Hey, we’re all friends here. So I think we can be honest. I bet you’ve spent way too much time on a computer this year. You might be starting to dread it. Your kids may flee their laptops as soon as possible, after a day spent learning using Zoom or Google Meet. Can you blame them?
As a result, most of us just aren’t keyed into replacing a computer right now. Secretly I bet many of us would welcome the quiet time if something were to mysteriously happen to our PCs, Macs, or Chromebooks. But deep down we know that we need those little slivers of plastic and metal, and we wouldn’t like life much if they went away.
Has there really been anything new in the laptop world in 2020?
I’m sure it’s been a good year for gamer culture. Gaming PCs have taken over the top performance role from office workstations for the last several years. And if you’re a gamer, that’s awesome. You probably know more than I do about that top-end part of the market. Respect to you my friend, but I’m talking to the rest of the folks.
So far this year has seen some new hardware from Microsoft and Dell, and predictable bumps in speed from Apple. Chromebooks have had a bit of a moment as schools have sent them home by the zillions. But despite new chips and new boxes, is there really anything to talk about?
Is it the operating systems that are disappointing us?
Several months ago I wrote a longform piece about Windows 10. I argued that there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it. No, it’s not exciting. But Microsoft tried making big changes a decade ago with Windows 8. People didn’t want it. I know I didn’t want it. I want my computer to work the way it works.
That said, a little eye candy wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible thing. In that article, I said it might be fun to “skin” Windows 10 any way you wanted, to make it look like Windows 95 or whatever. I still think this could be a fun distraction and maybe ignite some interest in the operating system.
The Windows “October” update, when it does launch, brings some little tweaks, mostly to the shape and color of icons, but nothing exciting.
I’ll say the same of MacOS and Chrome OS. Neither is significantly changing, although there are going to be some workflow improvements. It looks like MacOS will be able to run iOS and iPadOS apps, which makes it more appealing I guess when you’re tired of playing Candy Crush on your phone. Chrome OS has had the ability to run Android apps for years and I don’t think I’ve used it more than a few times.
Here’s what would do it for me
I want to reignite my love affair with the PC. I really do. The computers of today are the direct descendants of the machines I found insanely cool almost 40 years ago. I want to feel that same interest that I felt back then. I mean, love affairs fade, and I get that. But I don’t see why today’s PCs can’t rekindle some of that affection.
I want my computer to start working better for me. And for you. And for everyone. There was a time when the real excitement of a computer was that it could do something better. We’ve lost that. When was the last time you found a new function in any app or operating system that really interested you? I want Windows to be smarter. I want it to have a better handle on what I’m trying to do and then help me do it.
Imagine if your computer could help you manage distractions instead of just causing them. If it could automatically slide you into your next Zoom meeting without your having to click on 7 things to get there. Imagine if it could identify the people you really need to talk to over instant message and prioritize their messages. What if your computer could help you maintain a better work-life balance, or help you finish your work so you could get on with your life?
I’m not saying I know how your computer would do these things but I do know this. My computer can execute 3 billion operations per second. It’s probably 10 orders of magnitude faster than the one I had just a decade ago. And yet I still use it the same way. How about helping me use it better?
I bet if computers did that, you’d think about buying a new one.