Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The device-centric era is about to end

You could be forgiven for thinking that, with the arrival of the iPad, and the rivals it is spawning, that we are at the dawn of the era of 'tablet computing'.

But I believe we are at the end of the era of device-specific computing.

The move from urls to apps, closed code to open apis, on-device storage to access from the cloud, all points away from the pivotol role of the device (which is where Apple makes its bucks) to enabling connectivity to your services (the realm, currently, of developers, mobile operators, broadband and wifi providers and ISPs).

The thing that smartphones, tablets and laptops (even, Microsoft Surface - remember that?) enable is ubiquity of computing. Always on - always with you. Access is the key here. Very clearly NOT the device.

The device can enable access - but it is only one way of enabling it. Not THE way.

The service and its delivery is king. Not the device.

Apple has allied these two things by controlling what is available in its app store. You have to meet Apple's standards to be allowed to deploy - for your service to be experienced by the user via the Apple UX interface. The service provided, therefore, on an Apple device is good.

That experience can only be as good as the quality of its adaption to the device through which you experience it.

In other words, if a service is as well designed for the device you are currently experiencing it through as it is for an iPhone, then you may conclude it is the device that's delivering that service (hence the growing army of Android fanboys). A well-designed service works brilliantly with the available interface. It isn't degraded by switching from one device to another. It takes advantage of the interface it has to hand.

But holding a device in your hand, having a device at all, may be little more than a hangover from our comfort with the tactile world. The cloud could be accessed in 3D before -your-eyes Minority Report ways.

Or more likely, direct to your mind (remember how far off and way out you thought gestural interface was when you first saw it demo'd on a YouTube video?)

And at that point in the non-device specific future we'll have no one to blame for a crash but ourselves.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?