Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Apple reinvents the floppy disk

We've had two iPads in the office for a week or so, to test them with educational software and to evaluate their usefulness generally. As we have become more skilled in their use, and we've discovered more wonderful free apps, it's been dawning on us that it's changed the whole paradigm of how we interact with computers and software.

What we are noticing is that we spend time in various apps, e.g. The Guardian's wonderful news summary, and within that app we can't see anything else. In a web browser, we'd have multiple tabs across the top, a bookmarks bar, and various other distractions on the web page itself, so browsing can become a process of jumping from one link to another. For many of us, the web browser is where we spend our day, and Google certainly think this is the way the Chrome OS interface will work. I can have 6 or 7 tabs open in a browser (almost all of them Google applications like iGoogle, Blogger, YouTube, Google Docs, and so on) and my day is usually spent jumping around between these and Moodle.

iPad apps, though, are discrete small environments, hence my "floppy disk" reference. For those old enough to remember pre-Windows days, this was the way we worked; put in the word processor disk and do some writing, then save your file and take out the floppy disk. Put in the spreadsheet disk and do some spreadsheets. And so on.

Jess refers to apps as "walled gardens"; I think "floppy disks" also fits. I realise that iOS 4 devices have multi-tasking, but it's one at a time multi-tasking, returning to the Home page between applications, not that different from taking out a floppy disk and putting in another one.

I should point out that I don't dislike the iPad, in fact it is wonderful for some purposes, especially web browsing (in a single page) and viewing graphics & video. Both of us have become very used to taking iPads to meetings as note takers; Jess uses Google Docs, I use Evernote, and we've become pretty slick with the iPad keyboard. We still struggle with selecting text within words or sentences, but with practice it is possible to put the cursor where we want.

So - regardless of the hype around the iPad's introduction, I'm sure devices like this will become part of the computing landscape, but in selected niche areas. And we may all get used to doing our browsing one app at a time; but where is the floppy disk drive?

PS - In a piece titled "10 reasons why I'm dumping the iPad for Samsung's Galaxy Tab" I came across this; we'll see a lot more tablets on the market by this time next year!
"But I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the iPad from the beginning. I love the form factor and the ease of connecting to a network and setting up my Exchange email account. But I hate the lack of storage expansion, its frustrating inability to display Flash-based Web sites, and the difficulty of entering text on its keyboard. And it’s still just a tad heavier and bulkier than I’d really prefer for the uses to which I put it. Most of all, I hate Apple’s ironclad control over what apps I can install."

No comment.

1 comment:

Bebe said...

Using the iPad reminds me of using my Mac Classic back in the day - one app at a time only.
Do you think that this function in the iPad is a sign of its relative immaturity, or a deliberate ploy?
Have you used Flipboard? I quite like their tile approach to presenting options.