Earl Grey, Computing’s Future?
My bank holiday was spent mostly supporting an elderly relative whose mind slips between one reality and the next. Meanwhile his partner and main carer was admitted to hospital. The nights were passed in a banana shape, making my 6-foot frame fit a 4-foot sofa. When we got home, abstinence slipped from our minds as one or two glasses of wine were followed by a third. Do we really want to live until we can’t remember where we live?
While in our roles as carers, we also moved into a world lacking many of the services we take for granted. Even our next holiday cottage, in the middle-of-nowhere France, has broadband connection and a pool. But in the Ashdown Forest we had to live a life not too far removed from a Ray Mears survival course. Which is a coincidence because he also lives in the Ashdown Forest.
Our iPhones could pick up a one-bar signal and were much faster than dial-up broadband. We looked into getting ADSL fitted in the house because we are likely to be spending a lot more time there. BT’s availability checker told us we would struggle to get a 1Mb link over ADSL2+, but only if we were lucky and spoke nicely to the engineers. On the other hand, TV reception in the Ashdown Forest is superb with crystal clear digital signal from an ancient analogue aerial.
Earl Grey Tea Proof
This is exactly the sort of location where an iPad 3G will be in its element and in a much better form factor for our elderly relatives. They could not get to grips with the Windows Vista laptop they bought, which now sits unused because it was too difficult for them to be bothered to learn. They want to order groceries online and write the occasional e-mail. Pointing at icons and tapping the screen with an arthritic index finger is the sort of interface they can use and understand. Plus, the iPad is drip-proof and more robust than a clamshell laptop. Monthly data contracts might also be a lot cheaper than ADSL for the amount they will use.
iPads also bode well for people with disabilities who currently use point and touch screens. (Why has the most brilliant man in the universe, Stephen Hawking, kept using such a mechanical “voice” when he could have one far more clear and natural?)
It is no wonder Apple has sold so many iPads. Computing is moving away from the usual desktop/laptop formats and onto small and powerful hand-held devices, which do most of the tasks people use a computer for. The iPhone proved to be far more capable than just being a smartphone, as its software replaces expensive, dedicated devices. The iTunes App Store has a solution for problems you didn’t know you had, software often supplied free of charge. Check out Dealmac every day for their heads-up on which apps are currently free. Then regret not buying the 32 GB version of the iPhone as you keep stuffing more freebies into it.
Apple is in the right place at the right time to take advantage of this switch in computing paradigms. It’s not just the traditional Apple fans who have bought iPods/iPhones/iPads but millions of others around the world. At the same time, even though other manufacturers are jumping onboard to make their own tablets, it looks as though Windows could be facing a shaky future.
Microsoft has what is basically a software business, which has earned them big profits over the last two decades. But, apart from business applications, the future looks increasingly likely to be in the hands of innovative gadgets where one word processor, Web browser, or e-mail client is as good as any other, as long as it is easy to connect wirelessly to networks, the Internet, and other devices. Ease of use is Apple’s forte.
Google Dumping Windows
Google’s announcement that it is dumping Windows in favour of Chrome OS, Mac OS X, and Linux will also be interesting to watch. In years gone by, Mac users were sidelined by Microsoft who, having diverted from Web standards to suit itself and its own browser, told Mac users it was their own fault they couldn’t read Web sites because they weren’t running Windows.
Will we see the day when Google says the same to Windows users, that they cannot read standard Web pages because they use Windows?
Adobe had better watch out as well because Google is more likely to support the H.264 video standard than Flash.
Also in This Series
- What Trick, What Device, What Starting-Hole… · May 2012
- Do Androids Dream? · April 2012
- Our Macs Are Under Attack · March 2012
- The Best and Worst Christmas Presents · February 2012
- The Best Use for a Kindle · January 2012
- It’s Got No Blinking Light · January 2012
- Box-Shifting Causes Migration · December 2011
- The Best Thing About the iPhone 4S and How to Cope in Clink · December 2011
- Death of a Salesman · November 2011
- Complete Archive