Cheers and Jeers: The Chromebook and iCloud
Cheers: The Chromebook
I’ve been doing a lot of tech reading recently, as I’m particularly interested in cloud technologies as a potential solution for one of the biggest hassles I deal with every day: data access across multiple systems.
I think a Chromebook is in my future. The battery life is incredible. Everything’s done on the cloud in ways that are not OS/software dependent, which means I can slide easily from one system to the next. It certainly seems like the best solution for me at this point, rather than using drop boxes or constantly retrieving files manually across multiple systems. Do it in the cloud, save it in the cloud, print it from the cloud.
Mind you, I’d never dream of using such a device as my primary computer. I wouldn’t even think to use it as my primary laptop. But as a tertiary system — which isn’t so far-fetched in the age of tablets — it would do nicely for basic tasks. Combine an incredible battery life on the Samsung model with an 8-10 second bootup time, and it’s looking a lot like a feasible alternative to a netbook or tablet.
But what about network access?
The only consistent criticism of the Chromebook is that it is a “brick” when not connected to the Internet. Setting aside the fact that offline access to Google Docs is on the way, I have a sincere question born out of nearly 30 years of computing, 17 of which have been spent on the Internet:
Nowadays, isn’t any computer pretty much a brick when it isn’t connected to the Internet?
Sure, you can fire up a quick game of solitaire, or work on a project through your word processor.* But think about how, for the past ten or so years, your life has come to a halt by network outages in your home. Do doors open? Do family members yell to one another about the Internet being down?
Think about how booting up your device without Internet access makes you feel like the computer is somehow missing something absolutely essential to its function. I started out with computers in an age where only my fellow hardcore nerds were really interested in them; PC use didn’t really “mainstream” until we started getting all of those AOL coasters in the mail, opening the door for an (albeit stunted) introduction to web browsing and email.
All of that aside: it’s a computer for the cloud. Shouldn’t we expect it to be severely handicapped when disconnected from the cloud?
Likewise, shouldn’t we expect something with the name iCloud to… actually operate in the cloud?
Let me be clear: with the exception of making your pictures accessible across devices (for 30 days, and then only 1,000 of them), Apple’s iCloud does nothing in the cloud.
The concept of a cloud is rather simple when we’re looking at user-end data. I upload something and it sits in the cloud until I need it again, either on this or another device. When I need it, I copy that file to the original or alternative device.
Easy as that.
But that’s not what iCloud does for music. Software scans your music collection against the iTunes server, then allows you to access your music collection by re-downloading it from the iTunes store. That’s not a cloud: that’s a sync. And they’ll be charging you $25 a year for the honor of doing something iTunes should have been capable of years ago, all licensing worries aside.
I’ve been an iTunes user for at least ten years. I have a great collection of classical CD’s I transferred to MP3 format some time ago, as well as a roaring collection of Grateful Dead bootlegs. And because these songs aren’t available on the iTunes music store, “iCloud” cannot accommodate my needs between PC and iPhone.
One can’t help but note the irony, however: Apple is masterful when it comes to keeping things proprietary (which is why their devices work so well), and even with the concept of the cloud, they’re continuing that tradition.
Goodbye iTunes (and eventually the iPhone). Hello Google Music and Android.
* All of which Google’s Chrome OS can already do, or will be able to do in the near-future.