Computerworld has an article about the success of Chromebooks this year: “Chromebooks’ success punches Microsoft in the gut” and Dave Winer has written his response in a blog post Microsoft and netbooks, in which he rues Microsoft’s failure to capitalize properly on Netbooks. As a result of its missteps, i.e., not understanding the need for cheap computing solutions, not creating a malware free environment, etc., Google was able to step in with Chromebooks and Apple with tablets. As Winer says, “We all lost here. Because the new netbooks, from Google and Apple, are closed systems, where the netbooks were wide open. I could access my file server from my netbook. I could put any software on it, or take it off, same with music and movies. Apple and Google are running gulags, the netbooks were Woodstock.”
The advent of dumbed-down, closed systems increases the momentum towards simplification of the computers that people use at work, or for other things than checking email and social media. The trend is towards computers as home appliances that run apps available in App stores.
This only reminds me of the time, not so many years ago, when nerds bemoaned the transition from text-based to graphical user interfaces. Other than Linux users, no one ever needed to see a command line again.
Every move forward makes computers easier to work with but takes us further into a technocracy where only a minority are truly in control and the rest are consumers of ready-made goods. If we can’t find a size that properly fits, we’ll accept the nearest approximation.