Our iPad Future: 5 possibilities


Apple says its new iPad is “revolutionary”, and many pundits agree. If the iPad really does usher in a computing revolution, what can we hope to see in the future? Here are some possibilities, after the jump.

Possibility #1:Wireless Printing, and uh… wireless control of everything

As far as we know, when the iPad first ships it may not be capable of printing directly from the device. However, in the future, it’s reasonable to expect that wireless bluetooth printing is available (via Apple’s Bonjour wireless spec). From wherever you are, you can bring up a list of the nearest printers — and if you have the password — hit the print button.

Here’s an even more amazing thought: you’re at work, it’s your lunch break, you’re surfing the web on your iPad and see something you want to print out. Your boss doesn’t like you using the office printer for personal stuff, so after a few touches, you transmit the print command to your printer at home. Violá! When you get home, your print-out is waiting for you.

The year is 2015. Home automation is also pretty hot these days. Walk into any electronics showroom and you see the “iPad/iPhone compatible” and “Made for iPad/iPhone” logos everywhere. It’s on ovens, microwaves, TV sets, security systems, cars, lamps, — hell, even some fridges. You see, all these devices now have a cheap bluetooth chip inside. You can control them all through an interface on the iPad (or iPhone/iPod touch) screen — providing you download the manufacturer’s app from the App Store. You see, you can set your oven to alert you when the roast is done, using iPhone OS’s notifications system.

Some say that it’s a bit of gimmick, and indeed they’re probably right. But manufacturers are desperate to differentiate their product from that of their competitors. And if that means that your freezer will send you a notification to tell you it needs defrosting, then so be it.

Of course, the first to do this were the TV and DVR manufacturers. You could download a remote control App from the store, and control your home entertainment from there. It wasn’t long before others followed. Of course, all the expensive “home automation” systems were on board the iPad bandwagon almost immediately, but very few people have money for those sorts of systems.

Possibility #2: Finally — the paperless office!

Remember those episodes of Star Trek, where an officer comes into the captain’s ready-room, and hands the captain a small pad with a report on it? Yes, it was even called a Pad — a PADD, to be precise (which stood for Personal Access Display Device, apparently ).

Let me paint you a more down-to-earth picture: You are at work, you’ve finished a report using one of the office’s own iPads. In fact, you used Microsoft Excel iPad Edition. You get ready to print it out, but then you think — “Hey, why bother?” So you wander into the boss’s office, hand him the iPad and say, “here is the report you asked for, Sir”.

Your boss thanks you, and you leave the room, picking up another one of the office’s iPads from a near-by depository on the way back to your desk.

Meanwhile, the photocopier (yes, that old thing!) is gathering dust, and the printer next to it has six unopened packets of paper next to it. They’ve been there for weeks.

Possibility #3: The iPad becomes more ubiquitous than laptops and desktops

It’s smaller, it’s more handy, and most importantly — it’s much much cheaper. My son has entered middle school, and it’s about time he had his own computer for homework, etc., and it should be portable so he can take it to school. However, I don’t want him looking at pornography or accessing other material I don’t want him to look at yet. I also don’t want to buy him a big expensive laptop. If it’s lost or stolen, that’s a considerable loss. Also, “Netbooks” are, well, awful, and not much cheaper than an iPad.

So he gets his own iPad. It’s cheap, it’s easy for me to control what he has access to on it, and it’s easy for him to use. So all the kids are getting iPads now. In fact, the family has a few of them now. Me and my wife have the latest models, and I gave the old models to her parents. I also have one for work, which I take to the office, of course.

In fact, as the iPad has become more capable, it’s even possible to do things you never thought possible on it: things like graphic design and programming. Sure, you need more than one iPad at the same time, but it can be done. For example: With programming, typically you have two or three iPads on your desk at once. On one I have my code, which is what I’m typing into. On the other I have the App or webpage I’m busy programming displayed, while I constantly refresh it to see the changes I’ve made. The third one has the Objective-C reference manual open, which I keep picking up and referring to as I work.

When I’m using my copy of Pixelmator for iPad, I typically use two iPads. On one I have the main tools palette. On the other, the image displays. Optionally, I can have a third iPad, displaying the whole image full-screen, so while I’m zoomed in on a specific part using the 2nd iPad, I can easily see the changes in context on the third screen.

It’s not unusual for someone to walk in on me and see four or five iPads scattered around my desk. Other designers still use desktops, but I can’t stand using the old keyboard and mouse anymore. I feel more productive when I touch my creations.

Possibility #4: Other manufacturers race to copy the iPad

It was five years ago that Steve Jobs announced the iPad in San Francisco. Since that time, other manufacturers have raced to copy it — all with limited success. RIM recently started selling their Blackberry Tablet range, aimed at businesses. Google’s Chrome Tablet computers have been on sale for some time, although their functionality is limited. Microsoft took a few years to bring out their equivalent of Windows for the tablet. They decided to give it the catchy name, Microsoft Windows Phone Tablet 7 Series Home Premium Edition, or MWPT7SHPE for short, and it won’t be released until next year. Other manufacturers have also thrown their hat into the ring. For example, Samsung’s Bada Tablets have recently begun selling.

It seems that computing has returned to it’s old 1980’s roots — single manufacturers creating the entire experience, hardware and software combined, and it’s proving popular with consumers. In the western world, older persons with limited budgets as well as children and teenagers are those most likely to own pads, or tablets. An increasing percentage of the population sees absolutely no reason to own a desktop or a laptop computer.

In the developing world, tablets are becoming even more popular. While few can afford a full desktop system (or have anywhere to put it), many families are purchasing tablet computers. These families never had a phone line, but all have mobile phones, and they frequently insert their SIM cards into the tablets to gain Internet access.

In a few years, TIME magazine (one of the Apple iPad Book Store’s most popular subscriptions) will run a cover story, asking “Is the PC dead?” The article inside will quote these statistics, and conclude that, while the desktop computer will remain in use for highly technical tasks, such as programming or heavy-duty video editing, for future generations, the PC has lost it’s dominant position forever.

Possibility #5: Developer wars

Every kid knows that certain games are only released for certain game consoles. If you want game X, you must buy console Y. Unfortunately, that’s now becoming the case with computing. Developers are becoming increasingly divided among themselves. Some are Microsoft-aligned. Others Apple-aligned. Yet others Google-aligned. A small, but growing number, are Bada-aligned, and aligned to other ecosystems.

As each “camp” has it’s own programming language (such as Objective-C for Apple and C# for Microsoft), loyalty to each platform, manufacturer, and language is often fierce. Some developers will simply refuse to develop their apps for more than one platform, while others will adapt them for all except for the one they don’t like.

Luckily, things are not exactly the same as the games consoles in the 1990’s. Unlike at that time, today all these platforms are largely interoperable through the Internet. While only certain platforms can run certain apps, they can all access the same webpages, operate games developed in HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript, display the same images and video files, and play the same mp4 tracks. So it’s not all bad.

However, in this world. getting your application to the public depends on the almighty gate-keepers. This has had it’s benefits: there has been a massive reduction of viruses, trojans, and malware. On the other hand, others worry about the freedom to run and install whatever you wish. Other point out, however, that if you don’t like one manufacturer’s policy, you can always jump ship and buy a tablet from a manufacturer you do like.


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