Anybody who says they know how the tablet drama in general and iPad narrative in particular are going to play out is blowing smoke. Me, I’m inclined to think tablets will be a wonderful game platform, excellent for reading books, have a raft of vertical applications in hospitals and factories and airports and so on, and not be that big a player in the office setting. But hey, I could easily be wrong. Having said that, here’s somebody who’s wrong for sure: Marc Benioff.

He wrote a piece entitled Hello, iPad. Hello, Cloud 2. From it, I quote: “The future of our industry now looks totally different than the past. It looks like a sheet of paper, and it’s called the iPad. It’s not about typing or clicking; it’s about touching.” Hmm... maybe. We haven’t learned yet where touch wins and where it doesn’t. For example, lots of people including Bill Gates were convinced that we would come to control computers primarily by talking to them, and that turned out to be wrong. My mind is open on touch.

But then Benioff goes on to say “It’s not about text, or even animation, it’s about video.” That is so, so, wrong. Intelligence is a text-based application. Benioff isn’t stupid but that remark is.

Oh, and by the way, I consume a moderate amount of video, and I really like doing it on the 1080p LCD TV just the right distance in front of my comfy leather chair with the great footstool. Among other things, I can balance my computer on my lap and write seriously on it, just like I’m doing right now.

OK, I’ll make a prediction. The most important way that the tablet is different from the computer is that it’s optimized for analog, not digital, input. Whatever the applications are that are best driven in an analog way, those are the ones that will drive the tablet ecosystem.



Contributions

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From: Derek K. Miller (Apr 02 2010, at 22:25)

"Whatever the applications are that are best driven in an analog way, those are the ones that will drive the tablet ecosystem."

Never thought of it that way, but that makes great sense. This Tim guy seems pretty smart!

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From: William V. (Apr 02 2010, at 22:28)

"[the tablet is] optimized for analog, not digital, input".

Gotta love the irony of something you control with your finger not being optimized for "digital input".

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From: Tim H (Apr 02 2010, at 22:43)

Sure with touch everything is "digital" input... (groan, sorry)

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From: Hanan Cohen (Apr 02 2010, at 23:10)

I see an amusing contradiction here:

finger > digit > digital

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From: Sivan (Apr 03 2010, at 00:33)

The touch hype is out of control with every pundit proclaiming it to be the future. Based on what? Great for learning maybe, but hardly efficient.

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From: Andrew Back (Apr 03 2010, at 01:47)

"Whatever the applications are that are best driven in an analog way"

I'm not sure I follow. Are you referring to the touch-typing distinction, and touch as analogue input? If so, I'm not sure I like this use of analogue - it's an unhelpful conflation. Just like when folks refer to CDs as being the analogue counterpart to online music distribution.

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From: JulesLt (Apr 03 2010, at 04:35)

I can see some application in the office - I've long wanted something I can grab and take when I leave my desk, and a laptop isn't it - right now it's still an A5 notepad. And it may actually stay an A5 notepad, as I tend to just scrawl micro-notes and reminders on it, rather than typing up full notes.

The other thing is as an adjunct to main screens - I'd happily have a couple of e-ink readers on my desk, along with a dual monitor set-up, replacing the stack of books.

But whether most employers would see it that way is another matter - I guess the key point will be when an e-reader starts saving them money over physical books. (One thing that is really required is software that lets companies share eBooks amongst staff in a concurrent usage licence style, or some revolution around ebook licences, as typically I get one copy of a book per team).

But yes, any prediction that tablets will dominate, etc, is flawed - most GUI users still use the keyboard more than the mouse.

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From: Rick Bullotta (Apr 03 2010, at 05:56)

Interesting observation Tim, particularly the digital/analog reference. I've been thinking about this in the context of the back-end/cloud as well. Most knowledge and sensory input isn't digital, so why must we always try to digitize it, analyze it digitally, and act upon it digitally? Don't we lose fidelity in the process?

The human brain (to the best of our understanding) does not appear to be purely digital nor purely analog. Maybe it is time that our computing approaches realize this from end to end...

