store, with all programs going through it. Supposedly, programs for 6 might not work on 7. So they will be starting from the beginning, unless old programs will work through an emulator as they do for the Palm Pre and Pixi. But they will be crippled if they do.

If these things are true, it’s rather odd. With Apple possibly going to multitasking in 4, they would seem to be going in opposite directions again. Remember that Jobs said the iPhone/Touch would multitask as soon as Apple found a way to do it that wouldn’t shorten battery life too much, or slow the device down. The next phone, and possibly the 3GS as well could be it. If so, then possibly the iPad could get it then as well. And let’s not forget that they DO multitask, its just not available for programs that aren’t supplied with the phone yet. It hasn’t been all or nothing.

Anyone here use Win Mobile? If so, what do you think of this idea?

One other thing. There has been much call for a “Zune Phone” in the tech press. While the HD has gotten good reviews, and the software is much better than the earlier models, it still isn’t selling, with estimates of no more than 1 million sales in a year, again. I can’t see how two products, both failing, can come together to make one successful one. It doesn’t happen. That’s from experience in business with two of my own companies for over 35 years. I’ve seen a lot happen, but I’ve never seen two unpopular products merged, even with major upgrades, to become one big seller.

Soured

@geoduck

I own a ‘64 Ford F-250, a ‘53 Ford Panel Truck, a few Toyotas (none under recall); ‘88 FJ62 LC and ‘98 Tacoma), a Dodge Sprinter, ‘64 Norton Atlas, ‘73 Bonneville, ‘53 Thunderbird (Triumph), ‘67 Honda 65… automotive analogies don’t work here. Akin to dismissing a motorcycle because it has no trunk, prone to bad weather and only 2-wheels.

Automatic tranny when I want, speed when I want, shifting slow and deliberate or mindless putt-putt. Face it, as much as you want to see a failure, welcome to the world of (the equivalent to) paddle-shifting.

BrentW

LOL. Yeah, just what users need. A dumber device that they can’t customize and with poorer apps. Sign me up. I’m sure Mac users will want to trade in their Macbooks too. Not.

Steve W

Apple will be credited with finally igniting the tablet space. A year from now, Apple will be seen as offering an expensive, locked in, proprietary system that gets refreshed occasionally while 90%+ of the market goes for inexpensive, flexible, and constantly innovating.

Sounds like a win-win situation. If, in a year from now, Apple is selling 10% of the units and collecting 20% of the revenues; then you will be happy, while Apple cries all the way to the bank.

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