published Friday, June 18th, 2010

Jenkins: Will mobile devices make desktops obsolete?


by Donnie Jenkins

Today, I'll answer some questions from the in-box.

Q: I enjoyed your recent article on mobile devices, but I must disagree with you that these devices are all that important compared to desktop computers. You seemed to imply that cell phones and tablets could replace PCs, and I don't see that ever happening. Your thoughts?

A: Actually I stated in the article you mention that I also don't believe computers are leaving us anytime soon. However, there is no doubt that cell phones and tablets such as the Apple iPad are enabling small devices to take the place of some computers.

Each device will evolve to fit the task or use it is best suited for. Mobile is great for texting, e-mail and limited conferencing. Desktops remain the best choice for time-intensive work such as word processing. Finally, we may see a completely new and unexpected solution at some point that combines the best of each.

Q: What is Chatroulette?

A: Chatroulette is a recent creation that lets anyone with a webcam go online and do a random video chat with others using the service. It has become popular and can be a lot of fun, but it suffers from the same issues as most other popular new services.

Its main difficulty is trying to weed out obscene and undesirable users. In fact this issue has been in the online news quite a bit lately.

There are several other similar services evolving that solve this problem by requiring users to register and verify their identities. This type of service could be fun and very useful if done correctly and with proper controls, especially in social networking applications.

Q: Can you recommend a computer program or online service for beginners or hobbyists to create music?

A: Well, on the desktop it would be hard to beat PG Music's Band In a Box for ease of use and expert results. This program automates music creation by allowing you to type in chord changes for songs and generating complete music soundtracks based on your wishes.

Results range from cheesy to great, depending upon your choice of styles and especially upon your sound card or other sound device. Basically you can sound as good as your equipment allows. This program is ideal for songwriters and singers who need a quick demo or sample of their songs.

Also, a site called aviary.com has just released an online music creator that looks promising. Aviary is known for its "quick and dirty" approach to solving problems, so this should be a good music solution.

Q: What is Web OS?

A: Well, this could refer to more than one product.

First, Web OS is the name of the operating system for the Palm Pre and Pixi cell phones. This OS is considered ahead of its time, but Palm was unable to capitalize on its initial popularity and recently was sold to Hewlett-Packard. It's likely we'll see this operating system show up on future tablet products and perhaps more cell phones.

Web OS also can refer to efforts to center the computer interface upon a web-based solution rather than one such as Microsoft Windows or the Apple Mac OS. Google is one recent example of a company trying to do this at some point.

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