When I heard about the iPad I knew something right way: there are going to be a lot of people who want one of these—but, I wasn’t one of them—why would I want a big iPod when I have a laptop that will do everything and more that an iPad will do? I thought that people who use their computers to check email and look things up once in a while would be the only ones who wanted an iPad.

Then I tried one…

While I’m still not going to rush out and buy one (seeing as I’m living on a student budget and all) I’ve changed my mind. While I was sure that this product would be big with a lot of people, I didn’t think that people in certain jobs (software developers, journalists and writers, business, people who need real computers) would have a real interest in them. I was wrong. Everyone will have one of these in the near future.

I’m not limiting my prediction to the iPad. Apple’s products aren’t going to disappear from the marketplace, but there will be other big competitors (I personally think that Android will be quite popular). No, the future won’t be limited to the iPad, but everyone will have a tablet computing device (probably multiple) in there homes. What I’m not entirely sure on is whether we’ll have other computers as well.

If the technology stays about the same as it is then us programmers will need a desktop or laptop computer and a laptop in addition to our tablets, but the technology could evolve so that all anyone needs is a tablet and a bluetooth keyboard. All most programmers would need would be a good online IDE as good as Eclipse and we’re set. The good news is that there are a few online IDEs out there (coderun.com, ideone.com, ECCO) they just have a long way to go (but then again Eclipse has a long way to go too).

While that could be what happens, I don’t quite see it working out that way. While most people could use their tablet for all of there needs, programers need their screen real estate. When I was using the iPad to surf the web the screen didn’t seem too small. On the other hand when I program I never feel that I have enough screen space on my 13in MacBook, theres no way I’d have enough space on a little 9.7in screen).

I think this is how it will work out: Most people will own one or more tablet machines. People who do a lot of art work, writing, architecture, programming, etc. will have a desktop and/or a laptop as well. I wouldn’t doubt it if many homes had some sort of media server in their homes. Web servers, application servers, and mega-computers will stay were they always have where they’re needed.

Overall, the era of the PC as we know it (with desktops and laptops) is over. Tablet computers will rule the next era.

What do you think? Are tablet computers the next big thing or are they just a fad?

