With all the travelling I’ve been doing lately, the bulk and weight of my Vostro 1500 laptop was just getting a little too much. I’m a little dubious however of the smaller screen size netbooks and thus found a great compromise with a Dell mini 12 – enough screen to keep my visual acuity levels up, and small enough to not tax my AC joint.
Having sorted my hardware concerns however, software soon became an issue. Of late the blogosphere has gotten all excited about the twin offerings of Android for netbooks and Windows 7 Starter for netbooks. I’m kind of ambivalent to that stuff. Sure Android on something other than a mobile will be exciting from a geekery perspective, and I’m sure Windows 7 will have some exciting features – but overall I want the operating system to get the hell out of my way – so long as it can launch a browser I’m happy.
For me the biggest barrier to users chopping and changing their use of what Zoli has termed “situational devices” is the software offerings post-browser. I’ve played around with a bunch of different “virtual computer” offerings. I visited a start-up last year in India doing work around cloud PCs with a virtual OS and I’ve also taken a look at a joint Israeli/Palestinian virtual computer offering (which is more remarkable for the fact that it’s managed to cross a geopolitical chasm than for any technical goodness it brings). Most of these offerings are just plain ugly – they look like a throw back to a mid 90s portal play – only missing the flashing headers.
No what users really want is to have access to their own desktop from multiple devices – this means the ability to install applications as they see fit, not just the handful of applications with which the provider has partnered. Basically I want my desktop, the way it appears on my PC right now, but I want to access it anywhere and on anything. I suggested this to Zvi Schreiber, CEO of G.ho.st one of the virtual computer players. He agreed that the technology is not yet perfect and that many more applications need to be offered by the virtual computer in order to provide a compelling offering however he feels that the efficiency incumbent in a solution like G.ho.st means they can price their offering very competitively compared to Windows virtualising plays such as Nivio. In the case of G.ho.st this competitive pricing is, in fact, free.
I’m yet to be convinced – and will, in the interim, just attempt to use as much as I possibly can from within a browser (damn you Skype!)