Back at the dawn of the internet, there was really only one way to get online: connect through a terminal to a large, room-sized mainframe computer and stare at a lot of text. The personal computer revolution of the 1980′s then brought access to a flavour of the internet to people at home via desktop-based computers. It really wasn’t until the turn of this century that people started to access the internet in a rich format while on the go as cellphones gave way to smartphones. So, where to next?
Well, unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you have probably heard of the Apple iPad. While not the first ‘tablet’ or ‘slate’ computer – they have been on the scene since the mid 1990′s, Apple’s successful execution has proven the form-factor’s viability, and started a bit of a gold rush as everyone chases after the 10-inch screen.
Why? In contrast to 1995, tablets today are increasingly useful not because of what they can do alone, but what they can do when connected to an ever more functional internet. Ironic, really, given the similarities this model has with the earliest days of terminals connected to bigger computing power off-premise.
And so the race is on. Apple is way out in front at this stage, and the race-course is already littered with the also-rans and wannabes – the most recent casualty being HP who dropped their vaunted TouchPad not two months after launch, causing a stampede here and overseas as they ‘firesaled’ the normally $800 device for little more than $100. With Amazon prepping to release a tablet soon, and more in development from HTC and others, it’s fair to say that this way of accessing the internet is probably only going to grow in popularity.