Cheers.

Rick

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From: Robert McCabe (Apr 03 2010, at 08:27)

One industry that is really excited about the iPad is pro photography. Most digital medium format cameras work best "tethered" to a computer, that is having a long cable stretched across the studio floor to a desktop Mac where detailed control of the camera functions is possible and you can review the image in detail. Currently this means having an assistant sitting at the computer or yourself running back and forth from the camera to the computer. With the iPsd you could attach a one of the standard trays or simply hang it off the tripod.

Further more, the iPad will allow "tethered" operation out in the field, I have not heard how the iPad stands up under sunlight, but look for a lot of pro-photographers going back to working under dark clothes as they did 90 years ago

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From: Matt Mireles (Apr 03 2010, at 08:44)

Well, if you ask me, <b>what the world needs is a text-based UI for video. </b>

Until that happens, there will always be this chasm between the linear, analog experience of video and the searchable, digital experience of text.

As it turns out, my startup SpeakerText has invented such a UI. We're still really early stage, but we're compatible with YouTube and enable text-based search and navigation. Anytime someone copies the text into a blog or an email, the quote links back to that exact moment inside the video. You can also create and share custom snippets of longer videos by simply highlighting and manipulating the relevant text.

Feel free to drop me a line. I arrive wheels down in SF at 2p today 4/3 and I'm in town until Wed night. matt@speakertext.com

-Matt Mireles

Founder/CEO, SpeakerText

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From: Robert Young (Apr 03 2010, at 09:00)

For years, and recently in my writings here and elsewhere, I've made the point that GUIs are inefficient and even inferior to the keyboard when input is shared with the keyboard. The iPad will now have the opportunity to prove that a computer like device can be run usefully and happily only on pointing.

Whether Stevie knew it or not, he gets to observe a watershed event with his own money.

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From: Parveen Kaler (Apr 03 2010, at 11:05)

It's the beginning of the trend where personal computing becomes plumbing. The toilet in my place is just there. I get shit done and move on without giving it a second thought.

The toilet is plumbing. The microwave is plumbing. The iPad is plumbing.

The point is to read books, watch videos, play games, surf the web without actually thinking about the part that is the computer.

You can call this a ubiquitous experience or an immersive experience. But the point is that the personal computer is secondary and the task is primary.

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From: Rudi Gens (Apr 03 2010, at 19:24)

Apparently the ipad is not so brilliant for reading books after all (http://tinyurl.com/yaaavkf). The LCD display as a design choice has severe disadvantages compared to a Kindle when you try to read your book anywhere outside in the sunlight.

I would agree with your assessment about touch versus type as input alternatives. I can't see how you get the same mileage out of a touch pad as compared to a regular keyboard. Sounds like a great supplement for some purposes but certainly no replacement.

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From: Eliot kimber (Apr 05 2010, at 06:32)

The iPad is definitely working for me at home as a "pick-up-and-read" or play a game or casually surf the Web while watching TV device and that's what I wanted it for.

But in an office setting I can see it being the thing I grab when I turn away from programming or heads-down writing on my laptop and need to dash to a conference room and either give a presentation or just take some notes.

I downloaded both GotoMeeting and WebEx for the iPad--don't know how they work yet but it would be nice to be able to spend a tedious meeting on the porch without having to untether my laptop to do it.

As for sunlight: it is useless even in shade (I went from the Apple store almost directly to my wife who was manning a tent in the noonday sun--you could just barely read web sites under the tent). But how many people read eBooks in the sun? Clearly Apple had to choose and they chose 90% of the time people are inside: at home, in the office, in a coffee shop, on porch, and not on a park bench. If reading ebooks in the sun is your primary requirement, get a Kindle.

The convenience factor is very high. I can see doing more involved work emails but not doing real document or presentation development.

If I could run Eclipse on it, there's a lot of programming I do that is mostly point and click anyway, so that would be interesting, but I'm not seeing it happen anytime soon.

