Why web pads, internet tablets and ultra-mobiles aren’t the same thing
Ari Jaaksi famously announced the walkaround web in November 2005 when he pointed out that surfing wasn’t stationary any more than phone calls were. Cellphones had untethered calling, and a device like the first Nokia Internet Tablet meant the internet was available anywhere we were. We didn’t need to go to a computer in a specific location to get to the web any more than we needed to find a payphone to make a phone call.
Henceforth, we could carry our web-access with us, the same way we carry our phones. Ari said it all when he wrote: “I surf in trains, in cafeterias, at airports, even while driving. I can go online anytime and anywhere I want.” He called his observations “bold” but they were in fact revolutionary in understanding how this changes not computing, not using the web, but how we organize our lives.
Long before I heard of the Nokia 770, I used a small, keyboardless WiFi-enabled tablet to access the internet from Bryant Park in New York City. The notion of the web away from the desk antedated Nokia’s efforts by many years. By my count, it produced at least eight web pads (the contemporary term) prior to the 770, all of which failed to establish themselves.
My most complete experience was with the Screen Media FreePad, from a Norwegian outfit. The FreePad had a 10.4-inch screen, 800 x 600 resolution, built-in WiFi and “cordless telephone services”; and it ran an embedded Linux. No disk drive; if you wanted, you could attach a USB keyboard.
The rest of FreePad’s hardware was feeble by today’s standards but practical for 2000. Even back then the group I was working with expected to buy the FreePad for just $800 (in quantity).
Eight years ago, and only $800. WiFi was in its nascent stages then, but if you were describing an organization-wide device (as we were) and not a personal weblet, that probably wasn’t what kept the FreePad from succeeding.
Or maybe easier to answer now, from the perspective of time: What is a walkaround-web tablet? What does it look like, what can it do, what is required of it?
Continue reading ‘A manifesto for the walkaround-web tablet’