Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tablet history reflecting early personal computer history

The situation with tablets that I currently observe somehow resembles the personal computer history throughout 1980's and early 1990's, when there were many often mutually incompatible solutions, of which only a few really survived into the current era (I know the word 'survive' can be inaccurate and maybe even corny). Here what I had in mind were the IBM PC & compatibles, the Apple and Mac series, Power-based computers with OS/2, Amigas, Ataris, BeOS and a few others, even Next. Each tried with their own ecosystem and I see the same happening with iOS, Android, WinMo, WebOS, and MeeGo (other ecosystem names for tablets escape me right now).

The 1980's species that did not survive or only got a niche footing, were Amigas and Ataris, and OS/2 to some extent, as these computer ecosystems either failed to have enough popular application software to garner widespread appreciation and acceptance going forward or their development was stopped. NeXT was downright expensive, but it became the first-ever web server (working at CERN must have its perks :-).

I have been trying draw the same parallels with today's tablet platforms, whereby:
  • From the developer standpoint, the iOS is a bit like OS/2, as software development APIs for OS/2 were not free of charge, if memory serves me right (this was SOP for some other manufacturers' developer kits, too. Most ironically, OS/2 outlived Windows 9x in terms of available free software), and so iOS also has restrictions on developing for it;
  • Android, therefore, offers more latitude, like Windows did at the time, and is just as well plagued by viruses.

    Furthermore, Android, being half-open, sees itself right now in waters similar to BSDi.
  • WebOS... The most similarities with an older system that strike me wrt WebOS are with Atari ST, because Atari released their ST series computers to much acclaim and then suddenly stopped developing them.

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