"Good Enough" Computing


I don’t travel a tremendous amount; generally just enough to maintain status on my preferred airline. According to my TripIt travel stats, I’ve made 76 trips since 2012, or an average of around 11 per year, and mos of those were domestic. For the past several years, I’ve nearly always traveled with three devices: a phone, a Windows 10 device of some sort, and an iPad. Each serves its specific and intended purposes: the PC is for work, the iPad is for both productivity and entertainment while in transit, and the phone is for, well, phone stuff. But a few weeks ago I picked up a Surface Pro (2017) with Advanced LTE. I love it, and decided to conduct a little experiment to see if it could serve the purpose of both the laptop and the iPad. the answer was a nearly immediate no: there is no Wired Magazine app in the Microsoft store. And so ends the experiment. The iPad goes back in the bag. Of course I can get the paper version of the magazine but that’s not the point. As has been the case all along with the Windows/Microsoft app store, everyone has “that one app” they need but that isn’t available.

To me, this is where running Android apps natively on Windows comes in. If I could run the Android version of the Wired magazine app, it would make Windows 10 “good enough” that I could drop the iPad and travel with just two devices. Paul’s notes in his Aug. 24 Ask Paul column that a commenter pointed out that Microsoft planned to implement native Android app support in Windows but dropped it because the apps ran too well and presumably posed a threat to the Windows developer community. I argue that the threat already exists, and I agree with the notion that one might argue UWP has already lost and that adding native Android app support to Windows now makes sense.

For work reasons, I have no choice but to travel with a Windows 10 PC. So the question is what else I choose to travel with. If Windows 10 becomes “good enough” (presumably via native Android app support), then I’ll travel with just the Surface Pro and iPhone. But until then, I’ll continue to travel with multiple devices while I keep looking for something else that’s “good enough.” And that’s the point: Microsoft is in the perfect position to reach that “good enough” spot quickly whereas Chrome OS, iOS, and others would have a long way to go. And if Microsoft reaches that point of being “good enough,” maybe people will notice and stop actively trying to get away from it. And that, ultimately, could help the Windows developer community.

And maybe the distinction between Android developers and Windows developers will begin to blur. It seems like that would help Windows insofar as many of us are required to use Windows for one reason or another, but make doing so easier and less painful.

Just my two cents worth.

(and yes, I know I there are numerous ways I could accomplish what I want to accomplish with emulators, virtualization, workarounds, etc., etc. But that isn’t the point. I, and many other readers here, have the skills necessary to do those things. Normal people don’t, and it’s those normal people who would benefit from native Android app support.)

Comments (36)

36 responses to “"Good Enough" Computing”

  1. Daekar

    So... doesn't Wired have a website?

    • jaredthegeek

      In reply to Daekar: So when I am on a plane with no wifi I can load up the webpage and read?

      • jchampeau

        In reply to jaredthegeek:

        Or on the DC metro, or on Amtrak between St. Louis and KC, or just sitting in a coffee shop with a saturated connection. The iPad app solves these connectivity-related issues by letting you download the whole magazine ahead of time for offline reading. The problem is the same regardless of device type (Surface Pro vs. iPad), but unfortunately, the solution that's available on one isn't readily available on the other.

        • Daekar

          In reply to jchampeau:

          Ah, it never occurred to me that someone would choose a magazine over an audiobook or ebook for that kind of entertainment. So.. have you tried the Nook app in the Microsoft Store? They have Wired, apparently, in addition to a bunch of others. I don't know about the offline functionality, but it might be worth investigating.

  2. wright_is

    I subscribe to c't in Germany and there is an iOS and Android app, but nothing for Windows... But I can read over the website and I can cache articles for later reading. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

  3. lvthunder

    Why wouldn't your phone, laptop, and iPad be your good enough? You already have them so why not use them. If I were you I would send Wired an email telling them what and why you are trying to do. If they sense a demand for a Windows 10 app they will create one.

    Asking Microsoft to add support for another companies platform isn't likely to happen. Microsoft is a platforms company.

    • jchampeau

      In reply to lvthunder:

      Bringing along the iPad isn't the worst thing in the world. But if I had the choice, I would leave it behind and just carry two devices. The iPad is one more thing to charge, one more thing to add weight to my bag, and one more thing to load updates on.

