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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
There isn’t anybody on earth that’s going to want to hold a tablet to their ear. - Matt Burns, You’re Funny, Huawei
I am betting that this will become the norm, actually. Or doing the equivalent through earphones, which will rapidly be wireless and unobtrusive. Google Glass is the new glowing blue bluetooth earplug, perhaps, but talking into a 7 or 9 inch tablet won’t be odd in 2014. For many, these tablets will become their proximals: the devices they always have within reach.
At the close of 2012, market intelligence firm ABI Research estimates nearly 200 million tablets will have shipped worldwide since 2009 and an additional 1 billion tablets are forecasted to ship over the next 5 years.
That’s 200 million tablets per year for the next five, which is the number that have sold to date.
It’s hard to minimize the impact of this transition. Tablets are proximal devices, like smartphones and to a lesser extent the ultralight laptops (like my Air). These are devices that we carry around with us, always within reach, the first recourse when we need to catch up, look up, or pay up. Desktop PCs seem as distant in use patterns as going to the library: the desktop PC is upstairs, or in another room. Once you buy a tablet, the desktop’s gathering dust, and then a year later you donate it to a charity to get the space back on your desk.
In less than five years, individual ownership of desktop devices will fall to near zero, and even niches like gaming and video production will transition to tablets.
The impacts of this transition will be profound. One implication: as more people transition to tablets with built-in data connectivity and as phone companies roll out more capable wireless solutions, we will start to see a turning away from cable to the home: not just for TV, but for internet. People will always have their connectivity with them. And instead of a cable bringing internet to your living room, users will wirelessly stream TV, video, and movies from their tablets to the display on the wall.
Notably, the cable companies seem oblivious to this transition, and I’m not even certain how many of the tablet manufacturers see it.
I kind of hate phones. They have the brief to ring whenever they want. They haven’t gotten significantly better at being phones by getting smarter. Oh yes, I love Google Maps (and can’t wait to get it back), and I take a lot of photos. But as a comm device, phones are still fairly dumb.
But I (thankfully) live in a world of my own creation, so I don’t have many people trying to call me by phone. So, I am relatively disconnected, toiling in my home office, and communicating with people asynchronously mostly, and otherwise in scheduled calls. Others are not so lucky.
Two pieces caught my eye today. Daniele Fiandaca and Brad Feld both wonder is we’re not better off disconnecting more:
This issue of constant connectivity is turning into a malaise of digital dependency. Addressing this malaise in the workplace is something I’ve been pondering on for a while. Is technology now making us inefficient? Is being permanently connected, and in an ongoing state of continuous partial attention, making us less effective in our work?
Fiandaca and colleagues at Cheil UK experimented with Samsun Tectiles, a pad to lay phones on that control their settings:
This allows the user to place the phone on the “red for off” side of the tectile, and disconnect, to get things done.
Feld is going through a sort of rethinking of everything after way too much work and the gall bladder surgery:
Brad Feld, My Smart Phone Is No Longer Working For Me
There’s some magic peace that comes over me when I’m not constantly looking at my iPhone. I really noticed it after two weeks of not doing it. After a few days of withdrawal, the calm appears. My brain is no longer jangly, the dopamine effect of “hey – another email, another tweet” goes away, and I actually am much faster at processing whatever I’ve got on a 27″ screen than on a little tiny thing that my v47 eyes are struggling to read.
Now, I’d love for there to be a way for me to know about high priority interrupts – things that actually are urgent. But my iPhone doesn’t do this at all in any discernable way. There are too many different channels to reach me and they aren’t effectively conditioned – I either have to open them up to everyone (e.g. txtmsg via my phone number) or convince people to use a specific piece of software – many, such as Glassboard – which are very good, but do require intentional behavior on both sides.
I’m suddenly questioning the “mobile first” strategy.
Once again, what may seem like a quibble: I have a mobile phone that also acts as a proximal device. It is the computer I have with me all the time — in the car, in a line at the bank, in the kitchen — but we are constrained because hardware and software developers and the phone companies think of it as ‘just a mobile phone’.
We need to radically rethink proximal devices, and their use as communication tools, not just perpetuate a stupid metaphor of ‘mobile phone’. I don’t want a mobile phone. I want a new, smart way of communicating with other people through my proximal device, one that fits better into an intentional approach to work and play. And part of that would be a device that ‘knows’ when I am too busy to be interrupted, and takes action accordingly.
The high water mark for PC sales is definitely behind us, and we are now sailing into the tablet era of computing.
Damon Porter, NPD: Tablets to Outsell Laptops in Q4, Beyond
Buoyed by Black Friday sales, more tablets than laptops are projected to ship in the North American market for the first time ever in the fourth quarter - and it won’t even be close, according to NPD DisplaySearch.
NPD reckoned that 21.5 million tablets will ship in North America during the holiday quarter as compared with a forecast of just 14.6 million unit shipments for laptops and mini-notes. The trend will continue and accelerate in 2013, according to the research firm, which is forecasting the shipment of 80 million tablets in North America for the year versus 63.8 million laptops.
If the researcher’s final forecast for full-year unit shipments of tablets and laptops in the U.S. is on the mark, 2012 would become the first year in which tablets outsold laptops in the country.
But NPD didn’t expect tablets to outsell laptops in the worldwide market for a few more years. That won’t happen until 2015, when the researcher is projecting global annual shipments of 275.9 million tablets and 270 million notebook PCs.
I bet those projections will be exceeded.
Most importantly, and not talked about in this stats-heavy piece, is the fall of the old school WIMP user experience (window, icon, menu, pointer) and the emergence of new paradigms for user experience on touch-oriented proximal devices: smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft is gambling a lot for a chance to fight with Apple, Amazon, and Google for the proximal (‘mobile’) device market. They are pissing off their historic partners, like Dell and HP, by making their first computers ever. The alternative might be to simply become an enterprise software company, milking Office, Sharepoint, and Yammer for the next decade.
I admit I like the keyboard cover idea, but I expect Apple will respond to that quickly.
But it may be too late, since the clients they want to attract with Surface and later products have already moved ahead with deployments of Apple and Android tablets:
With New Tablet, Microsoft Faces a Balancing Act - Nick Wingfield via NYTimes.com
Rich Adduci, chief information officer of Boston Scientific, a medical device company, has more than 20,000 PCs at his company using older Windows. But he has also deployed more than 5,500 iPads to sales representatives and other employees.
A day late and a dollar short?