Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Handhelds Software Hardware

VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin On the Tablet Revolution 185

Posted by timothy
from the respect-your-elders dept.
snydeq writes "Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of the PC revolution's killer app, weighs in on the opportunities and oversights of the tablet revolution. 'In some sense, for tablets the browser is a killer app. Maps is a killer app to some extent. Being able to share the screen with other people — that it's a social device — also might fit the bill. I think that for tablets, there isn't and won't be one killer app for everyone. It's more that there are apps that are killers for individual people. It's the sum of all those that is the killer app. This has been true since the original Palm Pilot.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin On the Tablet Revolution

Comments Filter:
  • The Palm was the killer app. They sold the company right around the time they killed it.
  • Talent. (Score:3, Funny)

    by knuthin (2255242) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:15PM (#39365481) Homepage

    If the guy who gave people a reason to buy a computer says this, it must be true.

  • by CaptainLard (1902452) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:20PM (#39365567)
    I'm writing a new app that will revolutionize Dan Bricklin's life. It will randomly insert the word "killer" into every sentence he writes, thus cutting his workload in half!
  • Or more generally, smart phones have increased the number of game developers by a order of magnitude or two. Even if most of those games are not that good. In the past you need specialized game hardware or high end PC.
    • It had another unexpected side effect too. A lot of the really old games from the very first in the 70s to the early nineties, which had been assumed to have no further commercial value, suddenly took on new life as casual games on the new platforms.
    • That depends on what you mean by 'in the past'.

      Anyone and their hamster could (and did) write games for the Apple II, Commodore 64, Spectrum, and the other 8 bit machines.

  • 5 years later (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lightknight (213164) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:24PM (#39365651) Homepage

    5 years later, the first lawsuits began. They were small ones at first, easily dealt with. However over time, they began to merge, and become larger.

    The lawsuit's content? Repetitive Stress Injury, from using a tablet for more than an hour a day. With a regular computer, you have a mechanical or membrane keyboard cushioning your fingers, allowing you to work for hours without ill-effects (allowing for a standard positioning of hands). Tablets, on the other hand, have a hard glass screen which you are tapping away at. It will later be revealed that the executives of these prominent companies had performed studies that showed RSI would become an issue after too much use, but went ahead with the product's launch anyway.

    Among the suffering were legions of secretaries, data entry specialists, and college students. Programmers, despite their fondness for technology, were not readily known to suffer from this injury, as they are far enough off the fashion wagon to plug an ugly keyboard into a tablet when needed.

    • "Your honor, members of the jury, I have but two words to explain the plaintiffs' injuries. Just two words that describe the depth and gamut of his problems. These two words are not the fault or at the behest of my client, they are as a result of the defendant's own actions."

      "Angry Birds."

      "I rest my case."

    • The lawsuit's content? Repetitive Stress Injury, from using a tablet for more than an hour a day. With a regular computer, you have a mechanical or membrane keyboard cushioning your fingers, allowing you to work for hours without ill-effects (allowing for a standard positioning of hands). Tablets, on the other hand, have a hard glass screen which you are tapping away at. It will later be revealed that the executives of these prominent companies had performed studies that showed RSI would become an issue after too much use, but went ahead with the product's launch anyway.

      There's a little-known business phrase out there called 'best tool for the job'. Where I work, for example, many people have Wacom Tablets even though the vast majority of the world only has a keyboard and mouse.

      I really don't understand this attitude towards tablets. We all love our smartphones to the point that we've maintained a flame war for 5 years, but a bigger version of that device comes, it turns out to be really popular, but no no no it must be doomed.

      Nerd Hipsterism. Gotta love it.

  • by alen (225700) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:25PM (#39365669)

    i have a netbook.
      it goes everywhere i go.
      i sleep with it.
      i shower next to it.
      i take it to the bathroom with me to pass the time.
      i can do anything i want on it

    i can code a new OS or the latest game on my netbook
    i can play real games on it
    flash lets me surf the nastiest pr0n sites

    why do i need a tablet?

    • by CaptainLard (1902452) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:33PM (#39365791)
      Do you need a tablet? Judging by your post, probably not. Do you need a girlfriend? Judging by your post, desperately. But whichever one you get theres bound to be drama when your netbook finds out...
    • I have a Tablet. it goes everywhere i go. i sleep with it i shower next to it i take it to the bathroom with me to pass the time. I can't do anything i want on it, but it is good enough for basic needs i can code a new OS (android/linux) or the latest game on my tablet (with a developer account for IOS or Android) i can play real games on it (with appropriate bluetooth controller, i used a wiimote to play emulated SNES and NES on it the other day) HTML5 lets me surf the nastiest pr0n sites why d
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:27PM (#39365711)

    Just FYI: My comments about "social device" in the InfoWorld interview relate to the fact that a 10" tablet is easily usable by one person while a few other people watch. It isn't "between" you and them the way an open laptop is or a phone held in front of your face. The actions you are doing (tapping, dragging, pinching) are easily followed by the other person unlike a keyboard and mouse where what you are doing isn't as obvious or direct. I first mentioned this in http://danbricklin.com/ipad1.htm .

