The Future is Good Enough

Photo by JOE WU from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Photo by JOE WU from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Chet suggested last week that I talk about what the future will look like. So, like a good blogger, I’m recycling someone else’s thoughts.

Not entirely a joke because I read this piece from PC World’s Linux Line shortly after Chet’s comment and immediately thought of his request.

Definitely worth a read, and I completely agree with their view of the future. The future of computing is less, not more, and the good enough theory resonates with me. This is why netbooks have an addressable market, and this is why I <3 my iPhone so much. They’re both examples of good enough computers.

The iPhone is many things, but for me, it’s an ultra-portable computer. Sure, it’s not great as a computer, but it’s good enough for me and meets my primary objective. It’s go-anywhere portable.  No matter how small netbooks get, they won’t fit in my pocket.

I’m not a fan of netbooks, but I do understand the appeal, i.e. cheap, portable and good enough. Beyond getting onto the ‘tubes, what do people use computers to do?

Instant messaging. Gaming. Word processing. Photo storage.

With the exception of gaming, you can do those things with a netbook, either through installed software or via online services. The only reason I select out gaming is that my definition of gaming refers to installed games, which require beefy hardware and usually are designed for a specific O/S.

Cost is obviously a big factor what with the economy and all.  Look at Micrsoft’s recent laptop hunters ad spots, hitting directly at the higher price tag of Mac notebooks.

Well, that $799 notebook running Vista looks pretty pricey when you can get a netbook in the sub-$500 range.  And prices keeps falling. The first Google Android-based netbook was announced last week to be around $250, which is comparable with the ASUS Eee PC line, and competition will surely help push the price point lower.

Cheap laptops sell well. I get a sense that the days of the home desktop computer are numbered. Laptops are cheaper than ever, and with wireless, you’re no longer tied to a home workstation. Plus, a bulky workstation with cables hanging out all over the place isn’t as visually pleasing as a little laptop sitting on a table, or so my wife tells me.

More people will investigate netbooks as replacements for the old desktop dinosaur because of portability alone. Portability is a feature that everyone gets. Sure, a big screen and a full-size keyboard are nice to have, but a big part of portability is weight. How much more do those clunky laptops weigh?

Glad you asked. Looks like the Eee PC maxes out at just over three pounds. The HP Pavilion from the laptop hunters ad is close to nine pounds.

I’m thinking for most people’s use, a netbook at a third the cost and a third the weight of a laptop is good enough.

What do you think? Is the future of computing good enough? Do we need all the bells and whistles?

Find the comments.

Almost forgot, during the writing of this post, Chet reminded me about his future post over Twitter.





  1. You'd think by now I would know how to ask a fellow IT person a question and not leave it open to debate. 🙂

    I was hoping to get you to share your thoughts on future applications. Not necessarily the next Facebook or Twitter, but what you think/see going on in the world…you know, since you are an expert. 😉

    While I'm here though, I might as well talk about the netbook thingy too. We recently purchased another computer. Mine (desktop) was 7 years old and was sorely underpowered for what I needed it to do (run an Oracle database). I didn't really want to (nor could I afford to) drop a lot of money, but for what I needed, I was staring at the 1500 range, minimum. We decided to buy my wife a new laptop, I would take the “old” one (Dell XPS) and call it a day. I did however look at all the netbooks out there and was tempted…but my wife is near blind and she's taken to streaming netflix movies so I went with a cheap 15″ Dell Inspiron (I had credit).

    I agree about the iPhone. It's good enough for 90% of what I do (twitter, blogging, email and the like). One of these days, I'll sack up and buy one.

  2. I'm not an expert. I just blog 🙂 Thinking about future applications sounds like work, and it's a pretty big subject area. If I have some quiet time, I'll ponder that.

    The good enough mantra does feel like the end of days for a heavy O/S that comes with crap I don't need. It's weird to see MSFT squeezed between price points that didn't used to exist. They're conceding the high end (and usability) to OS X, and netbooks/Linux are pushing up from the cheap end.

    Can't be good. The Office business unit will carry them for a while though, but not forever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.