So here we sit, two days from the Next Stage of our Digital Evolution...
On Wednesday, Steve Jobs will take the stage in California and, assuming the Wall Street Journal knows what it's talking about, the iSlate or the iPad or the iBook of the iWantOneNowWhateverthefuckitscalled will be unleashed on the world.
Seeing this picture in Mashable this morning compels me to write about my own need for this new gizmo:
Can't come soon enough for me.
Last year I got myself a Kindle 2, which I have found useful mostly for its ability to deliver the daily and Sunday New York Times out here in rural West Bumfuque, Tennessee -- something I've been unable to get for the ten years I've been living out here. Yes, I know, I can read newspapers like The Times on my laptop, or print the columns and articles I want and read them on paper that way, but just as often I'd find myself shlepping into the nearest urban outpost where I could buy the Sunday Times in an actual hard-copy edition.
Reading a lot of material -- like a whole Sunday paper -- on a laptop is just, well, let's say it's a "cross-wise media consumption experience." It's not natural. It's not like reading a paper, and it's not like working at a computer. It's an ill-fitted combination of content and device.
A couple years ago, I tried a Windows-based "tablet" PC. I would often make a big deal out of using it as an e-reader, pretending it fit comfortably in my lap - which it didn't. But it simulated the sort of experience I was looking for - and the sort of experience that the new iWhatever promises to deliver. But the sad fact of my tablet-PC experience was that most of the unique "tablet" capabilities I really had little use for. My tablet went on eBay when I started migrating into the Apple/Mac space with my first MacBook in the summer of 2007.
When I got the Kindle, I discovered that was also an only partially satisfying experience. Yes, I could finally get the Times "delivered," and also discontinued my subscription to the dead-tree edition of the Wall Street Journal (I like to know what both sides of the fence are thinking). I also figured out how to get the few remaining "news" items from my rapidly shrinking local daily paper (aka "The Thinnessean") delivered to the Kindle and discontinued that subscription as well. If nothing else, my daily consumption of newsprint has dropped dramatically.
But while I've been getting the "content" I desire, I'm still not getting the "experience" I've been anticipating. Reading a newspaper or a magazine on the Kindle is very confining. With a real newspaper or magazine, your eye can scan a page to find the unanticipated; with the Kindle, you see only what is displayed at any one time on its relatively small screen.
The Kindle has other limitations, too -- like it's isolation from the rest of the cybersphere. It's very hard to get blogs on the Kindle. The built in "browser" is hardly worthy of the name, and there is no way to e-mail stuff you're reading or post it to a blog or Facebook. In terms of the larger digital universe, the Kindle is inert, a planet alone in its own galaxy.
Enter the iPhone, and, specifically, the Google Reader for iPhone. I've had an iPhone since early 2008, but I am admittedly a late comer to the gReader experience. A few months ago I finally figured out how to use it, and now I find myself starting my days not with my Kindle and the daily Times, but with my iPhone, opening Google Reader and skimming through ALL my news and information sources aggregated into a single space -- on a tiny screen. When I see something I want to make note of, I can easily e-mail it to myself, to Evernote, to whoever else I think should read it.
So in my own mind, I've already migrated to the iWhatever that will be introduced on Wednesday, and the thought that I have to wait another two months to actually get one is frankly just pissing me off. I want it yesterday. I've already had a 'tablet' type experience, so I know that it is more graphically pleasing than the Kindle; and I'm now consuming my daily, morning media feed from a hand-held aggregator with a multi-touch screen and broadband internet access. I now want my gReader experience on something larger than a playing card.
If half of what we're reading about this new device proves true, then I expect to find one in my lap every morning, the ultimate realization of the tablet PC, Kindle, iPhone and gReader experiences. I wonder what will happen to my Kindle. Can you say "eBay"?
But the real excitement about the iWhatever has to be in its still unimagined potential. Almost all new technologies are introduced to serve a function associated with some old technology: you know, television was "radio with a picture." The iPod was initially introduced as just an MP3 music player, but it quickly generated a whole new universe of content, most notably the now ubiquitous "podcast" -- a form of content and distribution that simply did not exist before new technology made it possible. So it's fascinating to imagine what new forms of content and delivery will emerge from this new technology, what new forms of information and culture we will find ourselves enjoying in the years ahead and soon wondering how we ever lived without them.
So, please, Apple, put my name on the list, or do I just go down to the Apple store now and get on line? Can I get two? My wife is going to want one, too.