There have been many devices that have changed the way business is done. A short list (my list) would include a number of innovative advances in technology. Among the first is arguably moveable type printing, although business uses for it would take time to catch up – it did immediately change bible production from something done by hand to something a skilled laborer could do. It also essentially created the world of publishing.
The typewriter would be the next major innovation as it allowed those of us with poor penmanship to get the point across – and make us prove our second grade teachers wrong in the good penmanship would be necessary to go far in life. The typewriter also saw many advances that would be used to this day, namely the keyboard layout we’ve come to know and love (I love QWERTY, but I’ve been using it for nearly three-quarters of my life).
The telephone of course comes next, because it allowed long distance communications and yes, I do skip over the telegraph because it connected the world, but the messages were short and expensive. I would also argue that the telegraph likely delayed adoption of the telephone as well, a point I’m likely not alone in supporting. The telephone, and those lines that came with it, also made the Internet possible, and that of course is still changing the way business is done. And this brings us to the computer. At the beginning of the 1980s there were data processing departments, word processing departments and other select computer departments. Less than 20 years later there was practically a computer on every desk, and the Internet connected them together.
So now the question is asked, will the iPad change business? Personally, I’m not convinced. The Wall Street Journal has said the iPad is “pretty close” to being a laptop killer, but let me review a few things that I’ve covered. The iPad is being heralded as the device that could through its functionality as an e-reader, be it the one that saves the world of publishing. That’s because it can allow users to read papers on the go and so forth. I personally disagree. The iPad may allow me to take my newspaper on the go, but when I’m on the subway I have magazines to read. When I’m on a plane I have books to read. Yes, the iPad fills that role, but it only replicates what travelers can already do. And the iPad hasn’t offered how it will bring advertising back to newspapers and magazines. Readership is only part of the issue. Content providers are going to charge for content on the iPad however, which could be the flip side of the coin. It will be interesting to see if the iPad ends up taking publishing back to a subscription model.
Next the iPad lacks a physical keyboard; that wonderful QWERTY keyboard. The screen, according to The New York Times is “barely usable” for typing. Plus, you’re typing on the screen with no tactile response. Also, I don’t like touching my laptop screen anymore than I like touching my eyes. Talking about the screen, Apple also opted for a 4×3 ratio perspective, which I feel is a step backward. We’ve taken our TVs to widescreen 16×9 and the move has been on monitors to go that dimension. So the 9.7-inch screen isn’t going to be ideal for entertainment on the go either.