Moving to the Cloud / Part 1 / Do I still need a laptop?

In 2006 I bought a Dell XPS M140 Laptop with Windows XP. I was delighted with the speed. But after a couple of years a combination of increasingly demanding applications, and all the software I had installed on it, were making it feel slow. I was looking for a change. For 10 years (1988-1998) I had used OS/2 as my primary operating system both at work and at home. In 1998 I switched to Windows NT at work, and Windows 98 at home. So following this 10 year refresh cycle it was time for a new operating system.

The two leading candidates seemed to be Apple's Mac OS X or Ubuntu. So I began to compile a list of all the software I was currently using on Windows. Alongside this list I added a column for Apple, and a column for Ubuntu. I indicated in these columns whether there was a version of the same product for that platform, and if not, what similar products existed.

By the end of 2008 I still hadn't identified satisfactory alternatives for everything. One of the sticking points was Microsoft Money which I had used since Money 2005 and contained our finances going back to 1997. Quicken didn't support importing the volume of transactions that I had, and none of the other finance packages seemed good enough.

I did buy an Ubuntu system in Jan 2009. It was a pink Dell Mini 9 Netbook that I bought for my 5 year old daughter. But by June I was still using my Dell XPS with Windows XP. Then a couple of things happened. Microsoft announced end of life on Microsoft Money (30 Jun 2009), and Google announced Chrome OS (7 Jul 2009). The announcement of Chrome OS was exciting. That was really what I wanted. I had been using Chrome as my primary browser since Dec 2008. I didn't want to have to learn a new operating system. I just wanted to do everything in a browser.

It occurred to me that I'd been keeping our photos in the cloud since 16 May 2001 when we joined Ofoto (later Kodak Gallery). I'd been keeping my email in the cloud since 2001 when I joined Yahoo Mail. And documents in the cloud since Nov 20008 when I began to use Google Docs. I still used plenty of desktop software, including Outlook for some domain mailboxes, OpenOffice for spreadsheets, and various photo editing software. But I shouldn't be looking for desktop alternatives to these, I should be looking for browser alternatives.

Unfortunately Chrome OS was a year away (in fact, it didn't release until 15 Jun 2011, and I bought my Chromebook in July 2011). My Dell XPS M140 was having problems. I knew I wanted to get a Chromebook, so it didn't make sense to learn another operating system for a year and then change again. So in Oct 2009 I bought myself a Dell Inspiron 1545 with Windows 7. I did still need a laptop. For now. But Chrome OS offered the promise that this might be my last.