This outdated worldview is holding back the internet

If you’re born before 1990 you probably tend to believe a computer is a laptop (or a desktop, but that’s so retro…).

Walking around the average office you might think that’s correct. But there are two issues with this world view. The first one is that the numbers don’t agree, I’ll get back to that. And the second one is that it gives us a bad explanation to understand our users or clients with.

What we believe are computers is just the shape that was popular for computing devices between the early 80s and 2007. They used to be beige boxes, but the use case was the same: they sit on our desk or table, and they let us peck at spreadsheets with our mice.

That’s not what the world looks like anymore. More and more people were introduced to computers that looked like the iPhone. They know what laptops are, sure. But to them that’s not what a computer is. For them the computer is a screen you use for internet services.

In fact most computing is already done on iphone-like devices:

“In terms of computing, no one now questions the shift that took place from desktops and laptops to mobile devices. However, reality was messier as it took nearly a decade for consensus to view the smartphone as a laptop or desktop alternative. For years, smartphones were viewed as merely laptop and desktop extensions. What was initially viewed as a superior email machine for executives marked the start of a paradigm shift in the making.”

Above Avalon

The world looked confusedly at us kids who understood the internet. Now we’re in danger of doing the same. We’re probably already moving towards computation that is even less like a traditional computer like watches and headphones.

Most companies still lag the mobile paradigm shift, partly — I think — because we who were born before 1990 still think a computer is a box with a keyboard.

It’s time to abandon the idea of the traditional computer. It had it’s day, I still love it. But that’s no longer a model of the world that makes sense.

The only useful distinction today is online or offline. And online is touch first.