As I expected, everyone's talking about the iPad this week. The part that comes as a surprise is what they're talking about. The big news isn't iBooks, or the custom processor, or that it runs iPhone apps. People are talking about the iPad as a revolution in computing; that it's the first step in what we can expect computers to act like in the future.
In the New World, computers are task-centric. We are reading email, browsing the web, playing a game, but not all at once. Applications are sandboxed, then moats dug around the sandboxes, and then barbed wire placed around the moats. As a direct result, New World computers do not need virus scanners, their batteries last longer, and they rarely crash, but their users have lost a degree of freedom. New World computers have unprecedented ease of use, and benefit from decades of research into human-computer interaction. They are immediately understandable, fast, stable, and laser-focused on the 80% of the famous 80/20 rule.
The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get "real work" done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the "real work". It's not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS. The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table's order, designing the house and organising the party.
In a world where other companies are focusing on building more netbooks and tablets with Windows that act like a normal PC, if anyone can pull this off I'd put my money on Apple.