They’ve been saying it for years: the future of the web is mobile. I think it’s finally true, but even more, I think the web has become ubiquitous.
Desktop computers for consumers are largely finished, if you ask me. There are exceptions: If you’re a gamer, then you want a pretty serious desktop computer. Places like libraries will always have desktop computers because laptops are simply too expensive for them, and desktops are less likely to get stolen. You’ll find desktop computers in companies that do a lot of video editing, or 3D modelling, or anything else that requires large screens and a lot of horsepower.
If fact anything that is focused on creating content is probably well suited to a desktop computer. For the sake of completion I will say that a laptop will do in a lot of these situations, such as web design and development, but largely, I think the distinction is sound. Desktop workstations are ideally suited for content creation.
But most people don’t create content, other than blog posts and uploading pictures of their cats, dogs, houses, cars, kids, families and vacations. Most people consume content, and content consumption is far more suited to mobile devices like netbooks, laptops, smartphones (iPhones, really), iPod Touches and iPads. These devices – especially iPhones, in my opinion – fit into our lifestyles in a way that computers never have in the past.
Make no mistake. It may be called an iPhone, but it is a computer, and a very very good one. It fits in my pocket, has ubiquitous connection to the cloud, and a vast array of native and web apps available for the platform. The barrier to entry for usage is incredibly low – it’s second nature to whip out my phone to check facts, check mail, contact someone, whatever. The fact that it also makes telephone calls and replaces my iPod is pure icing. I bought it so I could have a computer with me at all times. It has let computing and the web penetrate my life like never before, and that’s impressive, considering I’ve been in the web development field for a decade and a half.
I know it’s no longer cool to gush over iPhones now that the iPad is out, but damn it, my iPhone fits in my pocket. The iPad is awesome, but the iPhone goes everywhere with me. Both are changing the way people interact with data, the way they communicate with each other, and the way they think about computing. It’s a paradigm shift that’s sweeping old and tired methods of working with computers out the door. It is abstracting people from the computer while at the same time making interaction with their data far more intimate.
This is a very good thing. People can pick up and put down the web as easily as they used to pick up and put down a book. They no longer need to sit down at a computer to ‘get online’. They’re already online. The web is ubiquitous.
The browser on the desktop as we’ve known it will remain important, but the browser in our phones (and iPods and iPads and all the the mobile computing devices) are finally the future that the web has been promising us.