I had a similar experience. I didn't think the iPad would really make sense to have when I already have a iphone and a desktop. But then I tried it. And now I've ordered one. While your concerns are valid about the lack of screen size to program on and perhaps lack of processing power for professional use, I have a few other considerations. 1. A very large portion of what everyone does every day on the computer, (including programmers) can be done online, or with the ipad. Don't believe me? Try going without the internet for 2 days. With my short experience with the ipad, I found that it is the most natural, most fun way to do the 90% of things we use a computer for. 2. Another part of the puzzle that I think people don't think about is Cloud Computing. The time is rapidly approaching when all of your content, files, everything, will be accessible from any computing device or mobile device anywhere. This is already true to an extent. This is going to grow to the point where its not just files that are shared in the cloud, but the whole user interface and user interaction will be transferable from device to device. What do I mean by this? Take your concern about screen real-estate on the ipad. Imagine being able to wirelessly "dock" the ipad with a much larger display in your office, or even your HDTV in the family room. To move what you are working on to the larger display, you'll simply toss it up there - with - your - hand. Devices will become much more aware of each other and be able to interact just as they should, without you having to connect them. 3. Processing power. As a professional video editor, 3D animator, I'm the first to realize that I can't really do those things on my ipad. But the day will come when that won't be an issue. Devices will use the cloud to handle intensive processing. Much like how the upcoming service "www.onlive.com" will allow you to play awesome games on low powered hardware. People say the ipad is just a large ipod touch. What they don't realize is how important the "big" part really is. The reason the iphone wins in my opinion is not because of stupid little things like multitasking or front facing camera... It wins because of its killer responsive multi-touch screen. This tech is amazingly more awesome on a larger screen like the ipad. People don't think about it, but that's the point. I will never buy another phone that you have to fight with to learn and navigate its crappy interface. And while android has made some great progress - every android phone I've tried does not match the UI experience on the iphone. Anyway sorry for the long comment.
Mark Richardson on 2010-04-23 10:18:06.0
I actually haven't handled one yet. I think I might have to now. You and Mark both mentioned real estate. We use applications that were developed specifically for desktop-sized screens. When I open some applications on my 13" MacBook, it is immediately evident that it wasn't intended to be used on a 13" screen. Applications just have to be re-worked, that's all. Look at iWork for the iPad. It was developed specifically for use on a 10" screen using nothing but your fingers for input. From what I can tell, it looks very well done. Other applications can be re-worked using the same paradigm shift.
Devin on 2010-04-23 10:47:31.0
Mark, I would love to live to see the day where all of our devices are truly connected. I also agree that the cloud can handle all of our "heavy" processing and I hope in the future it does. One more thing, I completely agree that multi-touch is exceptional on the iPad and you notice the difference. I'm still rooting for Android, but you're right, Apple is the only one who is really doing multi-touch right at the moment. Devin, you make a good point. An IDE could conceivably be geared to a smaller device. At the moment I still have my hesitations about a smaller screen, but if someone does it right, even programmers could do without a large screen.
mahon on 2010-04-23 11:10:55.0
As a writer, I have to say that while I think the iPad is cool, I don't think it's practical for my field. I type up to 150 words per minute - there is no way that I am going to be able to replicate that on an iPad. I am also not going to haul an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard into Starbucks every afternoon to type my novel... too awkward. So I do think that for people who need a) heavy use of a keyboard and b) mobility and flexibility, a laptop will still be the best bet.
Cindy on 2010-04-23 13:36:39.0
All good comments. Devin, you make a good point. If applications are designed for the device, especially a touch screen device, screen size may be less of an issue. It's a shift that should happen along with rethinking development for touch input. Cindy, that is a valid point about the keyboard, but In my opinion, carrying the keyboard dock along with the ipad would be no more hassle than a laptop. Every laptop I've owned you have to carry it's power adapter and find a plug. With a 10 hour battery life on the ipad, I'd gladly carry the keyboard over a power supply.
Mark Richardson on 2010-04-23 14:44:09.0
I have to agree with Mark on the keyboard thing. Hauling a 1.5 lb device and a 8 oz keyboard is lighter than a laptop, but with the iPad + keyboard, you have the option to go keyboard-less. It is the ultimate mobile computer.
Devin Baldwin on 2010-04-23 17:44:50.0
I agree. Plus the added benefit of the thousands of apps that you can't get on a laptop. And Multi-touch. And apps. And did I mention multi-touch?
Mark Richardson on 2010-04-23 17:55:37.0
As a side note.... I used Pages on the ipad while I was in the apple store. I've always loved pages on the desktop because it lets you place an image wherever the heck you want, unlike Microsoft word. Well pages is even more amazing when you can move and manipulate images in a text document WITH YOUR FINGERS. Such a cool and natural feeling.
Mark Richardson on 2010-04-23 18:01:50.0
I really liked using Pages on the iPad too. I admittedly was a little confused at how I should open a new document (or close the one I was on) but then I remembered that you can turn the iPad around and I just knew what I should do. Also, I thought that I wouldn't like typing on the iPad because it wasn't a "real" keyboard, and while I still find it easier to type on a tactile keyboard, it wasn't that bad.
Mahon on 2010-04-23 20:48:01.0
[...] Terms of Use « The Future of Computing [...]
tuesdayDeveloper; » Blog Archive » Microsoft’s Future on 2010-04-26 09:09:11.0
[...] a Mac, buy a PC, use Linux, buy a granite boulder and chisel it out to look like a new computer, I’d recommend getting or waiting for a tablet computer, but really, it is all up to your preferences what is best for you. If you don’t know much [...]
tuesdayDeveloper; » Blog Archive » Get a Mac … or a PC on 2010-04-28 13:27:47.0
[...] laptop, or (at the very minimum) a netbook. I’m not willing to recall my opinion that tablets are the future, but I have to admit that tablets aren’t the present, but there aren’t many things [...]
tuesdayDeveloper; » Blog Archive » How do we Replace Computers? on 2010-05-11 17:05:33.0
[...] my computer desktop is nearly always empty. I think that Google will be able to use this in a tablet device that would be really easy to use and intuitive—but it wouldn’t be cluttered—at all! If I [...]
tuesdayDeveloper; » Blog Archive » Will BumpTop “Bump” the Competition? on 2010-05-18 07:43:22.0