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.
Dear Google, that's it! I've had enough! Enough of the random lockups and reboots. Enough of the buggy browser and convoluted multitasking. Enough of Android!
Google, I've given you a fair shot. I drank the Kool-Aid. I joined the Android Army. And I wore my green robot tattoo thingy with pride. However, I could never shake the feeling that I've been running with the wrong crowd.
So there I stood, in the middle of the Gardens Mall, transfixed by the sight in front of me. On my left, a seemingly endless line of bohemian-looking individuals stretching away from the doorway to the Apple Store. On my right, the much quieter entry way to the New Religion Jeans Company. Apple on one side. New Religion on the other. And then, the epiphany: Apple is a lot like the Church of Scientology!
Now before you click away at least hear me out. I'll start with origins. Scientology is the creation of one man, L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who once famously stated that "if you want to get rich, start a religion". The modern day Apple is also essentially the creation of one man, Steve Jobs, who once famously stated "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me". Clearly, both were keen financial minds -- kindred spirits, if you will, sort of opposite sides of the same coin.
You do even better! That's what I'd say to fellow BetaNews contributor Mihaita Bamburic if I ran into him in a hallway somewhere. As I watch with amusement, his "existential struggle" with the post-PC question, I have to chuckle a bit at his naïveté. Like most PC veterans, Mihaita tries to squeeze a square peg (tablet) into a round hole (desktop-centric thinking). He'll need to leave those preconceptions behind if he ever hopes to do more than scratch the post-PC surface.
For starters, reset your purchasing criteria. You need to forget about those expensive "clamshell" tablet/dock combos and start off with a simple, cheap Android tab. I picked up a dozen Acer Iconia A200s on eBay for use at the new school my wife and I are building. Prices ranged from $170-200 for refurbished units with 8GB or 16GB of onboard SD storage. At that price point, you can pretty much experiment to your heart's content without worrying about trashing some "transforming" device that costs more than a decent laptop.
Talk about your bitter clingers! Here I am, minding my own business, just writing about my experiences using an Android tablet, when out of the woodwork comes this wave of angry post-PC deniers. I mean, the level of rage on display is unreal. You'd think I walked into a Steve Jobs memorial service wearing an "I love Android" t-shirt or something!
For those of you who missed my earlier post, I noted how pleased I was with the outcome of my own post-PC experiment. I wrote how, with the right supporting peripherals, I could be perfectly productive on even a cheap Android tablet -- like my trusty Acer Iconia Tab 200. In fact, I was so impressed with the results that I declared being done with laptops forever. I would literally never buy another traditional laptop PC.
That is the conclusion I reached after several weeks living la vida post-PC. With nothing but my trusty Acer Iconia Tab to work on while waiting for my house sale to close in Florida (see previous post about not needing a smartphone), I've managed to remain productive and connected without touching so much as a byte of "wintel" technology.
Well, maybe a few bytes. There have been the occasional detors off the Android wagon -- for example, when I needed to quickly print, sign and re-scan some legal documents and hijacked my daughter's Dell Inspiron for a few minutes (it was like pulling teeth -- she's quite possessive of her toys). However, for the most part I accomplished everything I needed to from the comfort of my Ice Cream Sandwich-based tablet. And the secret of my success had as much to do with the accessories that I surrounded the tablet with as with the device itself.
Call me old fashioned. I do not now, and never have in the past, owned a smartphone. Whether it was due to geographic isolation (the iPhone debuted after I'd moved 11,000 miles to the Indian Ocean), fear of being a too-early adopter, or simply an inability to rationalize the cost of a non-subsidized device, I have somehow resisted the siren song of the smartphone revolution.
But that doesn't mean I'm stuck in the past. More than any of my contemporaries, I have embraced the post-PC concept with gusto. From my first attempts using an HP Mini 2140 netbook (great machine), through my awkward BlackBerry PlayBook (still love my 32GB unit) days to my present infatuation with rooted, customized Android tablets (thanks xda community!), I've seized every opportunity to put my 30+ year relationships with the "wintel" cabal behind me.
It sounded like quite the road trip. Stuck in Germany, with their host threatening to strand them there unless they engaged in what amounted to slave labor, those poor bloggers from India must have been terrified. What should have been an all expense paid junket to cover the IFA conference turned into a kind of Orwellian nightmare scenario complete with heavy-handed scare tactics, logo'd polo shirts and healthy dose of international intrigue.
Frankly, I'm not at all surprised. As a 25 year veteran of the IT press, I've seen all sides of the vendor/media dichotomy. And one of the earliest lessons I learned was that there is no free lunch. When a vendor splurges on an analyst, reporter or blogger, they are expecting to get something in return. Typically, this means positive coverage. They want you to write a glowing review of their product/event/announcement, and if you don't, you'll quickly end up on their blacklist.
