Nothing But Net

11 11 2009

Two years ago when Apple introduced the MacBook Air, everyone scoffed. No, the $1800 price tag wasn’t the bone of contention. And everyone loved that it was a featherweight. The “problem” was that it did not have an optical drive. Who in their right mind would want a laptop unable to load CDs and DVDs?

Apparently a lot, because the success this year of netbooks in general (those mini laptops costing $250-500) has caused manufacturers to now start dropping the optical drive on many more laptop models. The result is a thinner, lighter breed of laptop.

But what about that optical drive? Do we really need one?

The answer in many case is simple: No.

Many people do not realize it, but they are being swept away in the concept of cloud computing. More and more, our computing is strictly web-based. If we must transport documents with us, they usually fit quite nicely on a jump drive in pocket or purse. Furthermore, much of that computing power that laptops had packed in recent years was simply overkill, like a Porsche able to do 160 but handcuffed to a 70mph speed zone.

In other words, manufacturers are finally listening to, and observing, how people actually use a product. Truthfully, about the most important thing I need is a wifi signal, or being within a good 3G cell signal for my ATT wireless connect. And now that many of these new welterweight laptops already come with built-in ATT or Verizon subscription capabilities, this problem is solved in the majority of cases.

As I leave for Florida today to present a couple of papers at a conference, I am so happy to leave behind both a 17″ laptop and 15″ laptop in favor of my 9″ netbook. My back will thank me the whole trip, for my backpack will be several pounds lighter. I have everything I need on that little laptop (along with a pocketful of jump drives). Everything else resides in a cloud somewhere, one that follows me wherever I go.

And that is music to my ears. Oh yeah…and a sight to behold for my own two little blue optical devices.

Dr “In The Clouds” Gerlich


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