11 1 / 2013

Over the next decade there will be a lot of children who for many years have only had access to the internet through apps on tablets.  They will not go to Google to find websites.  They won’t be the unwashed masses who can’t afford a laptop, but they will have years with a tablet before they want one.

It’s a fundamental shift away from the internet as we know it - in a browser - that will be as incredible to help kill as it was to help create and corrupt.  Kids simply won’t be downloading software, games, and porn through the internet or bulletin boards before it.  A purely curated, controlled experience through iTunes or Play is all they will have and know except for a hacker minority.

We’re going to encourage it too.  I could not count the hours I spent breaking and fixing my computer and trying to restore it to even a usable state as a kid.  That’s blowing into cartridges, I bet we remember it fondly because we don’t have to do it anymore.

It takes years to learn how to use a laptop and keyboard effectively and understand the massively more complicated interfaces.  Tablets are so intuitive to use that children immediately realize their fingers are in control, and they’re going to be an invaluable education tool even more than books were for centuries.  They’re also much safer than the internet - “bad” is scaled way back too to something sane.  Someone is watching so I don’t have to.  It’s almost like the internet done right which kind of sucks some of the fun out of it.

The killer question:  what happens when ‘the internet’ is not ‘in the browser’ anymore?  It is only half true today to call Internet Explorer by its name since apps and gaming are so much of our online experience already.

Consider what it means to grow up with a tablet instead of a computer.  tldr; everything we love on our laptops and in the browser-based internet is ripe for disruption.

Some jumbled thoughts in no order:

  • What is the ipad WordPress and how can my grandma install my blog?  What will the forum version look like?   Same for FAQ sites.  The notion of these being websites, separate websites even, might be quaint.  Especially if there was a ‘community app’ you could just create your own in as easily as you might in a browser today.  It solves RSS too.  It might be hard to hide blogs from our families, something like violentacrez on reddit may not be possible again.
  • Whatsapp has won messaging, text and instant.  What will Twitter and Skype do?
  • Children’s entertainment on tablets is going to explode and gaming will follow because this is competing with television for an entire generation.
  • How long until startups are “just an app” with no web presence?  They are already “just an app” with a token web presence sometimes
  • Our kids will consider Google the search engine as lame as Yahoo the homepage.  Same with YouTube the website.  Google is lucky they have Android.  Microsoft’s got nothing because I’m the one who has to own the device first and I still don’t want a Windows tablet.
  • We are getting to the point where people have accumulated $1000s of apps and media that can’t be transferred between devices.  Apple is going to be forced to make iTunes a public park instead of a closed garden, and there will be real compatibility between iOS and Android to avoid a monopoly.  Or will we let it slide?
  • At what age will it become a copyright issue that we buy children unique copies of our apps?  This was never a forced issue on the PC industry.  It’s the end game from a rumor (lie) Travolta was suing Apple so he could leave his mp3 collection to his children, only it’s really going to hit once the RIAA and MPAA realizes siblings are getting a free pass.  This will piss everyone off too much, especially because desktop piracy will be fading by then so if their numbers are still down it’s a declining market, not piracy.
  • It’s going to be really hard for Microsoft to break into this market because we all already have Android or iPad tablets for hand me downs.  I might never have to buy my daughter a laptop so they need to get Windows tablets into everybody’s hands asap or else they need to start thinking of themselves as an app and server developer.
  • Steam box better be part one of an amazing story and fuller experience, if kids don’t have laptops they don’t have pc gaming, and it’s hard to see why they would prefer consoles over tablets especially if I have to pay 10x as much when games are a $1 consumable like candy.  Consoles will probably become just brands, like Atari or Commodore today.  Maybe they’ll be a seal for a quality standard.
  • How will our children learn to create digitally?  In all senses, programming, art, media.  All the software we take for granted because they were “too big” for the web so few or poor efforts have been made to move them there.  And a new generation of problems that can be solved digitally.
  • It is hard to imagine the keyboard and mouse staying a superior interface and surviving all the way into an infant today’s career, especially when you’re born and raised with a tablet first.