I pretty much live on the Internet. I work there, I entertain myself there – heck, I shouldn’t even call it “there” because I’m here right now, writing to you. When my Internet at home goes down, I tackle the problem with the desperation of a hungry cheetah chasing a gazelle. Suffice it to say, I love being connected to the Internet.
But I’m not a billion-dollar industry. Nor am I a bestselling gadget whose appeal hinges on a connection to the Internet in some form or another. A lot of us think we need the Internet, but we certainly made our way through the world just fine without it. But the following gadgets weren’t around in the old days, and as such their sales depend on the quality of their connection to the Internet.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. The Amazon Kindle
Okay, admittedly the Amazon Kindle has some great features aside from its wireless capabilities. It stores a lot of reading material. It has a strong battery life. Its screen reads better than many books do. But some of the best features of the Kindle – the ones that really make it better than a really small library – are the ways it handles information, downloads, and web connectivity.
Naturally, some will point out that only one version of the latest incarnation – the Kindle 3G – has its own access to the Internet via a free wireless plan. But even the more inexpensive and webless version of the Kindle requires access to the Internet in some form or another in order to download books and games. Take that away from any version of the Kindle and what do you have? You have a computer from the 1990s. Nice, but not great.
The Kindle is a favorite of the traveler thanks to its light body and its ability to download new books virtually anywhere. Cut its connection to the web and what do you have? You’d have to order the books online and what – install them using a flash drive? It defeats the purpose of the Kindle and, great as the reading experience is, dulls its allure.
2. The iPad
It’s easy to go with the iPhone as a device that would be virtually meaningless without the Internet, but given the success of Webless alternatives like the iPod Nano, let’s shift the focus. The iPad is more akin to the Kindle than the iPod. As a tablet that, again, appeals more to travelers than the most stationary of us (for whom laptops will be perfectly sufficient), lose the Internet and you lose a key ingredient in the flexibility that makes it such a strong product to begin with.
Naturally, the iPad can sync with computers that do have Internet-ready programs like iTunes so at least you’d be able to carry around your music and movies with you, but you can do that on other similarly-tiny products like the MacBook Air just fine. If your iPad is really all about music or movies, there are probably better ways to carry them with you.
With the Internet, the iPad is essentially a functioning, portable computer that allows you access to streaming video, e-mail, games – the works. Take away even the ability for the iPad to hook up wirelessly to your home network and you take away a lot of what makes it a unique product.
3. The Droid
Okay: I know I already stated that the iPhone won’t be making this list. One of the reasons was that the iPhone has a number of fairly similar products already on the market by the same company doing perfectly well without the Internet. But what about Motorola’s Droid? The device – and the company – wouldn’t be the same without that sweet stream of Internet connectivity.
Just about every smart phone on the planet, of course, requires Internet connectivity in some capacity in order to be called a respectable smart phone. But the products that really need quality Internet connection are the ones looking to lead the industry in the future and compete with the likes of Apple. Droid is in that exact situation, and its appeal definitely loses its luster if it can’t bring you the web.
4. The GPS Device
Many GPS devices will use pre-loaded maps to gauge its position in your world of roads, but many people utilize the Web-enabled features of GPS devices these days pretty much as a default way of getting around. Need traffic updates? You’ll get those online. How about searches? Access the web. The GPS device is a great one, like the Kindle, even without its connectivity. But the connectivity adds so much to its function that we’d be hard-pressed not to mention it on a list like this.
After all, you’re not doing much in the world of Garmin or TomTom if you don’t have more advanced offerings on the table – you’d have to sell a GPS unit for dirt cheap in order to differentiate yourself from the crowd. And GPS devices aren’t exactly what I’d call “dirt cheap” – except the ones without those typical web features many have come to expect.
5. The Xbox
Basically the worldwide leader in fun online gaming, the Xbox in its current incarnation is popular largely thanks to its ability to use the Internet to add awesome features. You can download movies, TV shows, play games online, talk to friends online – for some reason, some have yet to consider the Xbox to be the affordable fun-at-home gadget.
Cut out its Internet capabilities, of course, and suddenly the Xbox is a Sega Genesis. Not that there’s anything that wrong with it, but it’s just not the same.
Why Internet Connectivity is So Great
It’s amazing how technology can lead us to a simpler lifestyle if we just use it properly. Buy a Kindle with wireless Internet and you’ll never want for reading material again – you can ditch that home library. Buy an Xbox with Xbox Live and suddenly you don’t need a DVD player and a game console. The more technology advances and the more Internet becomes available, the better our lives get.
So hopefully this little thought experiment on a world of Internet-less gadgets helped you realize how different things were even just a few years ago. And let’s be glad these devices don’t have to live without their always-important connections to the web – and to the world.