My definition of 'modern' computing

Cloud Computing

Late yesterday I posted my review of Chromebook Pixel LS, which Google released in early March. The write-up is purposely rah-rah to impose the importance of embracing contextual cloud computing and to shakeup preconceptions about Macs being the tools of the creative elite. I also call "dumb" developers who may receive free Pixels during Google I/O later this month only to then sell them online.

One reader comment, from SmallSherm caught my attention, for accusing me of calling him (or her) stupid and for insulting other readers. After writing my response, I wondered how few people would ever see the interaction, which I regard as being quite valuable. So in the interest of fostering further discussion, I present our two comments for your Tuesday thought train.

Side note: I put links to past posts into current stories assuming that some people will click through and read for context. I also presume, and perhaps wrongly, that regular readers will be familiar with my larger body of BetaNews writing. I often present several, and often contradictory, viewpoints quite deliberately over several stories. For example, I am repeatedly on record saying the Chromebook isn't for everyone or for most people -- something that would be apparent to some reading the glowing Pixel review but otherwise not to others.

Okay, so let's start with SmallSherm, then my response, both italicized rather than blockquoted, because of length. I also add links to my response, for the benefit of other readers:


I am a composer. I need Finale, alternatively Sibelius (the recent StaffPad caught my eye, too), and as I continue my education may need to utilize ProTools (or alternatively, Logic Pro). My specialty is beyond the realm of sequencers, but for those who need those kinds of tools, there are FL Studio, Cubase, Garageband, etc. Between Corel and Adobe software, there is nothing most [visual] artists would seriously consider (except those with express preferences for GIMP and the like). With media editing and creation, there's more Adobe software, Sony Vegas, Roxio software, etc.

How much of that is available on Chrome OS? None. And you're telling me I'm stupid not to consider one? Even considering the old addage, "you get what you pay for." what on earth am I getting for that $400 premium over a comparably spec'd Windows machine? Build quality? Even a similarly priced Macbook would better fulfill any of the use cases mentioned above.

When you have to insult the reader in order to raise the credibility of a product, that product probably ought not to be considered at all. There's a high price (monetarily and productively) to be "modern," as you put it.

Joe Wilcox:

No one called you "stupid" -- well, unless you will attend Google I/O and plan to eBay or Craigslist a freely-given Chromebook Pixel. I call those developers "dumb".

Chromebook isn't for everyone, as I expressed here and in many previous posts, nor is the contextual cloud computing concept yet ready for everyone. Right now, I don't work with RAW images because the tools aren't sufficient. We're still in a transition period between computing eras -- like when certain applications were only available on mainframes during the early days of the PC era, when, contrastingly, the personal computer offered many advantages that mainframe computing couldn't match.

I would never recommend someone producing short or feature films to use a Chromebook as primary PC. The apps aren't there. But there are videos that can easily be produced on a Chromebook or, better, on smartphone, phablet, or tablet. I sometimes shoot vids on my phone, upload directly to YouTube, and edit there using the surprisingly solid online tools. I don't need massive local storage -- and wouldn't want to use it up on my phone regardless.

"Modern" is about changing mindsets, about computing based on context rather than device. As I wrote in a March 2014 news analysis: "Chromebook belongs to computing's past, not its future". Contextual computing regardless of device is the future -- tools that would allow you as an artist to freely compose wherever inspiration arises. You shouldn't be bound to PC when inspiration comes.

You mention StaffPad, which is excellent example of an app embracing both computing eras. I would absolutely recommend Surface Pro 3 before any Mac laptop. Touchscreen, pen, and the utility built around them is exceptional, and Microsoft's supporting cloud services offer amazing anytime, anywhere, on-anything benefits that Apple can't match. Microsoft's catch-up efforts around cloud storage, sync, and supporting services are commendable.

I should sometime soon write a news analysis about "modern" Microsoft. The company is undergoing Renaissance -- real reinvention -- that mostly is held back by business customers slow to change. Many never will.

Surface stands at the forefront, where Apple cannot easily go. The company's business is all about selling more things -- laptop and tablet, rather than one hybrid. There is little incentive to offer something like Surface, although incentive increases as iPad sales collapse. The less Apple has to lose, the more likely a Surface-imitator will be.

Chromebook isn't for everyone. Contextual cloud computing is for everyone. Chromebook is one tool but it straddles between the old and new computing eras. Devices carried with you are more the future -- and those you can use securely elsewhere to connect to your stuff wherever you store it.

That's smart.

Wrapping up, I look forward to the day when a computer like Chromebook is obsolete -- when an affordable contextually available, voice-capable, wearable (or carryable) is good enough. And when content follows you, without prompting, and is available in any context you want to consume it. That day approaches, and for some people already is here.

Photo Credit: T. L. Furrer/Shutterstock

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