Sunday, October 21, 2012

Surfacing...

Paul Thurrott wrote an article about the impending release of Windows 8, Windows RT and Surface. He's got one thing right, Microsoft has a problem. Apple and Google have gotten a big head start, and Microsoft is coming to the game late. Windows Phone 7, while technically interesting, hasn't gained any traction in the market. They are betting a lot on Windows 8.

But, there's one thing that bothers me. It's this assertion of Thurrott that devices like the iPad aren't computers:
Windows RT is not a computer operating system. Windows RT is an operating system for mobile devices.
Surface with Windows RT is not a computer. It is mobile computing device, like an iPad. It is a tablet, a hybrid device that bridges the gap between real PCs and media tablets, where you can work and play.
Who came up with this "media tablet" name, anyway? As if devices like the iPad are only useful for consuming, not creating? It's the same journalists who have spent 20 years reporting on the personal computer market -- who have been focusing on the desktop for so long they can't see anything else.

The computer marketplace has always been about change. We had huge mainframes at first, and then came the minicomputers. They weren't anything like the mainframes, and journalists didn't think they were computers, either. And just as these minicomputers started to build a big market, they came out with microcomputers.

It's been a long time since we called them microcomputers. That's where the micro in Microsoft comes from. They weren't viewed as "real" computers either. And then they, too, took over the market.

And those microcomputers have gotten smaller and smaller while at the same time getting more and more powerful. My iPhone 4S has more memory and computing power than the supercomputer I used at college 30 years ago. Why can't it be a "real" computer?

Sure, an iPad doesn't look like former PCs. It's mostly screen and battery. But it's a natural evolution of the personal computer. There's no reason you can't use an iPad, or a device like it to do "real" computing.

Indeed, the iPad is the new face of computing. Just like the microcomputer before replaced the minicomputer -- tablets like the iPad will replace the PC. It's just a matter of time.

2 comments:

  1. I think it might be more accurate to say that Microsoft is marketing Surface with Windows RT as a 'mobile computing device', not as a computer. I suspect that Microsoft is looking at the locked-down walled garden of the Apple iPhone/iPad application environment and wants that model for the Windows RT application environment, rather than inheriting the wide-open application environment that has historically characterized Windows desktop/laptop machines.

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