Apple's New iPad & the Ultra-thin Computing Revolution

Mar 08, 2012

Article ImageUnless you have been on a 3 month leave of absence searching for inner peace at a temple in Tibet, you have probably been overwhelmed with information about Apple's latest press event. The announcement of the new iPad, new Apple TV, and a handful of software upgrades were not huge surprises. Thanks to our 24/7 tech news sleuths and a constant flow of tweets, photos, and videos, even monks halfway around the world knew we would see a new iPad with refreshed processor, stunning Retina display and a better camera. But the most interesting thing about this recent news is not either of the devices, but the ramifications that these latest post-PC gadgets bring.

With Apple's third generation tablet and third generation Apple TV, we are one step closer to ultra-thin computing for the masses. With the help of multiple screens we can now access all of our content in the cloud and eventually shift all the computing power online as well. What that means for our connected world and content creators everywhere is a dramatic shift from our current reality.

Cheaper screens mean everyone will have access everywhere they go. Ubiquitous internet access means we will no longer carry around 100gb of photos on our hard drives. And smarter servers means the heavy computing can be done out of a California data center while I'm on the beach in South Carolina. So what the heck is an ultra-thin client? And more importantly how will that effect content creation and consumption?

Total shocker: the term thin client was originally coined by an Oracle marketing executive in 1993. As a proud marketer myself, I usually cringe at technology buzzwords, but thin client is the perfect descriptor for the shift in technology we are going through right now. The original term described a system where one or many workhorse servers were connected to multiple terminals. Basically a screen, keyboard, mouse and a connection to the server. All the data, software and computing was done in a central area and the thin client provided the interface along with a basic operating system. The term ultra-thin client describes the same system but the terminal has no operating system. Everything is done on and by the server. You may notice the similarities to thin client, ultra-thin client, and "the cloud." Same idea, new marketing term. Sounds very familiar to where we are now and even more so to where we are headed.

The title of the Apple press event should have been called "Apple, Post-PC Revolution." I lost count of how many times I heard and saw the word "post-PC" but it supports the shift we are seeing to the ultra-thin computing model. In the Apple press event there were multiple examples of thin and ultra-thin computing. Now, when you buy a movie off of iTunes, you can watch it on your iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, or Mac. While not revolutionary, our content living on a server and being accessible from multiple devices instantly is just the beginning. Siri, the personal voice assistant is a better example of how a thin computing scenario unfolds. When you ask Siri something, that information is immediately sent to a server. The software and database for Siri is constantly being updated and monitored by Apple, so the response you get will vary depending on lots of information. Some of the most popular Apps on iOS are using third party servers to encode videos, upload photos, and process information. We are a small step away from our content, software, and computing power being 100% in the cloud.

So what does that mean for content creators? While we still don't know where the post-PC world will take us, we do know that we must adapt in order to stay relevant. First, you must be aware of how your content looks on all post-PC devices. We no longer live in the world of designing for 1024x768 desktop monitors. Using tools like the newly announced Adobe Shadow will allow you to view and edit your content on multiple devices all at the same time. When was the last time you looked at your website on a laptop, iPhone, iPad, Android tablet and 60" HDTV?

Learning about responsive and adaptive web design are key for how your content will look on the thousands of different devices and screen sizes available. Finally, how will ultra thin computing effect your long term strategy for content creation and curation? How will your customers react to downloading information that they no longer have hard drive space to keep? Planning now for how you and your company's content can be accessed online can save you a ton of headaches in the future.

The future is uncertain but it's also an incredibly exciting time to be alive. And whether the post-PC world will be thin, ultra-thin or cloud based, you need to be prepared to embrace it. Now if I can find my robes, it might be a good time to go hangout in a monastery for awhile. I hope they have WiFi.