You’re Next

As much as possible I try to stay away from opinions here, if only because this is my public face and people don’t hire me for my opinions, they hire me to solve problems with computers.

That sentiment leads well into some random thoughts about the iPad.

If this does represent a shift against the “Anything Boxes” and towards the “Computers that Do Specific Things Well”, then we’re about to see an entire generation’s computer skills become obsolete. This applies to developers as well as “non-programmer-but-computer-savvy” office and IT workers.

To jump on the overused car metaphor bandwagon, we’re shifting from the days where you could use a standard wrench to work on any car to each model needing a specialized set of tools and knowledge to deal with crazy internal engineering. (ex. socket wrenches with extra long heads to get down narrow shafts)

I think that’s why this has so many of my peers (poorly aging Gen Xers) uneasy. Growing up we were told

“learn to use the magic anything boxes and you’ll avoid the
fate of your aerospace engineer and/or blue collar fathers”.

The anything box skills are about to be slowly, but completely, replaced. This means a lot of employment models are about to be destroyed. Pessimistic? I can see why someone might think that, but its consistent with how American business has worked in the post WWII era. Every few generations a new business model comes along that eats the one before it.

If you want to avoid becoming the 21st century laid off McDonnell Douglas manager, you’d best start learning what (if any) markets the iPad and iPad like devices are going to create. Otherwise its a long 21st century of increasing irrelevance.

Originally published February 1, 2010
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