Comment Get rid of the keyboard and a computer changes from an input device to one designed for the consumption of content - ideal for all those whose contribution we'd happily do without.
Tablet computers are coming, powered by Apple's much-anticipated entry into the market, but putting a computer onto a slate doesn't just create a new platform into which Apple can sell applications - it changes how we perceive and interact with computers, and that's going to fundamentally change the internet itself.
In front of (almost) every computer is a keyboard, in the expectation that very soon the user be typing text of one sort or another. That makes the internet into a participatory medium; watch a YouTube video and at the end your hands fall to the keyboard. What could be more natural than making a comment on the film you've just watched?
But watch the same video on your TV, or mobile handset of choice, and no such temptation assaults you - the YouTube mobile client doesn't even permit one to add comments. There, it's almost as if video is something one consumes in a passive way, as though Web 2.0 never happened.
We're told that huge numbers of people now watch TV with a computer in front of them, either consuming additional material (such as the Twitter feed that ran alongside recent broadcasts of Dr-Who-with-dinosaurs series Primeval) or succumbing to the urge to contribute their opinions though the ever-present keyboard.
When ITV Digital gave TV viewers keyboards (the OnNet service inherited from OnDigital) the network ran chat sessions alongside the porn channels. The service was surprisingly popular: simply by providing a keyboard ITV had made something best done in private, or with select friends, into an experience viewers wanted to share.
The vast majority of internet content is still consumed on traditional computers - the ever-present keyboard reminding users that they're only a few taps from contributing their thoughts to the internet gestalt. But a few hours on a tablet PC, assuming it has no keyboard, and one swiftly finds the internet to be a far more passive medium. It's not just the effort of using a soft keyboard - the very absence of a physical reminder converts the user into a consumer of content rather than an active participant.
Desktop and laptop computers are ill-suited to the consumption of content, and the internet (or, more accurately, the World Wide Web) has evolved to the point where the tablet form factor makes more sense. A sprinkling of Apple branding can only help.
It would be optimistic to suggest that the blogosphere will cease to exist, or that users will suddenly notice that Twitter is mind-bogglingly vapid and just walk away. When your television emerges from behind a keyboard the incentive to input is unavoidable. Removing the keyboard from the front of the internet might just let consumers get back to consuming while producers produce.
Do let us know what you think on the matter, though - there's a keyboard right there in front of you and it would be a shame to let it go to waste, wouldn't it? ®
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