iPad mania has reached full tilt: Apple announced that it has sold more than 1 million units, and Apple’s competitors (like RIM and potentially Google) are rushing to get their own products out (or not, as the case may be for HP). But there’s something very significant about the device that has nothing to do with how many units it will sell. What’s revolutionary about the iPad is the experience that it delivers: The iPad is a new kind of PC that ushers in an era of Curated Computing.

Forrester defines “Curated Computing” as:

A mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences.

Curated Computing is the secret to Apple’s iPad success—it’s why, after two decades of experiments with tablet PCs, the iPad finally proves that tablets can be a viable form factor.


Think of it this way: A consumer can do anything with a Windows PC or Mac, like run commands, install robust software, connect easily to peripheral devices, and save files locally. The iPad operates very differently. Its operating system works more like a jukebox than a desktop — consumers choose (and pay for) applications from a predetermined set list. Each of those applications is, in itself, also curated; the publisher selects content and functionality that’s appropriate to the form factor, just as a museum curator selects artworks from a larger collection to exhibit in a particular gallery space.

We already see examples of Curated Computing in game consoles like the dashboard of the Microsoft Xbox and in widget-based connected TVs. We think it’s the secret sauce for making tablets that consumers want to use and buy, and it will be necessary to empower future form factors like wearable devices.

Which raises a big question: Who will win in the era of Curated Computing? Do consumer product strategists have to be control freaks like Steve Jobs to get it right? Can Microsoft and Google be as effective at delivering curated experiences through Windows 7, Android, or Chrome OS? We’ll be writing about this and more in the months to come.

I’ll be speaking about Curated Computing and the future of devices at two events in NYC next month, OMMA Publish on June 16 and The Big Money’s Untethered 2010 on June 17, so check them out if you’re in town.