I was one of several presenters at a recent Taylor Career Center Business and Technology Summit. My topic was new computing technologies currently on the market making existing technologies obsolete.
According to published reports, during the first quarter of 2013, PC sales (desktop and laptop) dropped 14 percent while tablet and smartphone sales soared. Some of the blame for the decline in PC sales has been the lack of acceptance of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, as well the fact that tablet computers are generally less expensive and more portable than traditional laptops and desktops. With over a billion smartphones expected to be sold this year, along with 200 million tablets, many users have decided to forgo purchasing a new PC.
A visit to any of the local big box stores will show the increasing market share of tablets and other smart devices as they devote more shelf space to the smart devices and much less shelf space to the more traditional laptops and PCs.
One feisty new player in the hardware market is none other than powerhouse Google, which has introduced a line of relatively low cost but highly portable devices that combine the portability of a tablet with the convenience of a traditional laptop or notebook PC. As thin as a half inch and weighing only a few pounds, these devices are being marketed as Google Chromebooks for as little as $199 and have screens typically larger and more readable than most tablets. Unlike most tablets, Chromebooks have a traditional keyboard and are in a form similar to a laptop. Using Google’s Chrome operating system, these Chromebooks are complete and ready to run out of the box, without the need to purchase additional software. For those who want even more software, thousands of free applications are available from Google’s Chrome Web Store. Included in all Chromebook models is Google Docs, which can create, read and write office documents. Other included apps are a variety of music, voice and video utilities. Chromebooks include Google Drive, highly secured data centers with file storage service that stores files safely online, without the need to create backups of critical files. Data files can be accessed from anywhere, and are safe and recoverable even if the Chromebook is lost or damaged.
In terms of security, Chromebooks do not require any additional security software as they use multiple layers of protection providing a “defense in depth” that is generally considered safe from malware, viruses and other threats. At boot, Chromebooks perform a rapid self-check to verify that the system is secure and free of malware; any necessary security updates are automatically downloaded and installed, meaning that Chromebooks always have the latest security features and updates.
Many users find the boot time of traditional PCs to be somewhat aggravating, often taking several minutes; the typical Chromebook can boot in as little as 10 seconds, making its features and apps almost instantly available. Also, many PC users fail to install operating system upgrades as well as software updates; Chromebook users do not have that problem, automatically updating themselves and their installed apps for free. All Chromebooks are Wi-Fi equipped, and several models offer optional wireless connections through Verizon, with 100 MB of data per month for free. All Chromebooks include an interesting feature, Google Cloud Print, which can print to many printers without the need for connecting cables.
Another new technology being used to make smart devices and laptop computers more rugged as well as extending their battery life is the “SSD” or “Solid State Drive.” Now built-in to many newer laptop and desktop computers, as well as available for installation into almost all other laptop and desktop computers, the new SSDs are much smaller in physical size, have no moving parts, require less power to operate, do not emit a lot of heat, are silent in operation, have very fast access times, and are generally far more rugged than more traditional hard drives. A typical SSD is very small and light in weight, typically measuring about 4 inches by 2.8 inches by 0.4 inches thick, and weigh about three ounces. Many newer laptops and desktops incorporate an integral mounting for these SSDs, and inexpensive (about $7 - $10) adapters are available to mount SSDs into most other laptop and desktop computers. Some new PCs utilize a hybrid system with an SSD drive containing the operating system and other frequently accessed files, and a traditional hard drive for extended storage capacity; these hybrids often boot much faster than similar PCs can boot with a common hard drive.
Even though prices have dropped considerably in the past year, and prices are projected to continue to drop in coming years, they are still generally more expensive than traditional electromechanical hard drives, and offer less storage capacity, even though some SSDs are available with terabytes of capacity.
Get ready to say hello and welcome new technologies and devices, as the future is already here today.
Listen to Ira Wilsker’s weekly radio show on Mondays from 6-7 p.m. on KLVI 560AM.