But it definitely fits a gap between my iPhone and my laptop that I did feel needed to be filled.

This morning I mentioned at breakfast that I wanted to send the iPad I bought on Saturday to my father and my daughter, 6, almost burst into tears and made it clear in no uncertain terms that I was not to do that. So it made an impression.

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From: Carsten Schmidt (Apr 05 2010, at 06:46)

if you are right and Intelligence is a text-based application ... then does that mean there was not intelligence before text?

i am sorry but that sentence makes no sense to me. i assume that you mean intelligence is a multi-media / communication application ... and here the ipad rocks. you have not just text limited intelligence, but touch, see, and hear intelligence on top of it.

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From: David (Apr 05 2010, at 09:56)

Lest we forget: http://snafu.priv.at/jargon/html/G/gorilla-arm.html

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From: Jeff (Apr 05 2010, at 11:14)

"Intelligence is a text-based application."

Of course, one has to understand the language in which the text is written. Otherwise the text is entirely unintelligible. Text is merely symbols, visuals that represent meaning. Clearly there are other forms of visuals that also convey meaning & lead to the understanding of problems and solutions.

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From: Devdas Bhagat (Apr 05 2010, at 16:20)

Words allow us to communicate concepts which have no pictorial representation.

Concepts like fair play, justice, equality, mercy, humanity, selfhood, ....

Intelligent behaviour involves taking a concept and extending it. Being able to communicate ideas which cannot be drawn involves text.

And for those ideas which even text is not sufficient as a communication medium, there is the formal language of mathematics.

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From: Robert Young (Apr 06 2010, at 05:13)

For those discussing the merits (vis-a-vis intelligence, however measured) would do well to recall history. Cavemen drew pictures on walls. Sumerians used hieroglyphics; picture writing, and so do the Chinese and Japanese today.

Asian ideographic writing is still writing, only difficult to automate due to a huge "alphabet" (it isn't really, that's the problem).

The issue boils down to, not so much icons versus text, but an alphabet. Alphabets allow one to create words to name things or concepts in a structured way. Arguably iconography, can't. I side with that argument.

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From: len (Apr 08 2010, at 06:45)

I have to disagree a little. It (the iPad) is about video. YouTube is now what AM radio was in the day: the place a song or almost any other quickly consumed entertainment has to be to be noticed. Combined with smart social networking (use Facebook), it's a no-brainer and dramatically effective. The irony is to see Apple drafting on Google resources for a content launch.

As to iPad lust I note that some pundits labeling others as luddites or 'don't get the smart execution' are also Apple stockholders who feel the pinch on their portfolios and know it will be a right hard squeeze if the iPad launch somehow doesn't achieve escape velocity. Game as played but given the market at large (not the status conscious market that will drink bathwater if the right people bathe in it), is in serious economic hurt, a choice between new tires and a front end alignment on the old car and having a just-released boombox that will be obsolete in nine months is significant.

I had to lay off two good employees and friends on Monday. It's painful because firing someone who won't perform is easy but laying off because we didn't find work, that is always management's fault. In light of the frozen markets, the layoffs and the general tensions, iPad lust is ludicrous.

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From: Kyle (Apr 13 2010, at 09:30)

I'll have to disagree. The technology is not yet advanced, and it's not even available in the iPad, but I do believe that touching and speaking are the future forms of input. Of course, if you are a writer or if you need to write more than ten pages a day, then a keyboard might still be greatly useful, but other than that it's time to let the keyboard and mouse go.

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From: zenbeats (Apr 14 2010, at 07:49)

multi-touch is interesting because it opens up the canvas size. the tablet is interesting because it's a hybrid of the phone and the laptop. the cloud is intersting becuase it will eventually run on most devices. the user interaction should fit the application. it's not what can i build with the ipad, it's what is the best device and interface for what i am trying to build. sometime a wii controller will be the best solution. would that be cool to use a wii controller on your ipad. probably won't because the apple ecosystem is not open.

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April 02, 2010
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