Thank Jobs For The Modern Tablet

Jobs as Moses

If you’re expecting this outsider’s take on yesterday’s Apple news then you’re going to be disappointed. It’s partly because I’ve never owned an iPad (and don’t plan to), and partly because the only real surprise yesterday seemed to be the iPad Air. It’s a thinner, lighter iPad with a 64 bit processor and iOS7. Got it.

Instead of getting into the nuts and bolts of incremental upgrades, let’s take a step back and consider the profound effect that the iPad has had on the entire electronics industry.

The Dark Ages

In the mid 2000s I remember a colleague extolling the virtues of his tablet PC. He preferred it over a more traditional laptop because, in his opinion, holding it like a slate removed the visual barrier of a screen between him and his clients.

Removing this barrier was a simple as:

  1. Cracking open a thick and hideously-ugly grey-on-grey beast;
  2. Cranking the screen around a hundred and eighty degrees, then rather inelegantly snapping it back against the keyboard base;
  3. Retrieving a comical-looking stylus from some gaping orifice on the unit.

As awful as that sounds I was intrigued by the idea, but ultimately couldn’t justify the high price tag of a tablet PC  for myself. Good thing, too… History would shortly prove it to be an ill-advised purchase.

The First FondleSlab

According to his biography the inspiration for the iPad came to Steve Jobs from an annoying dinner guest:

This guy badgered me about how Microsoft was going to completely change the world with this tablet PC software and eliminate all notebook computers, and Apple ought to license his Microsoft software. But he was doing the device all wrong. It had a stylus. As soon as your have a stylus, you’re dead. This dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said, “Fuck it, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.”

Jobs has also been quoted as saying that the iPad came before the iPhone; when he saw the UI of the former he realized that it could be used on the latter. And we all know how that turned out.

Everything’s Touch

Though not an Apple user myself I enjoy the iPad’s legacy each and every day in the form of my cheap and cheerful Nexus 7. In a broader sense I keep hearing about how tablets sales are soaring at the expense of traditional laptops. Perhaps most interesting is how Microsoft has taken the concept of touch one step further and applied it to all desktop computers via Windows 8.

As I’ve said from the outset, the iPad is not for me. Like that tablet PC of ten years ago it’s far too expensive, and other mobile operating systems (Android) suit my needs better. But I can’t deny the huge impact that it’s had on all the devices that I use — in fact, I think they’re the better for it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wipe some smudges off of my screen…