Remember the Milk and my first look at the post-Microsoft era
In work and life, we put off things we have to do forever and ever until they are causing us so much stress that we have to DO THEM RIGHT NOW. After we do, we’re surprised how little time, effort, and imagination we needed to draw on to get everything done. I’m having this experience right now. As I wrote in Remember the Milk fails to serve its Outlook users — or does it understand its audience perfectly? and the followup post Remember the Milk forgets me … but is it my fault?, I wrote about how hard it was getting the online task service Remember the Milk to work with Microsoft Outlook and I realized — after promptings from two of my smarter Friends on the Internets — that the problem was my reliance on Outlook. At MIT, I was finally working in a technology-agnostic environment. I wrote, “I’m going to move my work life to the cloud slowly and carefully.” I’d been working in Outlook for many years, ever since a client forced me to leave my beloved Eudora. The plan was to move slowly and calmly, so I didn’t lose any data or screw up my workflow more than it’s usually screwed up.
It took about a day.
I am a bit embarrassed about how easy it was. I won’t bore you with the particulars (fortunately for you, this is not one of those blogs that talks about the intricacies and idiosyncracies of secure POP-to-IMAP transfers), but I can tell you that (a) I’m not the world’s most tech-savvy blogger and (b) after about an hour I didn’t miss Outlook. Sure, there are compromises in getting the new system to work my way, but there were compromises in getting the old one to work my way, too. (One compromise I didn’t have to make: the most essential of my Outlook add-ons, Anagram, is available in a more lightweight version for Gmail and Google Calendar.)
Until the past few weeks, I understood on an abstract level that the computing world was moving inexorably from desktop-based applications to cloud-based ones. When I was editing Release 2.0 I reported from the front lines of the transition. But I didn’t truly grok it until I uninstalled Microsoft Office and looked for myself. Web apps have nearly all the functionality of desktop apps, they’re infinitely lighter and more portable, and they’re a whole lot cheaper. It’s pretty clear up here in the cloud. And, as Brian pointed out, I never have to wait for Outlook to open ever again. Microsoft is going to have to do a lot more than get funnier jokes out of Jerry Seinfeld to beat this.