Beyond Consuming

I think that part of the issue that we have with much of the marketing that comes at us about various computer technologies is that we rarely see them in a context beyond consuming something. And then when we do, it usually done in a such a polished and stylized mode that while the behavior is fruitful, the idea of doing so is too aspirational to pursue. Hence the trap/opportunity of tablets in computing. Sure, we can talk all day about them being the next iteration of the home/collaborative PC, but when it gets down to business, some just have a hard time seeing tablet computers as something that can do more than put you in front of some advertiser’s window or sliding from one of these windows to another. Perhaps, its time to think about productivity differently. That is, if we are doing to take serious the idea (and the trends) of tablet-style computing as the regular person’s foray into digital and augmented experiences.

I like the posture of Bergie’s latest post On Tablets and Productivity for that reason. There’s this understanding that every time that input technologies have changed, that there was some behavior, some industry, some moment that became the watershed moment. For home computing (aka, PCs), it was the arrival of VisCalc – and if you want to really get sarcastic, then you can make the observation that there’s nothing much that’s happened in computing other than putting more and more pretty faces on the same ideals of rows and columns.

That said, I think that Bergie is onto something, hence my comment left on his post:

Back when I had an HP TC1000, and onto owning a few of Nokia’s Maemo tablets, I’ve felt similar to this piece… that there’s some of a redefinition to “productivity” that needs to happen because the interface layer is a lot different.

With the Nokia N800/N810/900, productivity to me was being able to write notes, access SharePoint, kick off and manage workflows, and manage comms from a pocketable device. I maintained with one company that I was with that they had literally no bushiness case for me and several others to need a laptop other than the need for PowerPoint and Visio (for the former, I tweaked Eric Meyer’s S5 Slideshow system, for the latter, I’m an artist and have no problem drawing).

When I got my iPad, I continued down this path. These days, there’s the drawing, writing, managing a few clients, and managing my online magazine. These are all possible on a tablet, and one can argue, on anything that’s near a computer. Where the tablet piece comes in is how I can take the art-side of me – the drawing, concepting, etc) and quickly go from something that I draw, to something that I code (HTML, CSS, JS). I think that its in that capacity that tablets are blank canvases, and that definition of productivity (something that equals the output of MS Office), needs to be reassessed.

Perhaps the VisCalc moment for tablets doesn’t come from accountants (this is the persona for VisCalc). Perhaps it is the canvas for musicians, artists, etc. that becomes not a killer app, but a killer place-mat for creation to which the tablet explodes and redefines productivity?

Those of us whom are looking at tablets as computers have to ask the question… “what are we doing with these devices to not just consume the perspective of life that is put in front of us, but doing something to shape what happens inside and outside of that 5-10 inch window?

What I don’t see enough of in commentary and media about mobiles and tablets is this idea that we should be enabling and doing things differently. And if we can’t, then we should be leading the effort towards putting these items down so that we can spend the time and resources on the things that do enable all towards better lifestyle choices.

And if we can’t move beyond consuming, then we sit at the mercy of those folks who will only pick up this tablet long enough to remind themselves of what to feed us.