One client to rule them all

One client to rule them all

Summary: I'm the first one to declare the desktop dead. I move from computer to computer, happily launching a few key tabs from a Google Site that I've created with my regular bookmarks.

TOPICS: Hardware

I'm the first one to declare the desktop dead. I move from computer to computer, happily launching a few key tabs from a Google Site that I've created with my regular bookmarks. So whether I'm on a new netbook that some company sent me to test or I'm in a client's office, I can quickly access my mail, ZDNet blog platforms, social networks, or whatever. It works pretty well and given that I tend to be a computer hopper, it suits my needs 90% of the time.

There are a few programs that call me back to a desktop, though. Photoshop, of course. SPSS and SAS. TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop. Office 2010. The latter is only occasional as Google Docs handles most of what I need and fits my computer hopping lifestyle. There are times, though, when I need to create a document from hell, crunch some serious numbers, or create a slide show that really wows and amazes (although SlideRocket may supplant PowerPoint as my favorite presentation software). Unlike most Office devotees, however, Outlook has never been a reason for me to use Microsoft's productivity suite. In fact, whenever I install Office, I exclude Outlook. Why use Outlook when you have Gmail, right? I'd rather access my calendar, mail, contacts, etc., through the cloud, anytime, anywhere.

This is me, though. There are an awful lot of people who hang their professional hats on Outlook and whose professional lives are as wrapped up in Outlook as mine is in Google Apps.

With Office 2010, Microsoft made several enhancements to Outlook, the most notable of which, in my mind, is their Social Connector technology. The Social Connector leverages APIs from MySpace, LinkedIn, and (as of yesterday) Facebook and Windows Live Messenger to pull everything from profile pictures to status updates into Outlook. Outlook 2010 also features a "people pane" where all of the appointments, social media information, messages, and attachments from a given contact are aggregated.

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It makes for a busy interface, but even a cloudy sort of guy like me has to admit that there is a lot of appeal to having so much data so readily accessible. No extra tabs in a browser, no extra sessions or feeds to track the various circles in which you move. This takes that work/life balance and throws it right out the door. Now you can track contacts, clients, friends, family, and whomever else you might want (or need) to keep in touch right through the single interface that is Outlook 2010.

I have to say that Outlook still isn't for me. Sure, right now I'm using it on my long-term ThinkPad X100e tester since that's my primary PC. It's slick and useful. I see the appeal. But there's just too much going on for my tastes. My ADD is bad enough without countless panes and feeds aggregating so much communication goodness. I need browser tabs and windows to organize my online, personal, and professional lives.

Again, that's me. For the other kajillion Outlook users, this could be a key barrier to adoption of cloud-based services like Google Apps. There simply isn't any web-based alternative tool that, with desktop richness and speed, can organize communication and calendaring so completely. It's a kitchen sink application, no doubt, but it's a powerful one. It isn't for me, but for those who rely on it, Google is going to need to develop one heck of a cloud-based aggregator to compete and win over Outlook-happy naysayers. Microsoft has one rich desktop client to rule them all (forgive the bad Lord of the Rings allusion; it had to happen). Can Google create one App to bring them all and in the cloud bind them? (Sorry, I was on a roll).

Topic: Hardware

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Don't touch my desktop

    I work for a company where every user has a beautiful, bright, 23" widescreen on their desk. If I tried to replace those with a pathetic little laptop or tablet, they'd have me killed.
    • RE: One client to rule them all

      Umm. Did you read the blog? Chris is talking more about the software desktop environment than hardware. Are we slaves to our heavily customized individual desktops, or have we moved our critical info into the cloud so that it is accessible anywhere, from any device.

      Chris - I'm with you. The desktop, or Personal Computer - as far as business goes - is going the way of the dinosaur.
      • RE: One client to rule them all


        "or have we moved our critical info into the cloud so that it is accessible anywhere, from any device."

        Except when you can't. Because the network is down.

