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I Don't Want a Freaking Computer

Written by on February 12, 2010

It has been a couple of weeks since Apple announced the iPad. The dust has settled down (somewhat), and the world is once again spinning in the right direction. We have all seen a million articles about what people think. And surveys have been made, pointing out that the hype was indeed over-hyped (as always).

The world has now returned the usual world order where people are divided into three groups:

  • The techies who are annoyed about the lack of technical things like ports, networks, settings, and linux.
  • Mac freaks who are running around with their arms above their heads (and frowning at the techies, calling them nasty things)
  • And the rest of the world, who still doesn't seem to know what all the fuzz is about.

It is just like when the iPhone v1 came out. The techies wanted an operating system on a mobile. The mac freaks were drooling. And the rest of the world didn't really care. They just wanted a cool phone with a stunning design. They said, "Why would I use the internet on a phone? I can do that from my computer at home?"

You can probably tell which group I am in. Yep, I am one of the drooling mac fanatics. But let me explain without mentioning Apple for the rest of this article.

I like cars

I really like cars. I like cars so much that every year I go completely nuts during the 24 hours of Le Mans, where I cover the event LIVE via my Le Mans Tracker.

Sometimes I go to the car shows to see all the new cars, and frown at my wallet when I suddenly find myself in the presence of an Aston Martin.

Cars are often beautifully designed, they are sexy, they are practical, they get the job done, are incredibly fun to drive, and even more so when the roads are covered with snow.

I even write articles about cool cars.

But here is the shocker. What I like about a car is the experience, the convenience, the thrills and the feeling of driving.

I absolutely hate when anything technical gets in the way of that. So while I like a good engine, I don't want to see it, I don't want to handle it, I don't want to manage it. If something has to be checked with my car, I drive down to the dealer and tell them to do "whatever they do." I have never checked the oil in my car. I even tell my dealer to change my tires twice a year, and to change windshield wipers.

But, I really like if a car is using the latest technology, I like if the engine is doing something brilliant, if it got double-clutching, or a "race start" function. Do I care how fast it accelerates or how much horsepower it got, of course, I do!

But, I don't want to see it, to handle it, or to manage the settings. I just want to know that it is there, doing its job. Making my world better.

It is the same at home. As you probably can imagine I got a lot of technology. I got several computers, I got a robot vacuum cleaner, I got an XBOX and a Wii, and I even have a bedside lamp that wakes me up by imitating a sunrise.

So with all this technology, you might think that my home looks pretty geeky. But, here is a picture of my desk.

Every single piece of technology in my home is hidden away, because I don't want to see it. All of it is also set up in a way so that I never have to fiddle with it. I have specifically setup my external hard disk so that they are just always available, on any computer. I don't have to connect to them; they are just there. They are physically hidden away in another room, and I connect to them wirelessly.

I even drilled a hole my wall, and bought a 60 feet cable, at the cost of $300, so that I could place my XBOX in a cabinet in my hallway, to avoid having to hear or even look at in my living room.

Same thing with my computer. I really don't want a computer. I hate computers. But, what I do like is the power and convenience that a computer gives me. And I am positively excited about new developments that can make my computer smarter, faster, better, and just incredibly stunning to work with.

But, if using a computer means having to fiddle with technology, setup operating systems, manage file setting, then that is just like the engine of a car. I want it to be there, I want it to be stunning, but if I ever have to fiddle with it, it's a failure.

This was why I, 14 years ago, began to advocate about usability. We need to push our level of technology to incredible new levels. But it's not about the technology. The technology is the means to an end.

To be really great you have to use technology as the means to create a stunning experience. But, when people have to operate the machine part, you fail to reach your goal.

Take Windows Mobile. It is an incredibly powerful mobile operating system. The things you can do with it, is just staggering. But it's an operating system. I don't want an operating system; I want a really stunning way to use my phone. Google's Nexus One is actually getting close to that, but it is still far to technical.

It is the same with all the Windows 7 tablets that companies showcased at CES. They are running the full Windows 7 operating system, and, as such, you can do anything with them. You can even install Linux on them if you are a super geeky.

But I don't want that. I want a tablet that I can work with that gives me a great experience, and one that completely hides the technology that makes it so stunning.

Two weeks ago, a company introduced the first one that has ever come close to that. It doesn't have three USB ports or firewire, it doesn't have removable batteries, it doesn't have flash, it cannot be set up to run Linux, it isn't a real operating system, it doesn't have a mouse, and it doesn't even have a multi-format SD card slot.

But that's the whole point. It's not a computer. It's not an operating system; it's not about the technology.

It's about giving people a great experience.

It's not perfect though. It lacks a certain something, like a camera, better integration with the cloud, and much better support for external companies to make their apps just as great. And, it is still not there yet. I still need my laptop. Now I just need it less.

But, it is absolutely perfect when it comes to using technology to create a device that isn't about technology at all. Because I think that is what it is all about.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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