My experiment was inspired in part by a similar project by Jeff Jarvis, the professor of journalism and blogger. Jarvis co-hosts a video podcast with developer Gina Trapani and Leo Laporte called TWiG (This Week in Google) on Laporte's TWiT network. (Full disclosure: I'm on the show occasionally.)
Jarvis uses a Pixel full time and carries an Android phone. For his abandonment of a "regular" computer and full-time use of the cloud-only Pixel, Jarvis' wisdom or sanity is humorously questioned, especially by Laporte, who takes the position that a browser-only laptop that costs more than most full-featured laptops makes no sense. For that price, you can buy a very good laptop that also has the Chrome browser and everything that runs in it. Plus, you get real applications and plenty of storage for getting real work done. So why would anyone voluntarily limit themselves only to what can be run from the cloud?
One theory that explains the Laporte-Jarvis disagreement is that word-oriented users like Jarvis (a writer and speaker) can get away with cloud-only computing, but processor-intensive users like Laporte (a radio and video guy) cannot.
I accept this argument, but think it should be expanded beyond the world of us content creators.
In other words, I think there's a reasonably large market for cloud-only computers, even expensive ones like the Pixel.
Let me tell you a true story.
A few years ago I was moderating conference panel on mobile security, of all things. One of the participants was a senior executive for a fairly major Silicon Valley technology company.
When he arrived for the panel, he looked like he was in shock, white as a ghost and acting distraught.
It turns out that on the flight to the event, the airline lost his carry-on luggage. That's right. His carry-on. With no space in the overhead bins, the flight attendant stored his bag somewhere at the front of the aircraft, and he never saw it again.
In that bag was a laptop containing all the details of a company acquisition, which this executive was in charge of. He hadn't done a laptop backup recently. Worse, he wasn't even sure that he had backed up some of the documents at all. These included a hoard of confidential financial information on both companies: trade secrets, salaries—you name it.
The executive was dying inside. He was in a remote city with little recourse for salvaging the acquisition. He had lost confidential data. He didn't know who "found" it or what they might do with it. The acquisition and possibly even his job were threatened. It was a disaster.
If he had been carrying a Pixel at the time (which didn't exist then, but bear with me), he simply could have used another computer—any computer—to log onto his Google account and continue on with the project. Whoever found the laptop wouldn't have access to any data, presumably. No crisis. No embarrassment.
Yes, you can use cloud backups and good security on a conventional laptop. But there's a certain class of user who just isn't going to do this.
Users are either non-technical, very technical or somewhere in between. They either hate to tinker with electronics, love to tinker or somewhere in between. And they either have no money to spend, money is no object or somewhere in between.
Many business executives I've come across have no time or interest in tinkering with, configuring, managing or maintaining their computers. Yet they do want a premium experience and are either willing to pay a lot or can simply expense a high-end machine.
There are many other types of users who want to maximize both simplicity and quality. My current belief is that a Pixel is far simpler to use than, say, any Apple laptop, and probably even simpler than an iPad.
The question is: How practical is it, really? How desirable? How secure? And how limiting?
I'm going to find out. And I'll tell you all about it here in the weeks ahead.
And with those words, I'm going to submit this column, kiss my MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone each in turn, shut them down and put them lovingly in a box until June.
It looks cloudy ahead. Wish me luck.