        Or when somebody gets in because the boss used his pet as the password.

        Or when the provider announces they're filing for bankruptcy.

        Or when the provider merges with somebody else, and the database merge goes nowhere near as smooth as the business merge.

        Or when the provider gets hacked.

        Or when that employee gladly fills out that form written by a phisher and starts sending out p0rn sp@m to all of your customers.

        How critical is this information again?

        Every platform has its security issues, the cloud included. Indeed, since the cloud depends so much on connectivity and is difficult to isolate, it's far more open to attack than any other platform I know of.
      • Don't spoil the bliss ;-) (nt)


      • Slaves to which client in turn?


        Why not simply remote or vpn connect to your desktop, server or network? Once there, wing your way to the clouds and beyond. Seriously, how much work or tasks do you expect to accomplish otherwise and uniquely via say, some rinky dink handheld device? And how hard is it to setup a simple remote web connection at this point?

        I guess if you're the ultimate pooter "hopper" or office hobo you might have a certain case, but otherwise... I dunno.

        Also conjoining the terms "critical info" and "into the cloud" conjures up all kinds of deliciously nightmarish scenarios. Throw in, for example, the privacy-respecting, data mining folks at Google as the guardian shepherds, and it takes this AIO client concept past the realm of the clouds and into the do-no-evil-as-we-uniquely-define-it stratosphere. *Bombs away baby*

        Of course if you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum in a no deposit, no return <b>black hole</b> - ouch! - you're really in trouble.

        ["Come again, you said WHO hacked your server and took my porn collection??" :( ]
  • RE: One client to rule them all

    Yawn. Call me when the cloud can run Crysis.
    • You're not really a computer user then

      You're just a game player, when you actually have work to do, you'll see what he is talking about is very useful.

      • RE: One client to rule them all

        I have lots of work to do. I have lots more work to do when I don't have an internet connection.
  • Christopher: you're still not seeing it?

    Hey, its great that you're in a client's office and it worked for you, but the barrier to using cloud based Google offerings isn't about Outlook, it's <b>Google itself.</b>

    Why can't you see that?
    John Zern
  • RE: One client to rule them all

    "I?m the first one to declare the desktop dead."


    Nah, it's been "dead" for a long time.

    Yet, people are still using it.

    Just so you know, a desktop can also access the cloud.

    In fact, it's one of the best platforms for the cloud.

    Nice, big screen, and nice, big keyboard.

    Sure beats the pants off a netbook.

    Disappointing, I know, that people actually want to avoid eye strain and cramped keyboards.

    And further disappointing that it's "dead", yet it's still the best platform for the cloud and is still popular.

    What's most disappointing is how completely absurd your article is.
    • RE: One client to rule them all

      again, he was talking about the software aspect not the hardware.
      • RE: One client to rule them all

        @KyleDDM Does it really matter all that much? It's not as if apps are going away on devices like the iPad. Okay, "desktop" can be a fuzzy word (for you, at least), but I think a case can be made for either software or hardware.
      • RE: One client to rule them all


        so why mention that the desktop is dead?

        if he truly believed the cloud is so great, then he should also realise that how you access the cloud is irrelevant.
  • This is a hacker's wet dream

    ...... Congrats Chris, for putting all of your eggs into one basket, and helping computing security take a huge step backwards. Don't be upset should something go wrong (And it will - Not if, but when; and sooner, rather than later).
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • When barely adequate will do

    If you don't need power or speed are content with trailing edge software and like to wait a lot for the cloud app to do something and you really only have a few computer needs such as blogging and mail, then you can get by with the cloud.

    But then you could probably get by with a clay tablet and stick too ;-)
  • RE: One client to rule them all

    Maybe for some but until the cloud can run every desktop ap out there, than no way is it even near dead. Any multimedia package be it art, animation, video and music production, you need those applications and the hardware to do it. Simply not possible in the cloud....