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to lvthunder:

      This is a good point too. One thing I’ve been trying to do is to see if I can handle my iPad stuff on my phone.

      The problem is that magazine size stuff is not nice on a phone-size device.

      But the phones are steadily marching larger and larger. I do wonder how useful the iPad will be in a year or two.

  4. neunmalelf

    Occasionally I need to run an App that is only available for Android. 

    I also need to run Logic X (a music producer app) than runs only on Mac OSX.

    I can do both on Windows. And Microsoft can't stop me doing it.

    I run Android apps in an Emulator. On an older Intel Z8350 Tablet with only 

    4 GB Ram it takes only a few seconds for the Emulator to fire up and run the app.

    It's not perfect BUT I can do that. 

    Neither on ANDROID nor iOS let me run Windows Apps or Apps from the other OS.

    Windows means flexibility. It also means full featured Web Browsers with add-ons. Big Companies don't order new native Windows App. They will go for "Progressive Web Apps" (or whatever the trendword will be). At least on Windows we have a WorkAround.

  5. hrlngrv

    Tangent re magazine apps. I have the Economist app on my Chromebook. It caches full weekly issues locally, but it doesn't include any of the daily additional articles or blog posts, only provides the weekly paper magazine contents. Fine, I can accept that. What I can't is needing to scroll right rather than down. Subjective on my part, but I much prefer the browser interface to the app.

    More on-topic, yes, UWP has already lost. There are no more Windows phones, most Windows IoT devices wouldn't be suitable for running most consumer/leisure UWP apps. As for Xbox and Windows 10 PCs and tablets, does MSFT's telemetry show UWP apps being used even 10% of the time on average those devices are up and running?

    Finally, I may work for a much different type of employer than you. With the Citrix Receiver app on my Chromebook, I can handle anything work-related I'd be asked to handle while on the road. That is, the few things I couldn't do because not in the office, so not physically connected to my employer's servers, I also can't do via vpn. I never take my work laptop on personal travel.

    Looking at long term rather than medium term, I figure good enough is more likely to mean using whichever devices you have to access remote virtual desktops. IOW, and Android/Chrome OS tablet or laptop with a remote desktop client would be more likely to provide what's needed than a Windows 10 tablet or laptop running Android apps.

    • jchampeau

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      I'm not the average PC user--my work sometimes involves connecting an RS-232 console cable and using an ancient Windows application to massage config files and such. And I also must use Visio to diagram and document stuff. I could use Visio via Citrix for sure as long as I've got a good connection, but if I'm in the middle of a pasture in a communications shelter or even inside a data center, I may not have a working connection. I'm a bit of an edge case perhaps, but these are reasons I have to have a Windows machine with me.

      Oh, and with respect to the Economist app--it's too bad the app isn't enjoyable to use. I feel like the Wired app for iPad is darn near perfect; you get to fully experience the awesome graphic design work that goes into the magazine. I've come to enjoy reading it on iPad more than in paper form. You swipe left and right to go forwards and backwards, but when there's a long article that takes up more than one page, you scroll down to read it. I've come to really like.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to jchampeau:

        Yes, network connections are necessary for remote virtual desktop, but wireless network coverage, wifi or cellular, is getting more ubiquitous every day. Still there are gaps. and if one needs to use Visio in the middle of a pasture may have few options. My situation is different: I'm always in major metropolitan areas for work.

        • wright_is

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          If you are in a concrete bunker or a data center, you probably don't have a wireless connection or wi-fi. Data centers especially generally don't like have non-authorized kit on their network and generally don't have guest wi-fi in the server room itself, at least not in my experience.

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to wright_is:

            Would data centers want anyone using any computing devices from outside the data center? Wouldn't nearly all data centers have a sufficient number of terminals, that is, monitor/keyboard/mouse on moveable carts which could be connected at various places within the data center to access those devices?

            OTOH, if there were some reasons for a few outside machines to connect to the broader network, wouldn't there be ethernet cables?

