Tech titans lose our loyalty: Are fanbois a dying breed?
Apple, Microsoft, Google? Whatever does the job...
Sysadmin blog We've hit an inflection point in computing this year; one where which company makes your widget, operating system or office package finally matters less than it did the year before. Windows 8, Android, the latest iWidget and so forth are becoming interchangeable for an increasing number of people.
As I compose this article, I am driving in my car; I find easier in a lot of ways to think while I drive. It allows me to bypass writer's block in a way that sitting in front of the computer just doesn't. When I'm done dictating, I push stop, and the audio file is automatically uploaded to my Dropbox. By the time I walk in the door, pet the cat and settle down in front of my full-blown PC, the file has synchronised and is available on my desktop. I fire up Dragon Naturally Speaking, load the audio file and transcode what I've said.
It's a stream-of-consciousness approach. I'm really just core-dumping my ideas, but it gets the ideas out of my head and into a text file. I clean up my ramblings a little bit, add some hyperlinks and bam: blog post.
A deeper look at my personal approach to solving writer's block provides a good example of how "who makes the widgets" is starting to become irrelevant. The specific case of writing various forms of documents no longer requires a PC. I can speak into anything that will record audio to a file. The transcoding could be done by any number of devices, or even by a cloud service. The editing and so forth can be done in a browser; in fact, I recall having co-written a short book last week in exactly that fashion.
The only thing that prevents me from doing all of this on my Asus Transformer from start to finish is that I'm too lazy to hunt down the relevant apps and install them. I've written articles on my Galaxy S II before, so it's not too far out there. But that won't work for my use cases!
What works for me in this one use case doesn't apply to everyone in all situations. That said, the number of tasks that really aren't bound to a specific operating system or device is already quite astounding.
As geeks it's easy to become worked up about latest technology. We become attached to specific companies, products and even operating systems. In tying our sense of self-worth to the products we use, we've collectively lost sight of the reason we spend all this money on computers in the first place. We have stopped asking: "Why do we need a computer?" and simply internalised their existence - and their perpetual upgrade cycles - with a near-instinctual acceptance that this is the way of things.
Ask yourself - as a systems administrator, developer, CTO or what-have-you - what do you need your computer for? What do you need it to do? Ask yourself about the tasks you need to accomplish, not the software you believe you need to accomplish those tasks. You probably need to browse the web to do research. You probably need communications clients to talk to colleagues. You need the ability to manage the systems under your care and ideally to replicate the problems your users are experiencing using like configurations. You might need the ability to compile some code, or write some documents.
I have a television set at home that runs Android 4.03 (Ice Cream Sandwich) that can do all of these things. Not optimally, but in many cases, "good enough." It's a television, for frips' sake! Don't get me started on what I get done with my router.
We are spoiled for choice today. With the exception of some industry-specific niches, we have any number of available ways to solve the problems at hand. This is why Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS and the squillion varieties of Linux - Android included - just don't matter.
An ever-increasing number of users can now wander into the local electronics shop and buy a device for $199 that accomplishes the tasks they are asked to accomplish during their workday, but which does so more quickly and less intrusively than the six-year-old locked-down corporate special provided by IT.
How we as system administrators, software developers, widget designers etc deal with this will determine the degree to which our users, clients and customers will work with us, or treat us as damage and route around us.
Different people use computers in different ways. It's not about Metro, the keyboard and mouse, voice input, fondle screens or flailing at your Kinect. What matters is what we are trying to accomplish not how we accomplish it. If a technology company today fails to make the technologies we need to do the jobs we have to do (and how we want to do them) then we can simply use another company. No company - not even Microsoft - is irreplaceable. Ask Novell about that some day. Or RIM.
There's a diversity of individuals using computers today and no two people are alike. This diversity of individuals means that no one user interface - for an application or an operating system - will do. No one device design will meet all needs; one size simply does not fit all. How we cope with this reality will dictate our ability to extract maximum efficiency from our users and from ourselves. ®
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