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Think data, not computers

By Jean-Claude Elias - Mar 06,2014 - Last updated at Mar 06,2014

We are now device-independent.

The notion dates back to the late 1980s, computers don’t really matter, only data does. The first are disposable, the second is not. The professionals who take care of IT infrastructures and setups in large corporations and businesses know it all too well. And of course Google, Facebook, Twitter, not to mention Microsoft and the like, they all live by it. 

Today the notion is put forward again, this time with a particularly strong stress, in the realm of personal computer usage, because of the Internet and of the multiplicity of devices that, in the end, do more or less the same thing: put all your data at your fingertips, show you info, allow you to connect and to communicate, and to share audiovisual contents.

Laptops, desktops, tablets, phablets, smartphones and now smartwatches; aren’t you lost? Are you able always to make the right buying choice, to learn your way around, to keep the devices in good shape, updated, virus-free and with a safety backup set aside?

The “larger” laptops and desktops machines have a reasonable average life time of four to five years. Tablets and smartphones, all these“smaller” devices that have captured users’ attention the last couple of years more than any other computer-related hardware, these smaller machines are changing faster than you can save money to buy them. Once a year, at least, there are new models.This leaves you no time to catch your breath between models. It’s like haute-couture, there’s an annual fashion show that sets the upcoming trend.

Take heart. Again, the machine is not that important. In a certain way you can ignore it. Or, to put it in a milder way, stop losing sleep over it.

On one hand the large array of machines and the many hardware choices are overwhelming, as if the industry were making your life harder and more expensive. On the other hand, devices now communicate much better than before with each other, with a dominating insistence on the Web, a place that has become the focal point of most everything we do. The devices, therefore, are making your life easier in many ways.

What makes users machine-independent?


Whether it is to check your e-mail, to send or receive a photo or a music file, to place a voice call on the several free networks, to read the news or to do your daily e-banking work, you can do it whatever the device you have at hand. The same is true for writing, working on a spreadsheet or a database.

Moreover, if you happen to store your files in the cloud (DropBox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, etc) you become even more machine-independent, for understandable reasons. Open, save and read your files on any machine, whatever it is and wherever it may be, including a friend’s device.

Naturally there are differences between the machines in terms of speed and comfort. I wouldn’t like starting a serious audio recording project on a tablet or a smartphone for instance, or processing very large spreadsheets full of numbers, columns, rows and graphics on such small machines. But I guess I could…

Go back to a good laptop for raw power, use smaller devices for convenience and while on the go.

For example, think of Word and Excel — there are virtually no limitations in terms of devices on which these essential applications work. Docs-To-Go by DataViz, for one, is a Suite that is compatible with Microsoft’s Office Suite (up to a certain point…) and that lets you process Word, Excel, PDF and PowerPoint documents on an Android or Apple smartphone. Despite the reduced screen size and also the somewhat reduced features, Docs-To-Go is an extremely useful application, one that, like so many others, frees you from devices. You have your Word documents “somewhere” in the cloud, now use them on any machine you want.

There are countless other examples of software applications and ways to work that make you device-independent today. Focus on your files and on what you want or need to do. The machine matters less.

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