For tech lovers, so many gadgets, too few solutions

Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:33 p.m.

Like many others, I was not surprised by the headlines last year ranking Apple as the most profitable company in America or that they had more cash on hand than, well, America. I am reminded of Apple's enormous success every day as I interact with my smartphone, tablet, laptops and desktops. I have made my contribution.

There may not be an "I" in team, but my tech life is drowning in "I" devices." It doesn't help to have slim and light devices when you need three of them at a time.

The vicious cycle is that tech giants give us a niche device for every niche area of our lives. If that isn't enough, they do their best to make each model obsolete in less than a year with incremental upgrades splashed with feverish hype.

No other gadget typifies this as much as the tablet, especially the iPad. Personally, I dismissed the entire first release as gimmicky. Just an over-sized iPod Touch, I thought. Of course, the marketing kicked in and before too long I had the buzz and had to have one. Immediately.

In fairness, I love it. Has it changed my life? No, but you couldn't pry it out of my hands. Here is the rub though; it's still just an over-sized iPod.

The dumbed-down operating system prevents this from replacing something as seemingly outdated as my laptop. For obvious reasons, this is just how Apple and others want it.

Just dealing with a traditional file or folder on a tablet should be easy for these mega-tuned operating systems. Instead, your "i" device is joined at the hip to your "i" software in "for better or for worse" terms.

For example, if you like photos on your iPad, you better like iPhoto and the watered-down environment in which it resides. Same thing goes for music, movie editing and even word processing.

Computing on a tablet is best described as casual, while computing on a laptop is more like "desktop-lite." Blurring those lines is what will be interesting to see in the next few years.

Why would a manufacturer want to design a one-device solution when they currently can sell two? This is where real competition to the all-things-Apple marketplace is really missing.

The argument that physical size is the immovable barrier sounds good until you see the "ultrabook" laptops from Sony, Samsung and, of course, Apple. They are razor thin and surprisingly fast. A few extra millimeters to a tablet could equal mountains of computing power. It's the real issue barrier in iOS and even Android, where a more desktop-friendly environment would bridge the gap for the single-device solution.

In fairness, Google is much more open with its Android software, even giving away the code as open-source. Regardless, they make money on each license that is sold on a new device so the incentive for evolving this model will not soon change.

For the foreseeable future, we are expected to be happy with the plethora of coolness that we are being served. That being said, it never hurts to keep a little perspective with what is actually on the plate.

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