A while back I realised that, for me, a computer is primarily just a conduit to the Internet. Almost everything I do on a computer requires that I have, or at some point had, a connection to the Internet in order to get content. The interesting thing that comes from this realisation, is that any sufficiently capable device with an Internet connection should allow me to do most of my daily computing. I’m no longer restricted to needing a proper laptop or desktop computer. It’s possible for me to get away with having a less capable device.
I’ve had thoughts along these lines previously, but I think that it’s only recently that the technology and services that help to make them useful have started to become good enough, and sufficiently ubiquitous, to make it something that average people can do without much trouble.
With the advances in mobile phone technology, and the recent availability of (good, usable, people can see themselves using it) tablet computing, it’s actually not hard to find devices that can make a decent go of replacing a desktop or laptop computer for a lot of what many do with a computer during a typical day, myself included. While I think that currently this is still more true of recreational activities than typical work related activities, it’s a good indicator of just how much phones and tablet style devices have advanced in the last few years. And, you can call me an fan boy if you want, but, I think it’s fair to say that Apple has had much to do with pushing these advances along with some of the products they have introduced.
And it’s this shift to more capable, mobile devices that is bringing mobile computing and the Internet to more and more people who are not technically inclined and who might not otherwise touch anything that they might think of as “computer”. The flexibility that these mobile devices bring is not just beneficial to those with the knowledge and skills to fully exploit them, but also hugely beneficial and liberating for the average non-technical person as well.
It’s Not Just Me
This piece of writing has been sitting idle on the back burner for a long time since it first started off as an idea I had, but I’ve finally pulled it out again and dusted it off after reading a post by Ben Brooks over at The Brooks Review. It’s a discussion of the benefits of having a 3G wireless connection in a laptop, and in it he says…
“but truth be told she just means that for her any computing tool is useless if it doesn’t have an Internet connection”
I think that this matches up quite well with the way that I, and many others, think about devices these days. While they may be useful when not connected, it’s when they are connected that they can really shine.
And It’s Not Just The Internet
Given the above you might think that a computer without an Internet connection would be of much less value to me. That’s true to a certain extent, but an unconnected computer is still fairly important to me at this point in time. Pretty much all the ways I choose to entertain myself involve using the computer or content that was acquired via a computer (in the case of the Internet). And even in the case of content that wasn’t acquired via a computer, the odds are good that I’ll want to use a computer to do something with that content. An obvious example is ripping music from a CD or DVD that I bought. When it comes to my movies my preferred viewing method is via my media centre, so a computer still needs to be involved both to rip the DVD and to then watch the contents of the DVD.
So what does all of the above mean? Put fairly simply, it means that my life is currently a very computer centric one. If you drill into that a little it’s also a very Internet centric one, as that is where I find so much of the content (articles, video clips, comics, you name it) that occupy much of my free time. If you wanted to drill down yet again, you would find that the single device that I spend much of my time with is, now, my iPad, but I wont be discussing that particular device here. There have already been a great many words written of the transformative possibilities that the iPad can, and has, brought to many workflows and industries, and I don’t think I would be adding anything that hasn’t already being well said by many others before me.