Predictions for the next decade Monday December 21, 2009, 0 comments

Today is the shortest day of the year, the longest night, and marks the changeover from becoming increasingly seasonally depressed to becoming increasingly seasonally happy. Add to this the fact that we’re about to celebrate the changing of decades from the largely depressing 2000s to the 2010s, a decade about which I am feeling extremely optimistic, and this is a season of great change.

It is in honour of this season of change that I wish to make some predictions.

The first is about computing. I foresee the end of computing as we know it in the next few years. I think the Apple iPhone was a game changer in ways people are only starting to grasp at this point. The iPhone got people used to carrying a computer with them wherever they went, and it is this that is at the heart of a paradigm shift in computing.

Rumour has it that Apple is going to release a tablet-based computer next year. Until recently, I wasn’t very gripped by this rumour, mostly because I couldn’t see how a device with a 10.1” screen could possibly fit in my pocket – I couldn’t carry it around with me, and that seems a step back from the successes of the iPhone.

But I think it’s going to be more useful than I have given it credit for. It could fit in a purse or backpack. It’s actually pretty tiny, if you think about it. A device with a 10.1” screen could be as small as 6 × 9 inches – the size of a paperback book. And given the dimensions of the iPhone, could be as thin as half an inch, or maybe even thinner. That’s imminently portable, especially given how much such a device could do. Battery life remains a question mark, but if it gets similar life to an iPhone, it’ll probably be enough to start with.

The tablet would probably have a similar touch interface to the iPhone, and given the scaling technology Apple already has built in to the iPhone for photographs, iPhone apps could run in full-screen mode scaled up. Alternatively, they could run in some sort of windowed mode, allowing the device to multi-task like a normal computer. And given the Mac DNA present in the iPhone OS, it’s possible that some Mac apps could run on the tablet too. That would solve the largest problem facing any new device – that of not having enough software to justify owning the device.

I am excited by this in a way I couldn’t have imagined not so long ago, and look forward to more information on the Apple tablet as it becomes available.

My second prediction is about the future of books, and is partially related to my feeling about the Apple tablet.

I love books, I really do, but the idea that books won’t be affected by technology is foolish. Books will always be around – people like the feel of them in their hand, just like audiophiles love the feel of playing vinyl records. But I suspect the lions share of book purchasing and reading will be done on electronic devices.

But I don’t think it’ll be done on the Kindle, or any eInk device.

Let me be clear. I’ve used a Kindle, and I enjoyed it. I also kept trying to scroll by touching the screen, and felt that the physical buttons felt archaic. the eInk was cool, but it was also pretty low contrast, and as my eyes age, I am finding I need more contrast. Couple that with the Kindle’s connection to Amazon-format books and it’s inability to do anything other than be an eReader, and I think it’s days are numbered, especially when multi-function devices like Apple’s tablet hit the market.

So there you have it, two predictions for the next decade made on the last Solstice of the old.


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