Not that long a go a “workstation” implied an integrated effort. Hardware and Operating System engineered by the same company which ensured a more seamless experience. There have been many companies that have produced these integrated efforts including Sun and Apple.
Certainly the out of box experience of Lisa’s iMac was exceptional The unit was unboxed. The power cord was attached to the back and the wall. The power button was pushed. The computer suggested putting the batteries in to the wireless mouse and keyboard and connected them to the system when that was complete, and a few clicks later Lisa was ready to get to work. One wire. If only Shipstone existed outside of Heinlein books.
That experience, as great as it is diminishes over time. Why? Because after all that is over, it’s still a computer. You have apps to install, files in a file system, bookmarks in multiple browsers etc. Essentially, all the baggage of computing that has accrued over the last 25 years or so.
The iPad is yet another step along the path of washing all that away. Many of us are used to a near continuous connection to the nets. Many of us have storage “in the cloud” that makes our work available where ever, whenever. The IPad hides the OS, it hides the file system, it hides the computer. It make software as much of an appliance as the hardware has become. It seems, while you use it, do only do one thing. As if at that moment it’s nothing more than a email device. Or a “todo” list. Or a spreadsheet.
Once again it’s about simplicity. It’s about making choices as a designer, having an opinion about what’s needed, for whom and when. Will it be all things to all people? Of course, not. But it could well be a device for many people for much of the time. And easier and more convenient to use than a laptop or desktop computer. We’ll see.