By Brian X. Chen February 1, 2010 | 5:39 pm
When I picked up my iPhone over the weekend, I had an epiphany. I was using the LinkedIn app to confirm an invitation to connect, and it hit me: This is the future of mobile computing, the mobile web — the mobile experience.
No, I’m not saying the LinkedIn app is the future per se (that’d be silly), but rather the overall concept of it. The LinkedIn iPhone app is, in my opinion, better than the actual LinkedIn.com website. Same goes for the Facebook app compared to Facebook.com.
Gone are their busy, tab-infested UIs. In their stead are beautiful bubbly icons screaming “Touch me!” We no longer have to squint or click around in search of the feature we’re trying to access: The button is right there in that simple interface for us to tap.
The Facebook and Linkedin apps are two key examples of popular services whose iPhone apps outdid the websites they were trying to “port.” They’re two gems glistening brightly for the future of mobile.
Now that we can have experiences like these on a bigger touchscreen, with the iPad and the horde of tablets that will follow it, we can expect computing to become much easier than what we’re accustomed to today.
That’s not to say everything will have to be an iPad app. iPad owners aren’t going to be the only ones to benefit from Apple’s invention.
The iPad opens a path for an improved web experience for everyone. As soon as the iPad and its competing slates are in people’s hands, we’ll see a host of websites tailoring their content for touchscreen tablet browsing, and it’s going to be far more pleasant than the web experience we’re used to today.
I’m awfully jaded about monotonous browser tabs, puny headlines and boring boxes all over the place, aren’t you? The iPhone and the iPad give web developers an excuse to break free from traditional user interfaces.
As a side effect it’s also pushing developers to ditch old, outdated web standards, such as Adobe Flash, and embrace newer ones like HTML5. Thank goodness, because we’ve been needing a change.
Cleaner, friendlier, intimate UI may sound like a step backward, but it’s not. There are huge implications.
We all learn how to touch with our fingers before we figure out how to type or click a mouse. Often when we think about computing we overlook children and the elderly, and the iPad is going to be the first computer to eliminate the social divide.
The iPhone was the first phone that a Luddite could figure out in seconds and a hacker could tinker around with for endless hours. In an analogous way the iPad is going to be the computer a toddler can play games with and learn, and the same computer your grandma uses to send e-mails, browse the web and edit photos.
If you think about how a computer like this will impact people sociologically, suddenly the iPad is far more than a larger iPod Touch, as many have described it. It’s the computer for everyone: an idea Apple has been working toward for years.
That doesn’t mean the iPad will be the only computer for everyone and destroy every PC on the market, because that’s not even remotely likely. But it will introduce a significant new category.
For anyone plugged in to tech history, the idea of the child-friendly, super-lightweight computer is actually reminiscent of Xerox pioneer Alan Kay’s 40-year-old concept of the Dynabook (pictured in sketch above). I’ve been chatting with Kay about the iPad, but he’s waiting to provide his official comment on the device until he’s had a chance to try it out.
Tablet naysayers have anticipated Apple’s tablet would be a failure because of form factor, ergonomics and UI. But they missed out on the bigger problem: Nobody has cared to create content (be it web or native applications) for tablets — until now.
Say what you will about Apple, but Steve Jobs’ company is a market shaper, and the iPad is the only tablet that could shove the computing world in a new direction.
Apple has shipped over 75 million iPhones, and the iPhone OS continues to dominate mobile web traffic. Meanwhile, the App Store has served 3 billion downloads and claimed 99.4 percent of the mobile-software market.
Content developers need to see these kinds of numbers to have faith in investing in a new platform. At this rate, we’re all heading with Apple into the future of computing, and it’s looking quite bright.