Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nerds Gloating

I remember vividly getting my first laptop back in 1999. It was nearly two grand, had a 200 mhz processor, and was running the shiny new Windows 98 operating system. It was a magnificent lemon which I returned to acquire a Toshiba with a 133mhz processor. It ran MS Word and Warcraft 2 like a champ. That particular device was stolen out of my car some time later, never to be recovered. Since that time I have acquired a string of technological devices, each more wondrous than the next, leading up to my Macbook Pro and iMac computers. These in the wake of a love affair with Asus Laptops that never quite cooled off... I love my G1 Asus Laptop.

I spend probably an hour a day searching the web for new devices and still maintain a high level of excitement for Apple's forthcoming iPad Tablet. I have never in my life seen something captivate the geek world with such powerful enthusiasm and loathing. Having spent the last ten years reading extensively about portable computing devices, I can safely say that people do not understand what the iPad stands to offer the market.

I don't see the benefit of such a device when I think about the hedge-fund buying, Subaru Outback driving, decaf skinny latte drinking neo-yuppys sitting at the coffee shops reading their copy of Day Trading for Dummies. Will these folks buy iPads? For sure.

I don't see the benefit of such a device when I think about all the people who already have and use smart phones, own laptops, and have jobs requiring something better than a virtualized Windows 7 Desktop. Will these folks buy iPads? A few will.

The true benefit of such a device didn't really come home until I watched little Rhys Goodman playing with his dad's iPhone. This kid is still in diapers and he is interacting with the interface, playing games, deleting things he's not supposed to, and so forth. I can recall the first computer our family owned... a Tandy 1000. I also remember thinking that I should be able to touch the screen as part of the interface, using my hands to connect with whatever I was trying to learn... like everything else in life.

I also wonder at the tablet's capabilities in the college classroom. It doesn't need to boot up like a netbook, lacks the obtrusive and distracting nature of a full laptop, and will likely allow people to purchase and store textbooks. One click, the thing snaps on, press a button and the textbook is open and ready to go. There will probably be an app that will allow you to work with a stylus so you can scribble in the margins.

Writing is quickly becoming my life, but I won't stay chained to a desk. I want to wander around, people watch, take pictures, listen, and record my observations in real time... out in the real world. My laptop is a good way of doing that if I'm in a place where it is socially compatible.

I felt inspiration on Black Friday, so I whipped out my laptop and cranked out a page. People stared at the man sitting on the bench in the mall typing. The genuine manner of their interaction melted away in the wake of my geekiness. It is my hope down the road that tablet PCs become so common place, and with 3G (and beyond) connectivity that they'll be a third or half as common as cell phones. In that way, I could melt quietly into the background to record what I see and observe.

I've read dozens of articles about the iPad and other tablet PCs and the comments left by the vocal opposition... all endlessly entertaining. That this device has largely offended mainstream Geekdom fills me with dark glee, ten times more than the last Indiana Jones Movie did.

The 1 in 5 comment written by someone excited by the iPad comes from someone working in the creative field. People with imagination. People who know it won't run Photoshop, but it will run Jaadu VNC using it to borrow the display of another computer and display it with a projector. People who want to quickly import photos from their camera and see them on a display larger than a matchbox without pulling out a bulky laptop. People who want to write on something easily disguised as a normal tablet of paper with the right cover.

It isn't often that I hope for something, get what I want, and garner the pleasure of seeing so many other people disappointed in the aftermath. It feels like Apple made the iPad for me, and me alone. It has everything I wanted and more, and nothing I didn't want. It feels like being at a MtG cold-starter tourney and I drew the only Shivan.

Nerds Gloating... sounds like a band name. What's the opposite of Emo?