Reading Gleick’s The Information, specifically his discussion about the telephone supplanting the telegraph, made me think of iOS devices and their relationship to general computers.
Gleick argues that one reason for the explosion in telephone adoption compared to the telegraph was that no new skills had to be learned. Forget learning to translate from Morse to the alphabet, forget learning how to tap out a message, forget having to draft a message and take it to a telegraph station. You just need to talk and listen. No special skills necessary. Sure, a telegraph can communicate a lot more in a smaller package compared to a conversation, but ease-of-use led to widespread adoption and a huge change in society.
Yes, general computers can do a lot more than iOS devices. However iOS devices abstract away a lot of the technical barriers necessary to operate a general computer. No file system, no saving, no DMGs. No wonder there have been over 200m iOS devices sold compared to the 54m Macs in use. The analogy is not quite perfect because general computers are still necessary to do much of the computing heavy lifting. However, with Apple finally cutting the cord I am sure we will see the adoption gap widen even further.