Most people I know have at least three devices. A laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Some have two of each, one for home, and one for work. If you’ve gone all Apple or all Android, the systems aren’t totally fragmented and disjointed, only partially so. Any deviation from either ecosystem, either at the device, app, or cloud service, and you start running into trouble.
I think it’s because the vendors don’t really know what we want.
They are learning the new style of computing at the same time we are. The cloud app vendors like Evernote and Dropbox are way ahead of the device and OS vendors, and it shows.
Windows 8 and the Surface Pro actually struck a glancing blow, but the compromises in the device, apps and cloud services stood out like a sore thumb. The screen was too small, the mix of native and non-native apps was confusing, touch sensitivity on many websites was abysmal, the floppy keyboard was useless on an actual lap. But with certain apps (note taking) and scenarios (connected to a bigger screen), it hit the mark as well as a tablet or laptop would have independently.
It’s not as simple as just porting mobile apps and a touch interface onto your desktop OS. I believe that it’s only by considering the device forms, app forms, cloud services, and people data services TOGETHER, that you could actually attain the perfect computing experience.
So I tried to imagine the following:
- Could you get by the majority of the time with a 5” screen smartphone?
- What if your phone became a secure way to establish your online identity?
- What if your identity and profile could easily and securely be shared from service to service?
- What if you could easily connect the phone to a bigger screen when you needed more real estate for productivity apps or video streaming? Leverage more granular input devices when you needed them?
- Cloud apps for work have improved dramatically in the last year, but they are still missing a common place to store things – what if there was one?
A picture emerged in my head:
The smartphone is getting to a place where it has enough computing power to do most everything.
You can take pictures and video, message, take notes, write, read, watch, play. You should be able to translate that experience to a bigger screen and richer input devices (e.g. keyboards, touchpads, motion sensors) when you need it. That bigger screen should pick up any excess processing load that your phone can’t handle (e.g. rendering, caching, networking). You should be able to use your phone as a second factor of authentication for added security. Your profile should move with you (e.g. your contacts, calendar, preferences, avatar). Most of your apps should be served through the cloud, with some amount of local processing and rendering if necessary. Your files should be accessible centrally through generic viewers, streaming players, and any of your cloud apps.
Independently, much of what I detailed above is already possible. But it currently takes three or more overlapping devices, dozens of cloud apps, dozens of logins (or a handful of insecure ones), duplicate input devices, duplicate data, and a whole bunch of wires, adaptors, and elbow grease. Do I trust Facebook or Google login as my common identity store? No way. Are Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive the common storage layer I need? Getting closer, but I’m the type that is happy to pay for reliability, and an agreement that my data will never be mined.
Apple is noticeably missing from my picture. At one time, they had the vision of the Mac as the digital hub. They got very close to perfection. But the hub has moved, and Apple no longer has a coherent vision. I don’t think anyone does. So I’m going to try to stitch together a perfect computing environment myself, unless the industry steps up. Any takers? ;)
What does perfect computing look like? by Leo Leung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.