In the summer of 1990 I was getting ready to head off to my freshman year at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. Over the summer I got a letter from the school stating that they would be trying a new "integrated curriculum" that fall for a sub-set of the entering freshman class. The concept behind the integrated curriculum was that the subjects like chemistry, math, mechanics, thermodynamics, statistics and others would all be merged together to get more focused on how to use all of that to solve problems. That sounded cool, but the hook for me was that all of the classes would be taught on brand spanking new NeXT Computers. I quickly filled out my reply card and sent it in the mail that day.
Flash forward 22 years and we got a similar letter in the mail, this time for my daughter who is about to enter 8th grade. Her school is also experimenting with a new approach to the curriculum: all based on using the iPad. Both the NeXT and the iPad owe a large part of their existence to Steve Jobs. I found it fascinating to do a little comparison of the specs:
||iPad 2 (I know about the new one of course – but this is what she is getting)
|Price (at introduction)
||$4,995 (half the cost of the original NeXTCube)
||$499 – $829
||Motorola 68040 @ 25 Mhz
||Apple A5 @ 1 GHz with dual core
1120 x 832 4 color (black, white, 2 shades of gray)
4,096 color graphics was a $3,000 option
|1024 x 768 16.8M Color
||8 MB – 32 MB
||105 MB – 4 GB ($$$$$$$$)
||16 GB – 64 GB
||13.2 lbs (just the box)
85 key mechanical keyboard
2 button mouse (the last / only that came with a Steve Jobs product)
||NeXTSTEP (still say it had all the good stuff just now making it into OSX)
||iOS (the future of all Apple's OSs)
The table above is, to me anyway, the surest sign of progress in the last 20+ years.
The integrated curriclum at Rose was an interesting experiement. I "dropped out" after a few months and switched to the regular curriculum. There was just way too much homework with the integrated projects. No one was able to keep up. I still got the use the NeXTs (when the IC guys weren't on them, which wasn't often, but they had to sleep – a little – now and again) and I imagine that has a lot to do with my fascination with all things Apple to this day. Educators are drawn to tech like moths to a flame. Here's to hoping they can figure out how to use it for more light than heat.
Last week when I was in San Francisco for Dreamforce I did a little experiment: I left the MacBook at home and only took my iPad 2, iPhone 4 and Blackberry. Don’t laugh – this week at our analyst event I am loaded down with no only the MacBook plus all the stuff I took to Dreamforce, but also my Canon camera, my personal iPad (1) and a Kodak video camera. So honestly, I did travel light last week – for me anyway.
In the final analysis it worked out really well. There were only two things that I absolutely needed to do that I couldn’t get done on the devices I had with me: approve an expense report (required me to login to a card authenticated website) and send someone a file I had on my desktop PC and didn’t have a copy of locally on my iPad or in my dropbox. Everything else I needed to get done for work (and play) for the entire week was easily doable on the devices I had with me – and the work horse was the iPad 2.
While I intended to find out if traveling without a PC in tow was feasible for the things I need to to get, I learned a far more interesting lesson through the week: the tablet made me more comfortable doing work in smaller chunks. When I work on a PC and open Outlook to get email, or Powerpoint to work on a presentation, the shear size of the program and its various options create an expectation that I will do something great. The simplicity of an app causes no such inflated expectations. If I open up my laptop (especially when mobile), resume from sleep, and then open an application, I’ve made a serious investment of time and energy – now I better do something amazing: research some potential cures for cancer, solve the world debt crisis or at least balance my check book. On the other hand, if I flip open the smart cover on my ipad, tap the EverNote Icon and jot down three random ideas that seem interesting to me at the time, there are no feelings of shame, like I have somehow wasted my one chance to ask Buddha the secret to life.
And its not just me. When I first noticed myself doing little bits of ‘work’ in odd moments walking from one session to another I looked around and noticed almost everyone else was doing it to. It reminded me of a phrase I heard in the early days of social media: continuous partial attention, but now applied to getting work done rather than consuming content. It seems rather simplistic, but most things that are truly powerful do: because these devices don’t let you do much, you don’t expect yourself to get a lot done, so the momentum required to actually cause you to start doing work is lower, which allows you to start to do work more often and therefore more work overall gets done – just in smaller chunks.
This new way of work may finally let us eat one bite of the work elephant at a time. How do you find you work differently when mobile with just a smart device vs. a laptop?
The bloom is not off the rose. In fact, I may be spending a lot more than I had thought on vases simply because the rose is so damn cool! OK, enough metaphors. After picking up the iPad yesterday from a Best Buy in Clarksville, Indiana it has been in nearly constant use. By me or my kids, but not yet the wife – only because I think she hasn’t been able to get it away from us. As I tweeted yesterday the only real disappointment is no iPad native facebook app (the one for the iPhone is like using a 640×480 DOS app when you first got your 1280×1024 monitor and were running Windows 3.1). Everything else has been just pure awesomeness.
The part about buying more vases: I have already spent an infinitely greater amount on apps than I ever did with my iPhone. I have lots of apps on my iPhone (5 screens worth – which is a lot to me since I only have an 8 GB model), but not one of them was a pay for app. All of them are either free or the trial versions of pay for apps (games mostly in that category). I have already purchased the Elements app for iPad (completely agree with the comments that this is what ebooks were supposed to be!) and am looking at a few others:
- Drawing pad – looks perfect to keep the kids busy
- iMockups - this looks to be killer for those quick conversations about what a web page should look like. Imagine whipping out your iPad, throwing a few elements around on screen while you are talking with the client and finalizing a prototype then and there.
- Omnigraffle – on the fence about this one because I really want to see when / if Mind Jet comes out with a mind manager app for iPad. But if they don’t soon this one will be in my shopping cart on the app store.
- iWorks for iPad – yep, even though I don’t have iWorks on my MBP I am considering it for the iPad. Only reason I haven’t bought it yet because again, I want to wait a bit to see how Microsoft will handle the iPad – distraction or platform?
That being said, I also have a ton of free apps that I realy am enjoying:
- Netflix – my daughter streamed a movie in the car on the way home from the VB tournament yesterday over my sprint mifi. I felt like I was in the Jetsons.
- NPR – if you can handle the biased reporting, the app is really cool – the way news ought to be presented.
- WSJ / NYT – put these together because they are basically the same app, one with reporting from the right and one from the left. Again, this is how newspapers will be.
- Evernote – been playing around with evernote on my MBP and iPhone, but with an iPad optimized version on day 1 they have really won me over. Once I get the keyboard attachment, I may never take notes on my PC again.
- Twitterific – great 1st day implementation that makes incredible use of the screen real estate. They didn;t just stretch this app out – they rethought it. Job well done!
- Marvel comics – got this one on there for the boy (ok, me too!). Really well done. not sure if it will lead me to purchase comics or not, but can’t say its out of the realm of possibility.
Don’t get me wrong the device is cool and I know without a cool device non of the software apps would be possible. But I think the real revolution that Apple unleashed yesterday will be the market for apps that sell for real money. The iPhone paved the way for the app store, but the iPad may be the way that developers can finally cash in.