Interface Me With Speed Please

So, with the ongoing obvious caveat that any sort of blogging on gadgets or technology is probably a waste of your time and no doubt conceitedly wrong-headed if not erroneous on its face...

I've been thinking some more about portable computing interfaces. Nerd alert.

SO, basically, the deal is that I am, like, really excited for the Chrome OS. The more I use Chrome as a browser, the more I realize how superior it is to other browsers simply for that RUSH of SPEED like gunning a V8 on a stretch of western highway, that even the smallest hint of acceleration in this velocity-twisted information economy is like a drug after a couple days of being off the stuff. And accordingly, I'm using more and more web apps. Google Docs? Loads and saves faster than a text editor. Gmail? FUCK Outlook. Never again. Switching between seven windows, fifteen tabs, faster than opening a new Windows Explorer window? Put it all online. I don't care. I'll do anything for that RAW, that FAST, that DATA-RUSH interface high that is instant micro-multi-tasking.

So, the iPad. The future of computing, maybe? According to the media? According to people who like shiny things? I had a new idea about this.

The iPad is the bridge. Many gripes about the possibility of Chrome OS sucking involve the potential lack of native applications. I have no idea if this is true or not, but, let's look at the iPhone OS.

Of the 50 apps I have on my iPhone, 30 of them would have no function if not connected to the network. Of the other 20, 12 are straight-up games, and then 5 more are basically "entertainment related" (a simple program without the need to save much data or interface with other apps). There are 3 stand-alone apps on my iPhone that I have downloaded, that improve the function of my mini-computer without an Internet connection.

Now, if Apple let you really alter the structure of their mini-computers, I might have some more utilities, some need to save data to the device itself. But they have already made it, for almost all intents and purposes, a Network-OS. And we've learned to love it. In fact, our use of the internet as an interface has shifted to take advantage of this relatively light-weight OS, utilizing networks rather than storage space, the cloud rather than OS, html and scripting rather than registry and resources.

Now for the second big part of the iPhone OS: multi-touch. Also, changed our interface to data. I find it absolutely incomprehensible that I can hand an e-coupon pulled up on my iPhone screen to any store clerk in America, and they will pinch and flick as naturally as if they were opening a paper envelope. Have an iPhone? Look at the way you turn the pages of a book. It's a little different now, isn't it?

This was what spurned this thought: this week I was talking to an IT tech in my work's new building. He was using a Fujitsu tablet PC, running Windows 7. So he says, this is the only tablet PC on the market that is multi-touch capable. He had bumped it up with 8gigs of RAM, SSD, etc (though bear in mind that in all these anecdotal examples I'm about to give, its really the SSD making the difference). He showed it to me--pretty slick. Boots from cold in less than 10 seconds. Loads programs as fast as you can click (literally, I watched him do it). Scrolls Microsoft's Earth mapping program, pinch, flick, all that, beautifully. Not like "other" multi-touch phones, that don't quite have that iPhone zip, but exactly the same.

Now the interesting part, is that he says it is best on Microsoft programs. Why? Because Microsoft has designed Windows 7 for multi-touch. I asked him what other companies have multi-touch capable software. No one. Because this is the only tablet PC with multi-touch (I think HP has that media wide-screen desktop thing, don't they? That's a custom, light-weight OS though, I think). He said he uses Explorer as a browser (I know, right?) because it's so seamless. Because it is designed for the interface. Everything else just acts like his finger is a mouse.

So, what I realized is not that any particular OS is going to be the next-new-whatever, but that I continue to see evidence in furtherance of the thesis that it is not any particular functionality that is really driving the usefulness of technology, but the seamlessness of the interface. The seamlessness is the SPEED by which we can interface our data. The quick response of the steering wheel that makes us think we are driving a high performance sports car, even if we are not. We want to feel the pull of the acceleration on our loins, see the speeding white lines of our data as we open and close it at will, flicking it around the roadway. The deep, psychical pull of the modern obsession with speed and acceleration is too deep rooted for us to be post-speed. Control is just too sexy.

iPhone OS taught us to love speed again. It taught us that as long as we're moving fast, we're interfacing our data better. And for the most part, this seems to be correct.

Now, if the Chrome browser is any indication, Chrome OS could be our flying car. We're okay with interfacing all data to the network. We'll adapt for the speed of it. I have no idea if Chrome OS is going to be multi-touch capable or not, but I can tell you that I'm sure developing multi-touch for a OS based on a browser is a lot easier than for Windows 7 and all Microsoft software. Firefox has multi-touch. Does the Chrome browser? I forgot to ask my new IT friend. But how much of a leap will that be?

And you know what the Chrome OS will definitely have that the iPhone OS will not? Moveable walls. It's going to be open-source, or at least open-enough that you can run say, a light-weight Ubuntu partition for all your old-school, mouse-click native apps and games, hard-save data, and private-private-private stuff, and then Chrome OS for your network interface. My IT friend had a couple virtual OS's on his souped-up Fujitsu. Know how long it took him to boot a virtual XP OS? Less than a second. Ubuntu? Less than that.

iPhone OS has made a lot, a lot of money off of its closed nature, because it pulled ahead. It was the innovator, and as such, was showered with gold. But apart from a high-design drink coaster, what is it they are really introducing? Something that they cannot hold by themselves forever. It's only a matter of time before someone else can replicate it, and they will replicate it open-source (whether its Google or not, simply to highlight their competition with Apple) and it will be cheap and fast and easy and will go onto any netbook you can slap a multi-touch screen on. People will buy Apple, because Apple makes very nice coasters. But their lock on the interface can't continue for ever. Nobody can restrain the human impulse for interface speed.

So, as sure as I can be without it actually existing yet, I'm super primed to buy a multi-touch mini tablet as soon as Chrome OS is actually an actually thing.

Next week: back to your regularly scheduled predictions and condemnations about the death of god, the re-birth of sex, anti-capitalist economics, and drug-addled anarchistic metaphysics.

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