The sorts of predictions you read about the soon-to-emerge new generation of personal computing technology include three interrelated
1. Taking the weight off your shoulders and putting it in the cloud.
The vast majority of desktop and notebook computer users do not have the skills or the patience to maintain their machines. When an application won’t install, when a machine freezes or won’t boot, when a new version of an operating system won’t run a critical application, most people spend a lot of time trying to make things work and often have to seek costly help. Hardware is durable for the most part. The problem is software, including operating systems, applications, and data.
Perhaps in the near future, much of this will be offloaded from the shoulders of individual users. Much of the software we depend on will be off-site, on servers maintained by professionals. What’s left in our hands or in front of us will be dramatically less complicated.
2. Bridging the border between handheld devices and desktop/notebook devices.
We tend to use multiple devices and they vary in their computational and data management capabilities. But they are all computers. Handheld and touch screen devices generally have cutdown operating systems, but they can do much of what a desktop or notebook machine can do. Most of us would prefer to only have to master one kind of operating system, one way of managing applications and data.
3. Having the context of our work follow us from device to device.
So, the natural question is whether we will be able to move smoothly through the day from device to device and have our work move smoothly with us. Perhaps we will be relieved from the tedious job of reconstructing the state of our work with each movement, as we go from home to office to handheld to public places.
We tend to develop and adopt technological innovations before the old ones are perfected. Is this good? You could argue that the problems with the current technology inspire us to toss them aside and move on to better things.
Or you could argue that we compulsively grab onto whatever is new because somehow newness in itself is a natural and worthy goal. We don’t want to be seen as left behind, behind the curve. Quite frankly, some of us might be happier to simply have desktop and notebook machines that always boot, can automatically fix themselves when they break. We might be better off with stable technology, rather than always-new technology.