A Core Suite of Tools – Is Tech Plateauing?

A piece in today’s Independent got me thinking today about the core suite of tools that we might deem are irreducible. The article argues that Apple needs to do again what it did with the iPod, iPhone etc. and create a device that fills a desire we didn’t know we had.

I need to think more carefully on this, but I’m pretty sure I disagree. I just don’t buy that Apple did something miraculous. What they did was up the game on existing devices, and ‘ace’ them.

The iPod ‘aced’ the portable music player market.

The iPhone ‘aced’ the mobile phone market.

The iMac ‘aced’ the personal computer.

The iPad is slightly different. People say we didn’t know we needed a tablet, but to be honest I wonder if this is nonsense. It was a logical step to introduce a mid-scale, portable screen for viewing content. The iPad, we might say, ‘aced’ the magazine and TV and newspapers all in one.

Digging a little deeper, we might think about what core functions these devices have filled. We could summarise them as follows:

– The ability to take music / video / other media with you

– The ability to talk on the move

– The ability to connect to the web using a portable / mid-scale screen

Once you can take you media with you, once you can read the news and use social networks and get information and maps and all that apps do… once you can do this on devices that are a) pocket size or b) bag size what else do you want to do?

I just don’t see a piece of hardware that fits into a core suite of digital human tools. An Apple television? Nope. Don’t buy it. It’s old form. The iWatch? It doesn’t fit. Nice, perhaps, but non-essential. In fact, I’m sceptical about the extent to which Apple will get into the wearable tech market. Perhaps they will ‘ace’ the ‘Glass’ concept that Google have been working on, but I think there are simply too many hurdles to that at the moment in terms of privacy and general social opposition. Apple are way too cautious on their cool stakes to go with that.

I’m not Johnny Ives, so I’ll probably be proved wrong. But my hunch is that the age of ‘aceing’ may be over for this sort of digital device. We’re heading into a plateau. We just don’t need these other things. Even if we didn’t know we needed to carry media, communications and info around before, we can see from a thoughtful, philoso-tech perspective that they are core ideas that have been now done. More portable? More media? Given that smell is unlikely, and haptic is some way off mass-market, sound and vision are what we are dealing with…

Seems to me everything Apple has done since iPad is just faster, thinner, longer battery. We’re in the endgame people, unless you want implants. Which, post Snowden, I have major doubts people do…

Then again, I’m still after a toaster with half an ounce of sense, or a pack of pasta in plastic packaging that doesn’t fatally rupture on opening…




One response to “A Core Suite of Tools – Is Tech Plateauing?”

  1. Michael J.

    I think you’re right here Kester. As an Apple user its astonishing how Apple’s products almost have in my case eliminated each other. “Faster, thinner, longer” is really in my personal experience what happened here. And IMHO Apple has always done a fantastic job with this. As you note the only thing left is “implants” which raises a whole other question in terms of our humanity. Although if you watch any of the new shows like “Almost Human” (I haven’t yet watched an episode, only seen highlights) there is obviously an imagined future interfacing human beings and tech, not that that is new. I also think, as you note, folks are starting to take seriously the breach in their so called private/personal worlds. The race for all such web based devices has left many “naked” before the world for good or ill. Now that so many have caught their breath a bit, the realization of what “tech” exposes us to is becoming for many a nightmare. None of us should have ever really been surprised by this. So like you I wonder whether Apple might run out of steam.