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The New Desktop

The regular readers of this blog may recall that a couple of post ago I refereed to the iPad and the new class of tablet computers (based on mobile hardware rather than desktop hardware) as couch computers, and while I still think that, I have done some thinking and researching on how consumers use computers and I believe and the tablet market may be bigger than we first though.

We thought that the initial market for tablets wasn’t that big because, as geeks we assumed people would have and continue to use desktops and laptops like we would. However I have seen that consumers don’t use desktops the way we would. We have desktops so we can do anything that potentially pops into our head. But the normal computer user doesn’t do a lot of content creation beyond simple word processing now and again. Most of their content creation is done at work where they have a computer provided for that purpose. While at home even though some consumers do work at home on a PC or Mac, more often than not a PC, it is not their preferred computing method. Many consumers are just that, consumers. Most of their home computing is about consuming information and interacting with friends and this isn’t something they want to do sitting at a desk. A desk feels like work, consumers want to lay upside down on their couch if they want to, or have their computer with them when watching the big game to keep better track of the stats. For the consumer the PC is just to clunky and not user friendly enough, where as using the iPad, love it or hate it, feels like magic. I have to agree just looking at it it feels more like the future of computing than the concept of the PC. This leads me to believe that these new tablets could very well be the new desktop, or more accurately the new home computer. People who have old desktops with XP will upgrade to an iPad or other tablet rather than pay 500 or more dollars for something that they still have to worry about, for something that’s still chained to the desk, for just a shinier version of the same old, same old. This doesn’t mean the PC is dead, far from it, many a geek or gamer will need the abilities of a PC or Mac. I know personally I will still need to run Virtual Box in order to test new Linux Distros, and hard-core PC gamers will want higher end systems with 22” monitors and quad-core processors. And even Apples sees a new class of users, dubbed “Prosumers”, that require a little more than a tablet or Chrome OS netbook can deliver but not needing or willing to pay for all the features of PhotoShop. It’s just that the desktop class devices (including laptops) may no longer be the dominate computing model in the world. The future of computing is going to be simple, instead of a single device that can do anything, we’ll have a multitude of connected devices that do specific things and do them well. This is why the eReader has done well, many people would rather not deal with PCs yet they can see the advantage of technology letting them have libraries worth of information in their hands. eReaders do this by simply being an electronic equivalent of a book, it does nothing else (for the most part), it just lets you download books from where ever you are and read them with out having to worry about batteries or it damaging your eye sight. And you have to agree, an eReader is a sight bit easier to hold and read then a netbook, laptop, or even a smart-phone.

I could keep going but I believe you get the point, but what about getting a little work done you say? Well looking at application usage statistics, behind apps that let you consume media or information, the most used app for content creation is the office suite, in particular the word processor. Apple has already shown of iWorks on the iPad, and there are multiple office suites for the iPhone already and anything with a fully standards compliant web browser can use Google Docs (which by the way is becoming hugely popular with college students). So in this regard Apple was smart to make a dock with a keyboard available to those times you do need to sit down at a desk and type something up. That being said tablets are going to be more of an home use device more for connecting with people and having fun on the net. Students, just like any one who works will probably need a netbook or laptop. That’s why I’m still hoping one of the Google Chrome OS devices is a netbook that can convert into a tablet. So I believe we may be underestimating how the general public will respond to and use this new class of computer. By the way the tablet concept isn’t new, it’s been around for awhile now, but just like the smart phone wasn’t hugely popular until Apple got a hold of it and others learned from them, this might be the right time for the tablet to take over.

Joshua Powers

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