Cloud's a highway, but I hit some speed bumps on the post-PC road
Call me a pioneer. Those who have followed my contributions of late will have noted that I'm somewhat of a post-PC fanatic. I've taken it upon myself to blaze a trail into an IT future that features virtually no Microsoft or Intel technologies. Along the way, I've managed to stitch together a fairly functional post-PC solution. However, my journey has not always been a smooth one, and I will forever carry the scars of slings and arrows gone by.
For example, as I write this I'm sitting in the nearly empty family room of the new waterfront condo my wife and I just bought near Manalapan, FL. And as is often the case with a new property, I have yet to set-up any sort of Internet access -- nor do I plan to do so since we'll only be staying in the property for a few days before returning to Mauritius.
All of which puts me in the difficult position of using a cloud-oriented device (Android tablet) in an entirely disconnected state. In fact, just yesterday I was caught flat-footed when my realtor called looking for the phone number of the tree removal guy who was supposed to grind a stump left near the pool at my old property. I knew I had his number somewhere in Gmail, however, the Android Gmail client simply would not cooperate. I couldn't search. I couldn't manually navigate my various folders/labels. Nothing.
Had I been working in my pre-post-PC "mobile" environment -- HP Mini 2140 running Windows 7 and Office Outlook 2010 with an offline .PST file -- this wouldn't have happened. Nor would I have found myself cursing at the keyboard this morning while trying to draft a quick article for BetaNews. That's because all of the wonderful auto-correct and auto-spell check features of the various Android "soft" keyboards mysteriously disappear the moment you connect an external keyboard. So as I peck away in QuickOffice, I have to pay special attention to my spelling/grammar lest I commit some embarrassing faux pas.
Again, this wouldn't be an issue if I were still using Windows/Office. In fact, it isn't until you fully immerse yourself into the post-PC lifestyle that you start to see all the places where the seams are still a bit frayed. Little niggly things, like the inability to handle some common file type that arrives in an email, drive you crazy. And though there are often workarounds -- for example, uploading the file to some cloud service and then re-downloading in a different format -- they won't help you if you're in a situation where you have limited or no connectivity.
All of which makes me squirm violently at the thought of going all-cloud, all the time like my fearless, Chromebook-toting colleague, Joe Wilcox. The world is still a fairly disconnected place, especially once you venture into the third world. Which is why the success of key post-PC technologies, like tablets, has been limited mostly to first world regions like North America and parts of Europe/Asia. So while I applaud Joe's boldness in fully embracing cloud computing, I know that at least some offline capability will remain a bottom-line requirement for me.
Have I fallen off the post-PC bandwagon? Hardly. I still value the raw mobility of the tablet form factor, and I'm willing to put up with the occasional bump in the road if it means I can simply grab my computing environment in one hand like a small day planner and walk out the door. For me, the "clamshell" form factor of the traditional laptop has completely lost its luster.
In its place: A modular solution that promises to only get better over time.