|Money for Nothing Keyboard|
Millions of obsolete and junk products arrive here at our "e-waste" morgue, so opinion may pass as insight.
The laptop is a display device combined with a very flat computer (motherboard-powersupply-drive-etc). They fold together with a keyboard input device sandwiched in between. Three old technologies designed to fit snuggly. In my warehouse we are surrounded by Input (keyboards, cameras and microphones) Output (display devices, speakers and printers), and the storage and processing (hard drives, processors) which bent time and distance to connect us to each other at exponential speed and convenience.
A smartphone eliminates the keyboard, in favor of a combination of software and touchscreen replacements... that is speed and convenience because of its portability (cell phone tower). We generally don't use the smartphone to compose reports, blogs, or letters once we are at home or in the office.
Nevertheless, there have been enormous gains in touchscreen technology and software, as well as in voice recognition. The smartphone market has unleashed a lot of software codewriting energy.
I want my, I want my, I want my QWERTY....
Where Apple really takes advantage is the opportunity to sell software or apps in this rapidly developing no-keyboard touchscreen market. Two decades of Microsoft commanding the ALT-DEL keyboard market left other software makers too far behind to leapfrog Microsoft. The growth of that market, and the level playing field, gives Apple a big reason to bring the touch display into the home and office.
Buying a PC, you were buying a software support environment based on a keyboard input device. Apple had successes (notably with Adobe), but if you bought a PC you were buying a much larger stable of software code With the Pad (touch pad) technology, Microsoft does not have a big bench. The rules are being changed for input devices, and keyboard is no longer king.
So the question I ask my family is, how much do you hate your keyboard? Enough to spend $1000 to get rid of it? And will you buy a peripheral for $58.99 to replace it?
I want my, I want my, I want my QWERTY....
For me, so far, touch screen software - while it has made great gains - is still a limitation I put up with as a compromise... driving, cell phone towers, and battery life make it an advantage to laptops.
When I see people buy keyboard-attachments for their IPads, I really think they should take another look at the sub-$500 laptop and netbook markets.
The big change however will be how non-English software takes advantage of the curve in the software road for Input Devices. When I see Guangdong Geeks bent over the QWERTY device (infamously designed to slow input so mechanical typewriter keys don't jam), I wonder...
- Are Chinese programmers enslaved by left-to-right keyboards reprogrammed for modern Chinese? (Chinese and Arabs write right-to-left)
- Or do they mainly sit passively and read from the display device, and not input (compose) as frequently?
- Or are they going to use the leveling of the playing field for new touchscreen software applications to do, as Apple hopes to do, and leapfrog Microsoft?
- Or... is this IPad tablet an I-fad, because really we will miss and should like our keyboards? We keep them despite the QWERTY origins because they fit the speed at which we think most productively?
There are signs that my younger generations think more quickly than I remember thinking. Younger staff, my kids, they are very fast conclusion-formers... They TXT LOL. Hemingway, Dickens and Twain they are not (though all those writers thrived by incorporating less formal speech into their characters).
For the near term, Adobe, Google and Sun Java have as much of a level playing field to enjoy from keyboard-free input devices as does Apple or China. Palm might have, but the sale to ink-cartridge-maker HP was hitching to a pretty old racehorse.
So for the IPad... I'm making room for them in the warehouse. Personally, I always try to buy things I can repair or have a reasonable warranty (or sell-for-repair market, as my HTC Evo proved to have), and which have a reasonably mature software market. We still have a very large Toshiba CRT Television (HD) in my living room, one discarded from an audio-visual company which paid top dollar for it, as part of a conference-call room. A pre-skype conference call room.
I want my, I want my, I want my QWERTY....
And as anyone reading this knows, my input devices are as important to me as my display devices. Touchscreen inputs, to me, are like sign language. I respect it, and thank God for Helen Keller. But I don't see it as a primary vehicle to compose a work of literature.
I'm not photogenic enough to rely on video, and the bandwidth constraints of video broadcast in emerging markets are unfriendly. Video is like a subway, it can get you to lots of places with lots of people. But typing is like walking, I'm not giving it up for the subway.
(Someone soon will release the first ever Text TXT novel, and it will be crap... Opera via telegraph)
I've used this song before, to describe what it's like working at Good Point Recycling. "We got to move these color TVs..." There are several other links here. MTV was big, really big, in 1985. As big as Apple. And in this concert, the concept of merging TV (video display) and music (audio) was leveraged to raise millions of dollars in food aid for Ethiopia.
I lived in Africa when this LIVE AID concert was performed. And I danced hard to this song a year earlier, at Carleton College, studying international relations.
Now it's kind of lame, or at least way past the "fresh" date. But it felt good in the day, a kind of Woodstock 2.0, trying to use the energy of music with the cable-TV infrastructure to actually accomplish something to help the poorest people. In retrospect, it was a little hammy, a little "celebrity volunteers at soup kitchen", to those of us living in Africa. But not lame.
MTV changed a lot. Combining music with display devices was a bell ringer. But will Steve Jobs be like Mark Knopfler (Dire Straights band leader) 25 years from now? Will Apple be like Dire Straights and Sting? Will the IPad look like the same gigantic cell phone that draws laughter in Bruce Willis movies,
It's another page in what Wealthy Nations will pay billions, and borrow against their house for. Billions of consumable devices and stuff and upgrades and next want it have it gotta need have it crap.
When he passed away, my subsistence farming, carpenter, DIY grandfather in the Ozarks owned his house and his car and 40 acres (and yes, he had a mule)... and left a million dollars in the bank. He did it by not buying things (like cars) until he really needed it and/or had saved enough money to pay for it. When you borrow at 12% to buy something, and pass up 8% you could have been earning on each dollar paid in interest on that 12%, you are borrowing at 20%. If you are in your 20s, and you are borrowing $1000 for an Ipad on top of $20,000 for a car, and you own 5 cars in your lifetime, and 35 different display devices, when you are 91 years old you will not be leaving your loved ones a million dollars in the bank. You will probably be leaving society with a million dollars in health care bills because you didn't take care of your health either and then wanted to extend your life to 91 anyway by taxing people to carry your fat ass over the finish line.
There is no one around here quite more like my grandfather, who fixed his own cars and appliances, and grumbled how every decade they made it tougher and tougher to replace his own spark plugs, than the Techs of Color in Latin America, Shanzai-Africa, Asia etc. The fact that a few of them found their feet in Ethiopia, 25 years after the Live Aid Concert, and EPA Lisa Jackson visits them, is great. Creating a Basel Rule which didn't exist when the Convention was passed, to say that Ethiopian Geeks cannot fix laptops disposed by rich nations buying IPads, but should instead spend their sweat and energy collecting discarded electronic e-waste generated INSIDE the poorest nations, this is sick. It is really, really, really sick.
When those techs are denied the income they would have made, and their unemployed go into the forest to mine Coltan for our new Pad Tablet Display devices, it's truly sick. It's dark Empire Sith-sick. It's E-waste Al-Qaeda sick. It's Bush-meat sick... It's Unobtanium for the Apple masses.
The silver lining of people buying IPads to replace laptops is that Geeks in Africa can get cheaper laptops. Creating jobs for white techs who will fix laptops even better than African geeks, it's a quaint idea. What the E-Stewards are doing is shredding the laptops and telling people it's worth the cost because the Geeks in Eithiopia are primitive. It is so messed up, all I can think of doing is writing a book about it, I'm just not a good enough or patient enough writer.