In 1997 I went out and bought a Sharp ultra light laptop. A lovely thing it was too. I still have it. It has a 6 gig hard disc and though that would seriously cramp my style if I were to use it as a main computer now, it would still be a great second machine, but I can’t jigger it up to get wifi (it has one USB1 port and all the wifi extensions I’ve found use USB2). So it sits uselessly at home. It was a lovely thing, cost not that much more than a normal laptop but weighed less than half a normal laptop at 1.1 kilos.
Whenever I took it to presentations people were very impressed. And surprisingly for a computer it continued to impress five years later. I presumed in 1997 that ultralights would be the coming thing. They were so much nicer to carry around – like slipping a book into my briefcase that I it seemed obvious that that’s what every businessperson would demand. It always amazed me in this fast paced world that it was around another decade – yes a whole decade – before this idea finally caught on – but only after these laptops were sold into a new low pricepoint.
Such a bleedingly obvious idea so long in coming. Anyway, I figure I must be missing something here, because it’s not as if the products didn’t exist. For some reason that I can’t explain, they didn’t catch on, even though ultra-lights were available and my Sharp demonstrated every year I had it.
Well the same kind of thing is, I think happening with the much hyped ‘Apple tablet’ which now seems pretty much confirmed. I bought my Kindle on the assumption that even if I didn’t use it to buy books, I could use it to sit in a chair and surf the net. Alas, Amazon’s greed has put paid to that. One can get onto Wikipedia and a few other sites approved by Amazon, but it’s almost as if one were back to the days of AOL’s walled garden. I can’t get Troppo on my Kindle – Amazon haven’t approved it. You see (I imagine) they fancy charging me for Troppo content.
They certainly fancy charging me for access to the New York Times. Perhaps this bit of entrepreneurialism will save Newspapers As We Know them and if so perhaps (just perhaps) that’s a good thing. But from the perspective of this little atom of social space, it isn’t a good thing because I can get the NYT for nix. And for as long as I can I plan on doing so.
Given all this my own demands for a table are modest indeed. Perhaps like my Sharp ultralight, some kind of similarly ultra-light tablet has been tried. (This article suggests so). Anyway, all I want is a simple smallish – ie netbook sized – thin tablet. It should be about the dimensions of a Kindle but one side should be all screen. Then all I need is a touch screen like the iPhone and I’m in business. I can sit at my chair at home or in the tram or plane and read whatever I like on the web. I might buy some books to read. I might not, but I can read blogs and newspapers to my heart’s content. That’s enough to get me opening my wallet to get one of these things. And of course it should have wifi – which is a doddle these days and I can play chess or another pursuit. Oh – and I’d like two batteries (happy to buy the second one) with say 1.5 hours battery life, and a heavy duty one at 5 hours battery life.
That would be just fine for me. And the thing is, this is basic technology. I don’t know quite why the computer makers of the world are waiting for Apple to clean this market up. In fact if someone else come out with something in reasonable time after we get the Apple tablet, I’d probably prefer theirs because I don’t need huge amounts of style or even nattiness, I need a good quality touch screen and a decent operating system – that’s it! There’s another reason I’m fearing I’ll prefer theirs. Like Amazon, Apple is not distinguishing itself in the openness stakes. That comes (at least partly) with having become a publisher I guess. So it might be tempted to lock me out of open access to whatever I want on the net.
Anyway, I can’t wait for this little bit of computer history to start so I can be a spectator, of the firms, of the industry, of our amazing world and of that window on it – the net – from my lounge-room chair.