Is the future of the computer flat?
The Consumer Electronics Show was a veritable parade of thin tablet computers. But are Microsoft and Apple's slate laptops leading a revolution that consumers want, or are they blindly following each other to disaster, like lemmings off a cliff? I know Megan leans toward the lemmings. I've been more optimistic. But now I'm wondering if Farhad Manjoo is right about this:
Today PCs are the world's most powerful procrastination machines. For half the day we use computers to get things done; during the other half, we use them to watch movies and TV, to read books, to sort through family photos, to listen to music, and to squander hours and hours surfing the Web. Computing is now often what people in the TV industry call a "lean-back" experience--when you're watching YouTube videos or reading an e-book, you're only occasionally interacting with the machine. So why do you need a keyboard and a mouse?
Computers are the ideal procrastination machine because they hold both our work and a million ways to procrastinate from it. This is different from television, where turning the cable box on signals to your brain: Power off. Work time over. If Apple is building a flat, personal entertainment tablet, it's counting on consumers to want a laptop that's less like a computer and more like a television: A device that we'll only power on when our minds are ready to power off.
I'm not ready for that machine. That computers contain the seeds to both my productivity and my procrastination is a source of perpetual stress. But in a weird way, I've learned to live with, and love, that combination of convenience and anxiety. I don't think I'm ready to part with either.