The iPhone is a disturbance in the Force. The personal computer revolution, starting back in the 1970s, has gone through many radical paradigm shifts, with the most profound brought on by the Internet. Ripples of change, caused by Apple’s telephone, indicate revolutionary upheavals in the fabric of the cybernetic collective. In other words, Dudes and Dames, get ready to be impacted. For over a decade now, tech philosophers predicted the total ascendance of the Internet browser as the Imperial Interface between the real world and the digital wonderland, but now the iPhone has accidently started a rebellion, one that might overthrow that Emperor IE.
Kids say the darnedest things, now in 140 characters or less. They have rejected talk for texting, and email for tweets. Going further, they jettison the bloated browser for tiny applets on the iPhone. Strangely, the byproduct of selling to twitchy unfocused minds is writing programs with jewel-like simplicity where form dictates functionality. But then, programming has always determined what percentage of the population embraces the geek lifestyle.
Take word processing. Remember WordStar commands? Back then mostly secretaries and lawyers were the only people to apply their brainpower to the task. Then came Word Perfect, with its elegant text menu making a revolutionary advance over memorized commands. Millions switched to doing their writing on a computer because of this. Finally, came the GUI, and WYSIWYG, with Microsoft Word becoming the Cro-Magnon of word processors, killing off Neanderthal Word Perfect.
The Internet has been around longer than personal computers, but it wasn’t until it was combined with the GUI based web browser that the mundane Dick and Jane joined the nerd herd online. The ascent of the browser, starting with Mosaic in 1993, has slowly crowded out almost every other fat client except Microsoft Office. And cloud computing cowboys are programming as fast as they can to dethrone that King too. The browser has evolved to the one-size-fits all condom on every computer.
Now Apple disturbs the Force with the iPhone, with netbooks out on the ocean, being the potential next tsunami to shake things up. Programming for the 3.5” screen is changing the game. Safari might be a dog that talks and dances, but who cares, it’s the applet mice at play that are pointing the way to the future. Instead of relying on the browser that can do a billion things, people seem to prefer and handful of custom tools that fit their day-to-day on-the-go lifestyle. All designed to work specifically and elegantly on a 3.5” screen with constant Interact access. Until you play with an iPhone or iPod touch, you will not understand what I mean, and I don’t have enough time before bed to make point by point examples. Seeing is believing. Get your iPhone friends to demo their favorite apps.
Netbooks are machines with 10” screens. If they becoming baby desktops, powered by IE or FireFox, they will not rippled the Force, but if, on the other hand, developers write programs customized for the 10” window like they did for the iPhone, and netbooks are universally combined with broadband connections, we should see another disturbance in the net hive mind.
The browser owns the 13” through 24” LCD display. Browsers suck on 3.5” screens. Browsers are annoying at best on 10” screens. If netbook programmers take lessons from iPhone programmers and develop functionality for the 10” form, then we should see new application species emerging that will create new paths for computing users to take. The iPhone has been the 1849 gold rush for programmers, and the netbook should become the Alaskan gold rush. Lets see.
JWH – 7/6/9