A soap opera. That's how I would describe this week's revelation that Samsung is cozying up to Microsoft and the forthcoming Windows Phone 8. Still stinging from its recent court loss to Apple, the South Korean juggernaut appears to be hedging its Android bets by embracing one of the two remaining underdogs in the mobile OS race (the other being Research in Motion).
No matter how you slice it, Samsung's executives are running scared. And who can blame them? Apple will do whatever it takes to crush the little green man from Mountain View (it's a Jobsian legacy thing). And the fact that its chief hardware rival is getting squeezed in the process is simply gravy.
I can't win. Just when I think I've finally cooked-up the perfect post-PC computing recipe, along comes some killjoy to spoil all the fun. This time around it's Apple. The Cupertino goon squad is on a mission to stomp out all unauthorized uses of lowercase letter "i" (among other things), and my latest pet project -- moving my entire computing life to a non-PC device -- is about to fall victim to their litigious ways.
You see, I made the unforgivable decision to deviate from Apple's proscribed post-PC formula (i.e. iPhone/iPad) and instead embrace the ways of the rebel Android Army. After several weeks of tweaking and tuning, I've finally achieved a level of PC-independence I never thought possible. But given last week's Apple-Samsung jury decision, I fear it may have all been for naught. That's because the reverberations from such a landmark case will no doubt spread far beyond its principle defendant (you didn't really think this was about hardware, did you?) to strike at the very heart of Google's OS strategy.
Call it life imitating art. One of my favorite pastimes is watching technology trends catch up with popular science fiction. Whether it's smartphones and tablets presaging Star Trek's ubiquitous communicators and PADDs or iRobots and Roombas hinting at our Star Wars maintenance droid-enabled future, I enjoy connecting the dots between various technology developments to see how they point the way towards a sci-fi inspired future.
Take this week, for example. Three seemingly unrelated stories -- Microsoft patenting "life streaming", Facebook tweaking the performance of its iOS app and the announcement of a Nokia-led alliance to promote more accurate indoor location services -- may together lay the foundation for myriad fantastical future applications.
It's like some twisted reality TV show. As we draw closer to Windows 8's official release date, a parade of "D-List" industry luminaries has emerged to bash the product in exchange for their 15 minutes of fame. Names like Gabe Newell, a previously unknown co-founder from the equally obscure software firm Valve, have now become household names among the anti-Windows set. And while their arguments against Windows 8's success ring a bit hollow, the industry media is still eager to lap up every controversial quote.
Lest I be labeled just another kettle calling the pot names, I must confess that I indulged in my share of sensationalist Microsoft bashing back in the day. I made a career out of ripping Windows, first with the Vista debacle and later in the run-up to Windows 7. However, while my whining may have seemed a bit shrill at times, the underlying complaints were always based in fact -- for example, bugs with Vista's Plug & Play implementation that forced me to reinstall the OS and even lose data on multiple occasions.
First in a series. I feel dirty. As I crawl my way up to my desk this morning, I get the sense that I'm somehow less than fresh. After all, I've just spent several days living on the very edge of Android's outer darkness, a place where evil lurks and "good" users know not to tread.
I'm speaking, of course, of the seedy underworld of Android device rooting, a subculture so far removed from the mainstream of computing that its denizens are hardly recognizable. It's a world that has always fascinated me. But as an outsider subject to the rules of "civilized" society, I could never fully understand the allure -- dare I say, the addiction -- that binds so many to this dark place.
It's a radical thought. What if Microsoft is secretly planning to ditch Intel? With all of the recent talk about Windows RT "PCs", distinctions between the consumer roles associated with RT-based devices and the more traditional PC roles normally reserved for Intel-based systems have become blurred.
Suddenly, usage scenarios and form factors that were firmly part of Intel's territory are being encroached upon by a cornucopia of non-x86 Windows offerings. And cheering them all on is the chip maker's longtime comrade-in-arms, Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth has been looking for a way out of the Wintel duopoloy for some time now, and the combination of increasingly powerful ARM designs and a tepid response to Intel's Ultrabook campaign has given the company the perfect opportunity to step out on its old partner.
4G LTE BlackBerry PlayBook makes iOS and Android devices feel about as sophisticated as my daughter’s old 'Speak & Spell'
I love underdogs. Whether it’s David vs. Goliath, Rocky vs. Apollo Creed or Microsoft (circa 1992) vs. IBM, I enjoy rooting for the plucky upstart. Which is why I find the resurgence of interest surrounding Research in Motion's beleaguered PlayBook tablet all the more satisfying: Here is a product that stumbled out of the gate and was left for dead, only to slowly crawl its way back into the ring of respectability through a combination of raw talent and sheer force of will.
Make no mistake: The PlayBook was an impressive device when it first shipped in April, 2011. Bristling with class-leading technology, RIM’s first foray into the tablet market should have been an instant hit. However, the software half of RIM’s winning formula still wasn’t fully baked, with some glaring omissions (email, calendar) and few third party apps to speak of. And, in a truly ironic twist, many early critics actually panned the device for its smallish 7-inch form factor.