I’m in the middle of reconfiguring my computing environment for the new year, and I’m splitting up the role that my laptop has served for the last year or two. I ditched having a desktop a while back, settling on getting a pretty powerful laptop instead. That was something of a tradeoff since the then-current generations of desktops were quad-core machines and the laptops that I was looking at were dual core.
I don’t like lugging around big laptops, and I haven’t owned anything over 14″ in over 5 years. My current Lenovo X200 feels like a pinnacle in ultraportable computing power, but sadly it’s getting a little bit dated and isn’t quite capable of doing the heavy lifting that I need out of it now. I could refresh to the new X230 but I’m looking to change things up a bit (going Mac).
This got me thinking a little bit about the roles of physical devices in our computing lives. I have a powerful computing device that I carry around in my pocket all the time that could do most of the non-programming tasks that I do day-to-day but the form factor is too small and it is actually very expensive to replace (iPhone). However, bigger devices like the (still expensive) iPad are awkward to use in different ways. Typing on my iPhone is easier for me than trying to touch-type on the iPad, and then you still need to compromise on how the iPad is oriented in order to make it work well.
Why am I bringing all this up?
I’ve had a few thoughts that are all converging on one idea – that the netbook is actually a good solution for what I’m looking for. I know that this flash-in-the-pan category is all but dead now, but after owning an iPad for a few years, I know that the tablet form factor just isn’t what I’m looking for. Sure I could get a Bluetooth keyboard and a stand, but then what do you have really? A netbook? Not really, since now you have a special-purpose touch platform masquerading as something resembling a laptop. And apparently I’m not the only one that’s thinking this way.
During the time I’ve been writing this post, there has been some debate in the news over the fate of the entire netbook category. Maybe my timing is perfect for writing about this, as I’ve ordered an Acer Aspire One netbook just a few days ago. I still haven’t received it yet so I’ll have to reserve judgement until next week sometime.
My initial thoughts on what constitutes an ultraportable productivity device:
Fits in a gallon zip-lock bag
3 lb or lighter
8 hour battery
full-size qwerty keyboard
The idea here is that it needs to be as unobtrusive as possible and still be able to take care of tasks in a pinch. I want to be able to pack it and not think about it. Putting it in a zip lock bag lets me have it camping or on the beach and not worry about it one bit. Presumably with disk encryption and a low enough price, something like this could be very close to worry-free computing, rather than guard-it-with-your-life computing.