Day Zero: Intel's Anti-iPad Alternative Reality

By Rob Enderle September 11, 2012

Intel has stepped up to the unique responsibility of a market leader to help define future markets and make sure these future waves don’t emerge without Intel.  

Intel has taken a very unique and creative approach to this task that most of their peers try to avoid. It is called “The Tomorrow Project,” and it has multiple aspects from Science Fiction Prototyping which imagines potential futures based on known, but as yet immature technologies, to Steam Punk, which is being used, in this case, to get people to look at technology differently.  

Steam Punk is, in many ways, anti-iPad.  

This isn’t so much anti-Apple as it is anti – iDevice and it has inherent Green aspects to it. You see the iDevice generation is populated by throw away devices that increasingly have no unique personality, are one size fits all, and while they are magical, they aren’t timeless and we are increasingly losing out connection to them. 

I’m participating in this effort personally with two short stories in the latest Science Fiction Anthology (you can check them out here). But the part I want to focus on today is connected to another passion of mine, Steam Punk, or, in other words, the anti-iDevice movement.

Steam Punk

Intel spent much of the afternoon on their IDF (Intel Developer Forum) Day Zero event talking about Steam Punk and showing a movie that talks about the people driving this effort from music to moving houses. What Steam Punk represents is an alternative past/present/future where technology evolved differently.  

While it often breaks from the rules of current science, at the core of the difference is technology that is as far from our one size fits all Apple iPod/iPad/iPhone world as you can get.  

This is the idea of technology built and modified by crafts men and women to uniquely fit the needs of individual users. It imagines an ideal and sustained Victorian world where rather than us driving cookie cutter cars, wearing cookie cutter clothes and using cookie cutter technology we consume and discard, we instead surround ourselves with things we maintain, retain and pass on.

In some ways, it is a better answer to eWaste because it represents a culture in which we recycle and reuse the stuff we have, not as an exception, but as a rule. Where rather than a heavy emphasis on underpaid labor working in factories, the emphasis is on adequately paid experts distributed in cities and towns and where quality trumps quantity, rather than the more common reverse.  

This doesn’t mean Intel sells fewer chips either; only that the parts are more commonly purchased by us and placed into cases that are better built, reused and passed on. It harkens back to a day when pianos, typewriters and stopwatches were passed down and carried with them memories of the people that originally owned them. 

This is a future world where a growing child to adult would work on the computer that perhaps had been used by a parent or grandparent and would convey a bit of their ancestor’s memory in use. But where it would be modified and updated by every generation, so that when passed down there would be a little of each carried forward in a memory.

Kind of like how Swords or other tools were passed down generations ago.    

Image via Shutterstock

I think it also imagines or anticipates a time when firms like Intel could be more intimately connected to their end user customers than they are today and thus a world where Intel itself could more easily survive changes like tablets. And granted PCs of this alternative or future time would be more expensive initially but they likely would still be of higher value both for the memories they would carry and the tactile quality they would convey.  

Wrapping Up

I don’t expect the world to abandon the iGeneration of throwaway products, but I do hope for a future where these things could once again approach the depth, meaning and legacy of the pianos, pocket watches and typewriters of the past. Not in technology, but in personality and their ability to connect us to the generations that came before.  

There are too few craftspeople and too many folks who sit in assembly lines producing pretty products that lack personality and any lasting qualities. We’ve moved from products that connect generations to products that can’t even last through Junior High School.  

We’ve lost something that I think would be wise to try and get back, and part of Intel’s Tomorrow Project is to explore rethinking technology and making it once more part of who we are rather than just a throwaway plastic piece of how we appear.  

In a lot of ways, for a lot of reasons, I hope for this better future present. It is great to have a company like Intel working to create that better future we can now only imagine.  

Edited by Braden Becker

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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