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Computing in Strange Places

April 8, 2010

Much of the commentary around the iPad suggests that the device is a kind of un-computer, a computer for doing things that you want to in places other than your work desk. Such un-work computing activities like listening to music, watching movies, playing casual games and reading a book. These are activities that historically weren’t done at computers — they were done “on the couch” — but they moved to the computer desk and now they’re back to the “couch.” You might call them couch-oriented computing activities that are best done in some place where the user can sit back, relax, and not have to think too hard. All of these “computing on the couch” activities are very similar to that perennial couch activity: watching television.

Than there are activities that only make sense on the go. This includes services like Twitter and the latest Web 2.0 fad, checkin services like foursquare, as well as a host of different mobile-specific services like mobile search to mobile notifications to the most interesting mobile applications (IMO) services like Bump that rely on mobile devices physically interacting with one another or being near each other. These “computing on the go” activities are distinct in that they only make sense when you are on the move. (Mostly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of Twitter users are sitting at their primary work machines.)

There’s a lot of overlap between these two different types of computing. Users want to watch a movie and read on the go as well as use mobile services from their couch. It’s this overlap between couch computing and mobile computing that suggests a need for devices like the iPad, tablets and MIDs that can make that transition from the couch to planes, trains and automobiles and all the other strange places where we find ourselves needing and wanting to compute.

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