It's taken this long to attempt to write something on the iPad. I took some notes at Google's Atmosphere event just to try out the system, but quickly discovered that the newly realtimed Google Docs were only available in read only mode. A Google PR guy told me they were waiting on a “real browser” before rolling the tool out to iPad users sometime later this year. I ended up in gmail draft mode.
By now I've gotten the fundamental message, which is that Apple is rebuilding the Mac from the ground, or rather the pocket, up. The AppStore debuted with iPhone and iPad apps mushed together; now they are segregated as the iPad specific tools build out. The iPhone OS 4 announcements made clear that multitasking was the bedrock of the new OS, with the concurrent processes opening the door to sharing data between various services in realtime i.e. the network. Micromessages, popups, alerts, some kind of cross-app communication that makes realtime aware applications possible.
I'd be more frustrated if I didn't have so much fun with the damn thing. I figured typing would be slower and more prone to mistakes, but it turns out that my pseudo touch typing “skills”, a hybrid of hunt and peck and awkward work-arounds, are somewhat easier to use in virtual mode than expected. Granted, reaching for the apostrophe involves going to the number screen and then annoyingly having to click back to the qwerty screen. I can only hope the billions of complaints will reach Cupertino ears before the next update.q
But we have a little secret as iPadders that will carry us through: we are part of a process that will get us to some oddly shared consensus complete with learned gestures that reboot our approach to the task of creating ideas. So much has been made of the focus on consuming that we miss the speed with which the new metaphors are taking root. Replacing a word, for example. I tap the word ignore in the previous sentence and type miss. Tap again and I'm back. I can't quite remember what the old way was, but this new way is fast, fun, and a promotion for new tools in the pipeline.
In fact, it may be sooner than we think. If the OS was built to learn about these quirks or repeated fumbles we make such as the afore-mentioned apostrophe tap dance, couldn't the software learn to go to some plan b where it offers a sort of learned macro that can be ratified by use. Or a macro that capitalizes Plan B for that matter.
Of course, I'll still get the keyboard dock peripheral because it helps speed the transition to the atomization of the MacBook Air into its component parts. Already I've seen iPads pop up in corporate settings (it doesn't hurt that my new Boss is over the iPad moon) and why not have a more enterprise mode that is engaged when these new peripherals are plugged in to the dock bus. A secret club of iPadders who've crossed over into the world of virtual touch on steroids. Isn't that the Apple model anyway? Prescient elitism?
Google of course is doing everything it can to play along, keeping the pressure on Flash with YouTube while hand waving about ChromeOS and then validating the iPhone/iPad model by committing to Android as its tablet OS. Chrome the browser is busy destabilizing Firefox just in time for Mozilla antipathy toward H.264 not to mean a damn thing. It all couldn't look more coordinated if we didn't know better, which of course we don't.
That's because the lure of reinventing our tools is the same thing that causes my daughter to rearrange her room every month or so when she needs an excuse to not clean it up or do her homework. But it goes deeper than simple diversion; we're really looking to step back and find the place where our intuition and what I assume meditation or yoga brings us. A place where we can find our center and look beyond the momentary and into the reasons why we work where and with whom we do.
Computing has always been a personal thing for me, in many respects taking the baton from the role music played at an earlier time in our history. It's thrilling precisely because the boundaries can suddenly give way to unexpected delights, power, opportunity, and yes, the fleeting concept of a future we can invest in. As I sit here on the couch typing these virtual notes, something about the rhythm and even the orchestration of technologies - the sound of the virtual key clicking, the effortless autocorrect of spelling, even the fact that for a little while I'm not being interrupted by the relentless realtime alerts that multitasking allows all of this renders a feeling of purposeful calm that feels new and valuable. All the more because it's unexpected.
And as it unfolds, I file away notes about improvements and ticket items for the kind of learning smarts that must come next. Where Google pushes forward, with its server side tools building one on another to create ever more compelling scenarios, that's where the iPad needs to go. It will be OK for Jobs' insistence on the apps being the platform, because once multitasking is enabled the strategy will be seamless and invisible to the user. That is, except for the superior battery and performance wins that it will then be Google's turn to clone. And back and forth it will go.
Editor's note: This is my first weekly (or so) column on TechCrunch(IT) since I started my new job at salesforce.com.