It’s 7:00am and you’re getting ready for work. As you typically do in the mornings, you log into your large flat-panel TV to stream the news while you finish your morning prep. 

Before you’re halfway through the news, you hit pause and run out the door to catch the train, this time with your tablet in hand. You sit down in your seat and finish streaming the news, then go to your Google Docs repository because you need to complete that presentation for this afternoon. 

You’re 99% finished when the train reaches your stop, so you power down your tablet, run into work and log back in to wrap it up on your company workstation.

Now imagine…

You work from home and are having a conference call with a colleague in Europe using the web-enabled, wall-mount TV in your home office. Halfway through the call, you want to share a document, so you pick up your tablet, open up the doc online, and hit “share via video feed.” Since all of your devices are connected to the internet, the doc immediately appears on your colleague’s screen, where he can provide feedback and watch you make edits on the tablet in real time.

Yesterday’s post proposed that the controversy around the iPad suggests we’re at a tipping point in consumer technology. 

We feel the winds of change. And with the world of computing transforming, but in ways yet unclear, the stakes are high. Apple enthusiasts want to see Jobs take over the world with his elegant and intuitive devices, while the anti-Apple cohort fears a world of Jobs-like autocracy.

But to think of the future of computing through the lens of elegant vs. clumsy or open vs. closed is to miss the point. 

The majors shifts in computing have revolved more around architectures than interfaces or software development philosophies. For example, it was the arrival of the PC operating system and subsequent shift from the mainframe to the client-server model that created the last revolution in computing. 

Now we’re coming to a new age in which the internet, browser, and ubiquity of wireless, and the subsequent shift to a cloud/SaaS model, will become the drivers of major software and hardware innovations. These changes will enable the ultimate in mobility, portability, and performance. It’s not just the keyboard and mouse that are coming to an end, but also, and more importantly, the days of loading apps onto an operating system on a laptop or desktop PC.

When you look at the iPad through this architectural lens, you quickly realize that the device ultimately represents no real change. The touchscreen, accelerometer, etc. are impressive and important, yes, but the architectural makeup of the iPad is very consistent with the client-server model that has been in place for decades. You load an app, which requires processing power and is usually worthless without a connection to a server accessed via the internet, onto a bloated operating system that also supports a boatload of device drivers. (No wonder the iPad doesn’t support multi-tasking…) It works, but the model involves large numbers of interconnected and moving parts and is suboptimal in a world connected by high-speed wireless data networks.

The more likely future of computing, then, does not rest in Steve Jobs’ elegant devices but rather in platforms like the Chrome OS that take the traditional operating system/PC model out of the picture entirely by relying on rich internet applications that can be accessed from any device. The future is in the scenarios outlined at the beginning of this post, which the iPad by itself does not come close to enabling.

If I were a developer, I would try for the next couple of years to make a nice profit off a sleek iPad app, and then put that money into development for the real future of computing. How about you?

Posted via email from Human Ventures