Going All In On The Web – Part 1

The following is a three part series of how I migrated from Apple to the Google ecosystem and completely changed how I work and thought about the web.

In a previous blog post I wrote about a “Leap Frog Move”, where you make particular decisions or take actions that will catapult you to a different place. For me, this has always been about seizing opportunities. Earlier in my career it was harder to identify, but as I have gotten older and more in tune with seeing the big picture, occasionally different paths pop up and you have to move quick. I describe this action in a little more detail in my post, Making the right big move. Little did I imagine that a few short months ago, I would ditch my Macbook Air and move to a Chromebook Pixel 2 full time.

The Evolution

I love the challenge of simplifying my life. In my blog post, Reinvent Your Business For 2015, I describe my path to embracing the idea of simplification. The biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from this multi-year approach is,

It’s hard to make things easy. Go for the easy wins first to gain momentum, then tweak and refine daily.

Some people equate simplifying with minimalism. That’s not the same thing. I look at simplifying as, how do I do this task with a reduced amount of effort, but have the same if not better result or experience? Minimalism would ask if I needed to do that task in the first place.

In the Summer of 2014 my daughter was getting ready to start fourth grade. This was a big jump, as fourth grade is a milestone of sorts, where the students are required to be independent and have a lot more responsibility for their own work. I knew the school was already using Chromebooks and Google had done a good job pandering to schools in much the same way Apple had done in the 80’s and 90’s. Best Buy had a great deal on an Acer Chromebook, so I went to go test them out. I was so impressed with the seamless Google integration, I bought three! However, after getting them home, I noticed the monitor and overall build quality of the laptop wasn’t remotely close to my Macbook Air. I returned the other two, but as a first computer for my daughter, it was much more than she needed and it worked great. Over the next year I started to appreciate not only how nice it was to work in the Chrome browser, but how effortlessly it was to maneuver within the Google ecosystem. Things started to change.

Around February of 2015 I upgraded my 2011 Macbook Air to Yosemite, Apple’s latest OS Update. Excited about the tight integration with iPhones and iPads, I thought I had waited enough time that all the bugs had been worked out. I even posted a picture to Facebook promoting the download. All the feedback was negative. “Don’t do it!” Was a common reply. My Mac never ran the same and my Chrome browser pretty much stopped working altogether. After another couple of months of trying to bug fix the browser, I ran across an article that promoted the Chromebook Pixel 2 had been reduced in price. The spec’s were amazing. 2560 x 1700 HD Touch Display, Faster Intel Processor, 8 GB Ram, 32 GB SSD, two USB Type-c, ports, two USB 3.0 ports and one of the best features, 8 hr battery life. Even the all aluminum body and keyboard had good reviews. I knew this must be a sign and any experience was better than what I was enduring with a browser that didn’t work. I understood the transition would be rough, but I felt the only way to learn how to work in the Google space was to not emulate it in the Apple ecosystem, but to go all in on the Chromebook.

The Experience

My “all-in” approach to working on the Chromebook Pixel 2, was leveraging the environment where I was already spending 90% of my time, the browser. I traded the “app switcher” quick key combo, for the “tab switcher” combo. To me, it made a lot of sense. The Chrome browser already had a vast extension library that made my day to day tasks a lot easier. With a click of a button on the browser I could take screenshots, sample a color, see what a website was built with, annotate a screenshot, add lorem ipsum, store temporary notes in a text document, test websites in multiple viewports, edit images and instantly edit code and CSS in the Developer Tools window. Editing happens within the browser window itself and only creates a new tab if launching an app is in order. When you are immersed in Google’s world you soon realize the habits you had on the Mac don’t completely transfer. Ironically, I found this intriguing. The appeal finally hit me. It’s not about whether I can do the same things on a Chromebook that I can do on a Mac, its about the discovery of working in a different way. It was refreshing, challenging and exciting, all at the same time. Perspective comes when you move.

The Philosophy

The foundation of Chrome OS is in search. Think “searching” instead of “finding.” Think “labels” instead of “folders.” Think “cloud” instead of “local.” Chromium.org illustrates the Chrome OS user experience goals this way:

  • Content not Chrome
  • Light, Fast, Responsive, Tactile
  • Web applications with the functionality of desktop applications
  • Search as a primary form of navigation

Coming from almost two decades of Web Development, it feels as if Chrome OS is the evolution of how we are supposed to work. When working on a Chromebook you are working WITH and ON the Web. There technically isn’t a local environment. Some apps work offline in cache, but there is no “syncing,” you are already there. What Google has done is removed a step. There are no apps to download, no trash can and no fonts folder. It’s the best example of the merging of an OS and the Web that we have to date. Google’s main advantage was that they didn’t have a legacy OS to support. They had the luxury of learning from the decades of trials and tribulations of others to create something unique and different. Their secret weapon was that there were no expectations at all.

To be continued…

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