Otherland is a science-fiction tetralogy wherein the author Tad Williams writes of a future where everyone has computing devices called “pads”. While the story never goes into details of these devices, I can imagine them looking quite similar to what the iPad is currently. In the novel, these devices are the main computing power, and people access them either directly, or use them as processors, interfacing with the web through direct neural connectors. While these neural connectors may be some time away, it got me thinking.

One of the criticisms of the iPad, or tablet pc’s in general is that they’re missing so much. But what if we were to augment their limited capabilities while you’re at home. We already have the keyboard for the iPad, which turns it into a slightly more capable editor.

What if we to fix the problem of processing power by replacing the Mac on your desk with a Mac Mini sized box, ready to supply it’s processing powers to your pad, over the air, to any pad on the local WiFi which needs it. Hook a Drobo up to your network if space is an issue.

And let’s imagine WiFi-enabled screens (Otherland calls them wallscreens). These would probably be similar to iMacs, but less powerful. Your iPad could be the control hub, a switching station which connects your bluetooth keyboard, the screen and the processing node.

I don’t think the iPhone OS is ready for this yet, nor do I have any insight whether it could be made to be. WiFi probably isn’t fast enough yet, and there are probably loads of other problems I’m conveniently ignoring. But we’re already seeing this become a real possibility. Chuq Von Rospach wrote about coupling Lightroom on your desktop computer with an iPad Lightroom app. The only real problem at this point is getting data to and from your iPad fast enough.

Now, if only that iPad were available over here in the Netherlands…