I’ve been a reluctant and late adopter of tablet devices, specifically the iPad. Having gotten one, the ability to keep abreast of a myriad different topics has just been incredible. I’m an info junkie and love to read about random stuff across the world on different topics. An app like FlipBoard allows me to do precisely that, with any short increments of attention I can provide to it over the course of a day. I’m reading Nudge these days where they talk about libertarian paternalism. I believe the founders of FlipBoard exercise precisely that – from the clutter of unprioritized information, you are able to quickly glean useful information from a well-laid out format and easy ability to read, share and cross post.
Another app I use a lot is the TED Talks app. Surprisingly though, while on a desktop or laptop computer I don’t mind sitting through 19 minutes of talk time, on the iPad anyting past 10 minutes seems long. Maybe the form factor of the device? Or my rapidly shrinking attention span given all the zillion things going on around me. It seems like the perfect app to download talks and view offline while on travel, which I have done a few times as well.
Contrast these typical consumption paradigms with creation. I volunteer with a few nonprofits, so I end up doing a lot of emailing during all hours of the day. While the iPad seems perfect to lie back and consume material thrown at you, or relax over a few rounds of Angry Birds, it seems insufficiently designed to allow for typing any emails longer than a few lines. Yeah I know I can get a wireless external keyboard and all that, but thats not my thing.
But surprisingly, another device has been great for this purpose. I was one of the early beta testers for the Chrome netbooks. Despite a horrendous mousepad, the rest of the experience has been pretty awesome. They have long lasting batteries, boot up in an instant so I do not have to spend the three minutes I have in waiting for my windows laptop to resume so I can login and send a quick email. The keyboard and laptop surface has a nice rubbery feel that makes typing fun. Its easy to file bugs against Google for things that dont work, and I sure hope someone is reading those reports. For sending out emails or creating simple spreadsheets or documents on Google Docs, the Chrome netbook seems like a perfect device. It has pretty much replaced the HP Mini that used to serve this purpose in my household, primarily for its form factor and weight rather than boot up times.
So what does one use a laptop for these days? Mine has a high-end Quadro in it, which pretty much makes it impossible to use it as a laptop. Other than for running complex software that requires compute power, or work related tasks on Excel or other Microsoft products, the laptop has become the dinosaur of the times. A typical Dell laptop is way to heavy to lug around for short trips to the cafe for casual browsing or creating documents.
The mobile phone has replaced a lot of the “instant gratification” consumption requirements as well. More people in the US are realizing the power of SMSes like they do in Asia. I am still a Windows Mobile user, and am pretty happy with the feature set it provides given the rest of the communication devices I have at hand. Though my next mobile device will most probably be an Android phone – I’m quite excited about the way Android adoption has been increasing.
That, in a few words, summarizes the consume vs. create paradox that many of us face today. With an explosion of internet enabled electronic devices at our disposal, I expect that many, like me, would have compartmentalized different tasks to different devices and would have the same mess of chargers at their homes. Lets wait for that magic device from 1 Infinite Loop that will bring all of these together into one product and solve this paradox once and for all.