Category: developers journal

About Tablets

Author: Daemon June 2, 2011

Living with an iPad for the last month I finally feel comfortable to say something about them Tablets. This will be a general rant about Tablets, not Android vs. Apple/iOS flame war.

Tablets are here to stay. They are not a passing trend. Apple realized that the technology is powerful enough to enable us this new format of computer, thus they opened up a whole new hardware field and made it publicly available. Yes, I know there were a lot of attempts earlier but none of them were good. They lacked both good hardware and good software.

Apple also realized that Tablets are not here to replace computers as they are not Creation type devices, but rather Consume type. Tablets will not endanger desktop computers, they will endanger TV. We need desktop computers to create stuff, computer mouse and keyboard are very good interface devices enabling us to work with precision and ease. So far all of the computers had to be workstations (or in case of laptops – mini workstations), but with the invention of good Tablets it became possible for some users to stop using workstation type of computer. Why would you want that huge piece of powerful machinery just to check mail and watch new Justin Bieber video? Our workstations are like huge trucks, and you do not use huge 4×4 to drive to a nearby store to pick up one chewing gum. Not everyone needs 4×4 truck, not everyone needs workstation type of computer. Some of us can do well with just an ordinary small car and with a tablet computer.

But tablets (especially iPad) bring with them two really nasty features.

First is, what I call, false feeling of accomplishment (FFA). Human brain is hardwired to make you feel happy when you accomplish something, especially if you can receive reward for that accomplishment instantly. This mechanism is embedded deeply into computer games and is what makes some games really addictive. Games thrive on instant gratification giving you FFA. When you unlock achievement in a game, you feel like you have done something great. “Oh wow, look, Achievement Unlocked – KILLED 500 ZOMBIES”. But does that really mean anything? Did you get smarter? Did you earn money? Could you put that into your CV? Tablets and especially iPad are great at giving you FFA. I am not sure why is that, but doing absolutely ANYTHING on iPad gives you feeling that you have done some monumental big task. You could sit with an iPad in hands and just flick screens left-right and feel like you did something. If you go and change wallpaper, it’s like an epic journey that will be retold for generations. It could be that you do everything with your hands only, interfacelless, so you get that analog/manual feeling of work. But whatever it is, tablets are great at making you feel that you have done something when in fact you did nothing.

And second, tablets bring leisure time and procrastination to anywhere, and make it too easy to waste time. Up to recently, if you wanted to procrastinate you had to be at a certain place. Be it in front of a TV, or in front of your computer, or wherever, but there was a certain place you had to be to play games or watch silly TV shows. If you were not there, at that designated spot, you could actually do something productive. I took my iPad into bathroom to have some YouTube clip play while I shave. Guess what happened. I was standing in front of a mirror with razorblade in my hand, face all foamed up, staring at the screen for a good half an hour. This crap was not possible before, I could not take my workstation or my TV to bathroom. When I went to shave – I bloody did just that. Tablets are a constant threat to your productivity because they are super powerful and super portable. And it is hard to let them go because of the (false) feeling of accomplishment they give you.

Not to be so hard about them, they did nail one thing well – because of their mono-tasking nature (at least iPad) when you finally decide that you will use it for something productive, like reading mail or typing some text, you can focus deep into it. There are no popup windows from other pieces of software constantly nagging you. This whole text was done in one sitting in front of iA Writer. Nothing disturbed me while I was writing. If I tried this with my computer, you can be sure that 10 popups would try to distract me. Chat, mail, updates, …

In conclusion: Tablets are here to stay. There is a need for a computer that is not a computer, it is in between your workstation and your mobile phone. But they are freakin’ dangerous, they are addictive, and you could easily waste hours and hours doing absolutely nothing on them.

Still, I love my iPad. It’s magical.


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