Friday, January 29, 2010

Computing for the rest of us: The iPad and the ChromeBook

He's a genius, but I've never thought of him as a humanitarian - or even as much of a human being. Yes, Bill Gates was also a right bastard, but he's paid his dues since.

Age, and mortality, can change people though. The iPad's a pretty thing, but the combination of iVOIP and the return of the Mac Plus and the keyboard and $10 iWorks apps and the $15/month no-contract 250MB limited data plan might shorten Jobs time in Limbo.

Yes, that mysterious $130 bump means the 2010 iPad is more than $500 - but by 2011 the device will sell for under $500 with 3G-equivalent capabilities. An additional $15 a month will provide basic VOIP phone services (uses very little bandwidth) and access to email and Facebook Lite -- even before the advertising subsidies kick in. Of course free Wifi access, such as in libraries, McDonald's, schools and so on will provide access to full internet services.

Why is this a big deal?

Think about your family. If it's big enough, your extended family will have at least one person who's, you know, poor. They may have cognitive or psychiatric disabilities. Or you may have a family member who, like most of American, can't keep a modern OS running without an on call geek. These people are cut off. They can barely afford a mobile phone, and they won't have both a mobile phone and a landline. They will have little or no net access. They may have an MP3 player, but it's dang hard to use one without a computer.

By 2011 the combination of a $400 iPad (and iTouch for less) and $15/month VOIP access will start to replace a number of devices that are costly to own and acquire, while providing basic net services at a rate that other family members can subsidize. Not to mention something pretty, which, speaking as someone who grew up poor, ain't a bad thing.

Steve Jobs - friend of the poor and the outcast. I wouldn't have guessed (ok, so I did predict this a year ago).

The Google Chromebook is on the same side of this revolution. The connected world is about to get a lot bigger.

Update 1/30/10: The OmniGroup, who know their computing, are saying the same thing. Maybe you have to have been around long enough to remember the original Mac, or the PalmPilot, or GEOS/GeoWorks. It helps to be old enough to have seen parents, friends and neighbors trying, and failing, to keep modern computing platforms working. There have been many attempts to break the computing divide, but this one has iPhone momentum -- and the ChromeBook is coming (recent pricing rumors are now below $100 - but the network connection price is what matters). It's a revolution guys.

Update 2/1/2010: Another one - Fraser Speirs - Future Shock. At this rate the meme will hit the NYT in about 3 days.

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