Tablets Vs Desktops and the Evolution of Internet Content

Content Creation and Consumption is Changing the Form and Face of Computing
During his recent keynote address, Steve Jobs declared that the tablet form factor is the future and that the desktop PC era is coming to an end.

While my personal computer inventory and my computing habits might point to a future without desktops, the reality is that the desktop computer will be around for a while. At the same time, while personal computing devices are evolving into tablets, desktop computers must evolve in order to stay relevant.

Tablets and the Future – How Computing is Changing

Computing is changing: technology and devices are simply adapting to accommodate the new paradigms of how people access information. During the early days of the Internet, most people online fancied themselves website designers. It seemed that everyone had a website, and the Internet was clogged with amateur website hosting services like Geocities and Angelfire. As the Internet matured, we became content producers that used our computers to document our lives through blogs and video-blogs. Everyone was producing web content, and most of us needed desktops or at least a competent laptop to accomplish this. Now, things have changed.

For the most part, we have shifted from being producers of content to consumers of content, and the limited web content we do create is all created in bite-sized chunks. When it comes to 420 characters on a Facebook status update or 140 words in a tweet, a desktop computer is simply overkill. We use our smartphones, many of which like my Motorola Atrix are far more powerful than my desktop was 12 years ago, to update our status or send a message to a friend. We snack on information through Wikis and snapshots rather than gorge on information in libraries. The tablet form factor was the natural evolution of a computing device for this content snacking.

Back when the world was obsessed with updating the animated background on a Geocities page, we still received most of our information and entertainment on television or in print. Now we get our information and entertainment from Hulu.com, Netflix.com, CNN.com or other news websites. Even magazines, newspapers, and books are delivered electronically. Tablets are the best device imaginable for content consuming and information snacking. We want information on the run, and even a laptop is too cumbersome and clunky. I can’t imagine carrying around the dozen magazines and a few books that I hop between on my Nook Color.

Tablets and The Future – Where Does Content Come From?

Someone still has to create all of the content. Granted, Youtube videos and Facebook status updates are created on Smartphones and Tablets, but someone is sitting down at a desktop and creating the electronic version of Men’s Health and Maxim that I read on my Nook Color, and you can bet your iPad 2 that a desktop was used to do the design layout of the print version that the electronic version was based on. The production, layout, and programming for the entire web is done on either a laptop or a desktop. Even I am writing this article on my iMac. I can’t imagine trying to hack this together on my Motorola Atrix or an Apple iPad. Desktops have a purpose, even in our consumption model. That purpose is at the top of the content consumption food chain.

I think of desktops and full-sized laptops as the earth moving machines, dump trucks, and work machines that are necessary to create the roads and infrastructure that makes everyday life possible. Tablets, smartphones, and ultra-mobile netbooks are the convertibles, hybrid vehicles and motorcycles that we all long to drive. The roadside is fun to watch from a convertible, but if it wasn’t for a a cement mixer, there would be no road to zoom along.

Tablet Computers and the Future – What’s Next?

I don’t know if tablet form factor computers and smart phones will ever be able to replace a powerful and scalable desktop when it comes to our current paradigm of programming and content creation. The future depends on what kind of content consumers we become. If content is driven by cloud computing and storage and real-time augmented reality applications, then a tablet, Nintendo 3DS, or a smartphone is all that we might need. Once content can create itself, or code can be compiled in real-time by powerful and adaptable computing devices, we will only need consumption devices.

It isn’t fair to say that the PC era is over; it is fair to say that the traditional methods of content creation have ended. As more content is delivered electronically, and the messages and content continues to become bite-sized, tablets are becoming more useful and relevant.