    The "lots of apps is a killer app" comment (and the reference to the Palm Pilot which was based on an interview I did with Palm's head) comes from the essay I wrote in 2006, "When the Long Tail Wags the Dog" (http://danbricklin.com/tailwagsdog.htm). It explains why "There's an app for that" was such an important selling point for Apple.

    Finally, more recently (a little over a year ago) I wrote "Is the Apple iPad really "magical"?" (http://danbricklin.com/magical.htm)

    -Dan Bricklin

    • by sootman (158191)

      OMG! Now we know who "Anonymous Coward" is on Slashdot! It's Dan Bricklin! Man, he sure posts a lot...

      (Sorry, Mr. Bricklin, but I couldn't resist the joke. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.)

  • Tablets are not new. What makes the current crop different from the last one, or the one before that, or the one before that. Its like 3D movies. Every now and then the idea gets reintroduced and everyone raves about it, till we grow tired of the idea and move on. I still have a beta-max copy of the 1950's movie Cat Women On the Moon in 3D some place, right next to my Dauphin DTR-1 486 25mhz tablet running Windows 3.1 For Pens.
    • by ajlitt (19055)

      I'm pretty sure that Apple sells more iPads in a year than all Betamax decks ever produced.

    • I can see two crucial differences. Firstly, technology has improved. The tablets now are lighter, slimmer and have higher resolution screens than any before. The batteries last longer, and they pack the processing power to easily stream video. Plus we have wireless everywhere, which makes them more useful still, and they even cost less (Yes, even the iPad cost less than my old tablet of a previous generation!). Secondly, Apple... they are masters of marketting. They took the tablet, a tool for geeks, and ma
      • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @01:32PM (#39366875) Homepage

        had exactly the same product been made by HP or Dell

        Well, therein lies the rub.

        We all saw the HP tablet -- it was a dog that eventually HP themselves was selling for about $99 to their employees to clear it out.

        My brother's tiny little off-name Android tablet is cool enough, but has a fairly low-res display and seemed to have some warts (the clock stops when it's turned off, I kid you not; how hard is it to keep the clock going?). Can't speak to the Samsung or other Android based tablets since I've never had a chance to play with one.

        My wife's Playbook -- well, the browser crashes all of the time, there's not much software available for it, and usually when she turns it on she has to wrestle with it to get it to connect to our wi-fi, or occasionally hard-boot it as the whole thing locks up. She's getting to the point where she might stop using it. Which is sad, because when I bought it for her at Christmas, it was a really sweet deal and thought she'd get some use out of it.

        What Apple did was to actually produce a polished product that worked when they released it. Microsoft is playing "me too" as usual and trying to build something. HP released a turd and then discontinued it. RIM hasn't yet caught up yet. The Android marketplace comprises so many different devices that I'm not even sure you can compare them to themselves.

        So, I'm just not convinced that another of the candidates could have released "exactly the same product" ... because they don't seem to be doing it yet. I will say this for Apple, by the time they release it, it actually has been tested and works. A lot of products get released which shouldn't be considered anything more than a beta release.

      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @02:58PM (#39368441)

        Secondly, Apple... they are masters of marketting. They took the tablet, a tool for geeks, and made it cool. Their brand alone sold the iPad - had exactly the same product been made by HP or Dell, it'd never have caught on so well.It's possible that just the power of their marketing could get tablets established long enough to stick.

        People who still reduce Apple's strength(s) to marketing will never understand why they have been successful. Apple has always been about polish. Geeks here on Slashdot might put up with mundane tasks to get something working but the general public does not. Every step it takes to do something makes it a negative in their mind.

        I had a Diamond Rio player when the first iPod came out. Technically it was a higher capacity version of the Rio if you want to reduce it down. But in the mundane daily tasks of operation, the iPod kicked the crap out of it.

        To rip and encode MP3s required me to find and use two different programs. Apple had iTunes. To sync my device required multiple steps and another program. Even then you could mess up the syncing. With iPod, just plug it to your computer.

        When I got an iPod around 2005, my brother got a Dell MP3 player. At the time he disparaged my choice. A year later I asked him where his Dell was. He kept it in a drawer because it was too much of a hassle to keep it synced/use it. I used my iPod for years until I replaced it with a smart phone.

        • by painandgreed (692585) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @09:37PM (#39372973)

          People who still reduce Apple's strength(s) to marketing will never understand why they have been successful.

          Here I want to both agree with you and disagree with you. That people who reduce Apple's strengths to Marketing will never understand why they are successful is true, but not because that is false, but because they have no idea of what marketing is. Marketing is not advertising. Marketing also includes figuring out what the market wants, building a good product to appease the market, and then presenting it, including advertising, to the market so they buy it. It is a combination of telling the people what they want along with the fact that it is actually what they want. Apple is successful 'because of marketing', but the people who use that phase usually have no idea what even wikipedia says about 'Marketing".

