A while ago, I wrote a column for Tap on the differences between Apple and Google’s vision of “the cloud”, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) came down hard on the side of Apple’s. iCloud, as I saw it, was very much the more user-centred version.
The iPad and Chromebook represent two different views of the future of cloud computing. In one – the Chromebook – the applications as well as the data live in the cloud. In the other – the iPad – applications remain firmly on the desktop (or mobile), while the data floats wherever it needs to go.
Each approach has its advantages. Apple’s keeps native applications, which are still way ahead of the web in terms of richness and usability, while bolting on what amounts to a seamless, invisible storage and syncing system.
The Google approach has some big advantages too. Lose your computer, and you’ve lost nothing: your applications, your data, and everything else aren’t lost, and you can pick up where you were from any machine with a browser. ChromeOS itself has a remarkable level of security, and any files that you store on the Chromebook’s SSD are heavily encrypted. And web applications allow a level of collaboration which is rarely seen on native apps.
I’m fascinated by how this will play out, and which vision of the future of computing will be more popular over the coming years. And I feel like I ought to know more about how the other half lives.
So, as an experiment, I’m going to try living The Google Way for a month. Starting today, and finishing at the end of November, I’m going to only use applications native on the web, rather than the rich apps which I love. The Chromebook will become my main mobile machine, with Chrome (or Safari – let’s be a little platform agnostic!) on my MacBook Pro and work desktop. Google Docs will be my business apps, Gmail’s web interface will be my email client, and so on.
The biggest challenge, I think, will be managing my to do list. I’m a huge, huge fan of OmniFocus, which organises my life on Mac, iPhone and iPad – and unfortunately, it doesn’t have a web client. Instead, I’ll be using doit.im, which I’ve played around with in the past and is probably the best web-based system for GTD that I’ve found. It’s not as powerful as OmniFocus, but it’s pretty good.
Upfront, I should say that there’s going to be a handful of exceptions. Our workflow at Redwood means that I’ll almost certainly have to use InDesign and a few other applications as part of my job. I’ll need to use some native apps when reviewing them for the publications I write for, although the reviews themselves will be written online. And at home, games will stay native: you can prise World of Warcraft from my cold, dead fingers. But where there’s a web-based alternative, that’s what I’ll be using.
I think this is going to be more of challenge for me than for my blog buddy Louis Gray (a man who loved Google so much, he bought joined the company), but I’m very much going to approach it with an open mind. If I was a betting man, I would probably bet that I won’t be staying web-only after the month is over, but I’m prepared to be surprised.