Thursday, March 4, 2010

The dinosaurs that won't die

Just when I think People Who Should Know Better can't come out with another obtuse, groundless, head exploding statement that tops a previous pronouncement, someone out there proves me wrong.  While I can sort of see a (vague) argument for the demise (or at least transforming evolution) of the computer mouse (eventually), I definitely can't see the complete death of the desktop pc itself anytime soon, and certainly not within the next three years.

Now, this is hardly news; the declarations that the desktop is destined to the doom of the Dodo have been around for years; certainly more than three.  I do find it ironic that this time it's the vice president of global ad operations at Google, "a search company that generates nearly all of its revenue from online advertising", who is making this preposterous prediction.  Clearly he hasn't clued into the fact that online advertising pretty much obscures any actual, relevant content on the tiny screen of a mobile device, and therefore is a lot more likely to simply annoy people than generate positive click throughs, unless you count the frustrated clicking of users who are just trying to close that dang pop up or banner ad.  More likely he's running ad blocking of some type.

There's also the simple fact that most people using their smart phone/mobile device for "research" - at least here in Amerika - are doing so because they are, well, mobile.  Whether you're looking up directions, scouting for a good Thai restaurant within a five mile radius, doing a quick email check, or posting a snappy one line response to the latest jibe on your Facebook Wall, if you're doing it from a mobile device chances are you are: A) in transit, or B) stationary at some location away from Home Base, and you need to: A) obtain a certain piece of information right now, or B) communicate a certain piece of information right now.  Sure, I've had friends pass their iPhone to me with a giggled "You gotta check out this video on YouTube", but almost invariably that's followed with "I'll send you the link so you can watch the whole thing later" (a link I may or may not click on later, depending on the video).  I know I'm not the only person who's played Solitaire on a Blackberry, but I think I'd have to hunt far and wide to find even a few folks who've played Runescape on one, and I'd be surprised if among those I found even one who actually enjoyed it. As far as doing any serious work...I tried doing a small spreadsheet on a smartphone. Once. I think trying to get a hair out of my eye with a grapefruit spoon would have been more productive and less painful.

I won't go into the whole cloud computing concept, at least not this time around, other than to note the day has yet to come where I will trust a third party - ANY third party - to be the sole keeper of all my important data, and I'm not waiting with bated breath for that moment of epiphany, either.  I will say that while I see the possible practicality of using a desktop setup that's a pair of giant dual flat panels, a lovely finger-friendly full sized keyboard (AND MOUSE), and a docking station for some sort of tiny form factor, I'm still not inclined to make my primary workhorse computing machine double as my mobile mini-command center , or vice-versa.  For one thing, I don't want to have to remember to yank a device out of a docking station every time I bolt out the front door.  Nor do I want to trot around with my main computer, whatever size and form factor it is, in a hip holster day in and day out.  With my luck I'd get caught in a sudden downpour in a parking lot, or have it fall out in the electronics department at Best Buy.  Oops.

There's something comforting, IMHO, in knowing that as I dash through my day, my trusty desktop is waiting patiently - and safely - at home.  And when my days dashing is done, my desktop will be there, ready to fire up complete with a wide screen monitor and full sized keyboard, to take me places where a mobile device simply cannot gracefully go.  I might even kick back and watch a YouTube video or two.