    • Designers thought of them as minaturized desktops.
      Apples [perhaps accidental] innovation was to consider them enlarge smartphones.
    • by Locutus (9039)
      all those Windows based tablets before were huge heavy and without great battery life on top of a clunky Microsoft defined UI which had to be like desktop Windows. The phone market was the same and those phone vendors would not create something interesting and easy to use. Apple's iPhone was a great package for ease of use and with the iPod like tie-in with the Apple App Store to make adding enhancements simple. That was easily slid over to the iPad and using the same model of a sleek, light and easy to han
  • by swb (14022) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:39PM (#39365893)

    I find the form factor to be the "killer app". Holds/handles like a book, but does much of what you might want to do on a computer, without having the awkwardness of even an ultralight laptop.

    I get into countless arguments with people who INSIST that a laptop/netbook/macbook air is "the same" but that just hasn't been my experience in trying to sit on the couch, fly on a plane, ride in a car, etc and use the same devices.

    There's no debate that those platforms have greater computing potential (keyboard/mouse, OS choices, HDD, yadda yadda). But they all still need to be opened up, generally lack the battery life of an iPad (even my 2 year old iPad 1 still goes 2-3 days without needing charging) and just aren't as physically useful as a tablet.

    • by Kenja (541830)
      I find the form factor to be too big for something that only does what my cell phone can do. They are poor e-readers compared to digital paper systems, so the only reason I can come up with for the larger screen is to watch movies, which is not something I find myself needing. If you like the size, more power to you, but I just dont see the use compared to an actual computer.
      • Not any more (Score:2, Interesting)

        by SuperKendall (25149)

        They are poor e-readers compared to digital paper systems

        That was arguably true before the new iPad.

        Now that is no longer true. The iPad is now superior to e-Ink, it has greater resolution, better color and much better touch interaction (which yes is important for the mechanics of reading on a text reader).

        • Re:Not any more (Score:5, Insightful)

          by damnbunni (1215350) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @02:01PM (#39367469) Journal

          The problem with reading books on an LCD display isn't the resolution. It's the fact you're staring at a light bulb the whole time.

          My e-ink reader is only 600 x 800, no higher a DPI than some of my LCD-screened gizmos, but it's FAR easier on the eyes.

          Also, I fail to understand why 'touch interaction' matters. My reader has a button for next page and a button for previous page, well placed, and a D-pad for navigating menus. What more does it need?

        • The iPad is now superior to e-Ink

          My Kindle is lighter, doesn't need backlighting, has a low-glare screen, and gets nearly a month of battery life.

          A tablet is better for reference books, but I'd rather use an eink reader for novels.

      • Failure to envision appropriate and unique uses for the device is a failure of your imagination - not a failure of the device. There are plenty.
    • by Znork (31774)

      Of course, a tablet is quite awkward compared to a smart phone, yet does not do much more than one if you're comparing them both to a real computer.

      For my personal electronics, if it doesn't easily fit in a pocket, I'm not going to lug it around. And at home I've got instant access to real computers at every location I spend a significant amount of time, so with the possible exception of bathroom visits I have yet to find a situation where a pad would be the most appropriate form factor.

      • by swb (14022)

        I seldom lug mine around with me on a daily basis, but in the living room, kitchen, bathroom the larger screen makes it much more usable than a phone is.

        Unfortunately, with a wife, 7 year old and a 80 pound dog, having a computer in every usable location is not even negotiable in my household, let alone practical.

    • One of the last shuttle flights, as the shuttle crew left the station and they were sealing up the airlock hatches, a black laptop was prominently on screen and open, taking up a lot of space. One the space station crew did something quick with it at one point, but as you'd expect had to carry it in one arm as he typed or trackpad-ed around with the other.

      Right there is an example where a touch tablet would have made a lot of sense. Not necessarily an iPad, but certainly one without a stylus. Of course they

  • by gravyface (592485) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:45PM (#39365991)
    ...longer than a search query in Google. And then you reach for your terrible Bluetooth keyboard/dock with it's equally-terrible leatherette cover and try to juggle the thing on your lap, all the while wondering why you didn't just get a thin laptop or a netbook.
  • Isn't Viscalc the first program with a license explicity noting, "We can't say it works for sure. And you can't sue us if it doesn't." IIRC, it was because of fears some P. Eng. would use it in designing a bridge or automotive brake.

    I'm open to correction on this one.

  • Size Matters (Score:4, Interesting)

    by na1led (1030470) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @01:23PM (#39366687)
    A Desktop PC is like a big tool box, a laptop is like a tool belt, and a tablet is like a leatherman. What would you rather to carry around all day?
  • by decsnake (6658) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @02:16PM (#39367757) Homepage

    those horseless carriages are just overpriced toys and they'll never amount to anything. For serious work, I'll take a horse and carriage any day!

    seriously, you guys ought to listen to yourselves sometime.

The degree of technical confidence is inversely proportional to the level of management.

Working...