So, I learned a lot at WPC (see my day one Blog), but on day two of WPC (and part of day one), Microsoft showed some radical, game-changing stuff that I think, over the next half decade or so, will have us looking at computing differently. In broad strokes, they centered around these three questions:
1) What does the “Personal” in Personal Computing mean?
2) How SHOULD (not do) we interact with computers?
3) What benefit will computing bring the human race in the future?
We were shown so much stuff that I’m going to break this blog post into three parts, with this being the first. As the second and third posts go up, I’ll list them here:
With that said, let’s jump into the first topic…
How “Personal” is coming back into PC
IBM originally coined the term "PC" more than 30 years ago. They’ve since left that field, so it’s up to other companies to continue to evolve what the PC means going forward. Intel has certainly done its part by inspiring the line of Ultrabooks
that are growing in the market today. But Microsoft is also making some very interesting contributions. Perhaps one of the greatest things they showed (and I was actually lucky enough to get one) is called Windows To Go
. For those familiar with Linux, Windows To Go is essentially a live CD
on a USB stick, meaning that you can boot a computer directly from the USB drive. In this case, it’s really oriented towards business users. Consider it a "spare tire" for your computer.
For example, you’re on a business trip, disaster strikes and your laptop/Ultrabook is stolen, left in a cab, had copious amounts of coffee spilled on it, or whatever else happens to computers on business trips. With your Windows To Go USB stick, you can stick it (sorry for the pun) into any PC, reboot it, and BAM! That PC becomes your PC, with all your files, settings, bookmarks, and access to all the things your "normal" PC would provide. In some ways, it’s almost like a Sci-Fi movie–"Invasion of the PC Snatchers." And, perhaps the best part (and this is where it differs from the movie), when you are done using it as your PC, just shut it down, remove the Windows To Go stick and start the computer up again to return it to its "original" personality as if nothing ever happened.
Another big push of making the PC more personal again is the new Metro user interface, which will be deployed across both Windows 8
(desktop, laptop, and tablet) as well as Windows Phone 8
. In the simplest terms, it’s like turning the icons you’ve used for years into animated icons. This isn’t just done for aesthetic reasons, but rather personal ones. For example, it might tell you how many unread emails you have in your inbox. Or maybe how many friends are online for Facebook Chat. Or perhaps how many Foursquare friends are within say one mile of your position. From there, just click the icon (or as they call it, "Live Tile") to open the app and get started. Now, these are just examples, but you get the idea. Also, you can re-size these Live Tiles so maybe they don’t just show you a number but could, for example, show the latest tweets or Facebook statuses of your friends. This video
perhaps helps explain it a little bit better.
And finally, there is the concept of having a "synced" profile, meaning that when you sign in, your settings, etc., will follow you. This is not dissimilar to what Google has done with Android. When I got my new Galaxy Nexus phone and signed in with my Gmail account, it automatically loaded all the apps I had previously loaded from my old phone, as well as many other settings. Now before anyone jumps on the "copying" bandwagon, that’s what happens in the computer market—really great ideas are copied. For example, Apple did not "invent" the mouse. That was done by Xerox (look up the Xerox PARC "Alto"
if you want to know more). In fact, a brilliant (but in my opinion, not retold enough) quote from Steve Jobs himself (citing Picasso) is: "good artists copy – great artists steal
." But, regardless of how they got there, keeping one’s computing experience consistent across many different physical instantiations is a great thing. There may be a little issue in keeping things consistent between the "home" version of you and the version you have at work, but I’m sure the details will get ironed out over time. In the meantime, I think this is a wonderful step in the right direction.
Please take a moment to leave your comments. Do you like the idea of a copy of your PC in your pocket with Windows To Go? How about the Metro UI and Live Tiles: brilliant idea or distracting? And having a more “synced” profile that stays consistent between home, work, and wherever else you are: the perfect future or invasive? Let me know your thoughts below.