A friend pointed me to a blog article, The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash. In it, the author advances a theory: "Steve Jobs believes he's gambling Apple's future - the future of a corporation with a market cap well over US $200Bn - on an all-or-nothing push into a new market."
This is an interesting article. But I've seen these thoughts before - it's not a new idea that cell phones and mobile computing will be the next generation of web computing. Basically, it speaks to the future of computing, and how we use the Web.
Let's take a brief look at the Web: In the early 1990's, the Mosaic graphical web browser helped turn Tim Berners-Lee's vision for a World Wide Web into a reality. It was a major milestone, where anyone with a web browser could easily access images and information via the Internet. (Prior to this point, "using the Internet" meant accessing FTP servers.)
Since about 2000, technologists have talked about "Web 2.0", where the Web becomes more of an application platform, rather than just static web pages. Broadband was certainly a player in "Web 2.0", but really it was the feasibility of AJAX that made "Web 2.0" possible. It's just hard to do much of AJAX over dial-up speeds.
I believe the next generation of the Web, or "Web 3.0", will be focused on the handheld device. We've seen a build up to this over the last year or so. Actually, I've been riding this wave for a few years now, with difficulty. I used to bring my PSP everywhere I went - not (so much) to play video games during idle time, but to browse the web using open wifi. The web browser on the PSP is serviceable for that, and many tech-oriented web sites have had a mobile-enabled version of their site (if not mobile browser detection) for a while now.
But today, if I want to browse the web (IMDB, email, etc.) and I'm not at my computer, I'll just use the browser on my smartphone. Welcome to the future!
So, let me bring that back to the article for a moment.
Steve Jobs is able to see that mobile/handheld computing is going to be the next Big Thing, so it's not a coincidence that the iPad is basically an iPhone with a larger screen.
And yes, other IT players are trying to break into the non-phone handheld device market. Microsoft has been touting their "Microsoft Courier" (I think that's what it's called) for a while now - and just recently killed it. But doubtless we'll see other large-format mobile devices hit the market soon. The Kindle was there first, but they targeted only the book market - I'll be interested to see what device comes next.
If iPad devices are successful, the Web will look a lot different in another 5 years. How do you think Web development will change?