  6. neunmalelf

    I guess ChromeOS (running on a halfway decent Hardware) will be "good enough" before Windows will. They don't have to do much to get (a wide range of Windows apps running, and a ton of Android Apps on IMHO it's the hardware that sucks, it's either cheap with a lousy CPU, lack of RAM (to run more than ChromeOS itself) lack of storage (Everything in the cloud my A...). 

    I've tried the top model from Samsung and it was pure (expensive) Crap. The Google Pixel book for ~ € 500- could bring a major shift (speaking of productivity market). 

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to neunmalelf:

      Lack of storage.

      How much storage do people need for a secondary or tertiary device? Chrome OS installed on a 16GB drive leaves over 10GB left for local files, meaning Chrome OS takes up less than 6GB. 128GB internal drives are becoming more common on Chromebooks, so they should have over 120GB available for user files. That may be barely enough for some PC games, but it's more than enough to install a dozen major productivity software packages plus a lot of data files.

      Then there's the questionable practice of having hundreds of GB of data files stored on devices as easily lost, stolen or broken as laptops.

      IMO, higher-end current Chromebooks have the proper amount of storage for devices which ain't gonna be used as gaming laptops.

  7. maethorechannen

    Native Android app support wouldn't be of much use to "normal people" without Google Play. So really the ball is Google's court. While I bet they could do something with Chrome and Windows 10's container support to make it work, why would they bother?

  8. Daekar

    So... I know this isn't exactly what the OP meant, but I would submit that for many muggles, all they'd need for "good enough" computing is a decent Android tablet with keyboard. If you wanted to step up to "good enough but I need a status symbol too" then you get an iPad. Honestly, all of the people I supervise but one, who does professional photography on the side, could get along with (or in the case of one, possibly be better off with) either an Android or iOS device in place of their laptop. They just don't do that much, and aren't savvy enough to figure out how to do more regardless of the platform they're using.

    My wife and I are going to Italy in the near future, and you know what I'm taking to do my journal entries? My phone and a bluetooth keyboard. I've already done some writing like that and it's totally workable if you're only doing text without fancy formatting.

  9. useful windows

    You could use an Android virtual machine like Remix OS Player It does a good job.

  10. Paul Thurrott

    This maps to my "right tool for the job" philosophy, and like you, I travel with a phone, an iPad, and a Windows 10 PC because each provides very specific advantages over bringing some combination of just two of the three devices. I prefer for things to just work. But also to work well.

  11. simont

    I would love to have a proper Kindle App, Amazon Video App and Pocket app for offline reading. This is more a developer issue than Microsoft issue but it is holding back the Surface line. Especially for the Surface Go.

    • wunderbar

      In reply to simont:

      The Kindle cloud reader is a PWA that supports offline reading. I've used it in the past and it works decently.

    • jchampeau

      In reply to simont:

      As part of my experiment, I read a whole book--albeit a relatively short one at 128 pages in paperback form--using the Kindle app for Windows. It wasn't as good a reading experience as the Kindle app for iPad provides, but it was good enough. And I put the Surface Pro in airplane mode for most of the time I was reading to preserve battery life and I made it through the whole book and had 46% of battery life after I finished.

  12. Chris_Kez

    I encourage readers in the US to check out the Libby app by Overdrive, which allows you to connect to your local library's digital collection of books and magazines at no cost. I used this recently to do a lot of reading on some long flights.

  13. curtisspendlove

    Agreed. I’ve been thinking through this on and off a bit throughout this year.

    I think I have decided on a “targeted computing” stratagy, which I think is adjacent to your “good enough” version.

    Sometimes things like business trips bring you outside the norm, so that’s to be excpected. But my last couple business trips I had two windows laptops (because reasons), my MacBook Pro, my iPad, and my iPhone. This is rediculous.

    I had considered a few different strategies, including trying to find one “good enough” device. I even considered again dropping Apple stuff to try to just go Windows / Android. But my main problem is that I do enjoy the kind of power I want when I want it. And a computing “happiness quotient” is also important to me.

    I think Apple is finally trying to blend their ecosystem a bit, the success of which I think is up in the air. I think it’s absolutely reasonable to assume much better integration with a Microsoft-first strategy via Android vs iOS. (You *might* see some sort of decent Android support introduced into Windows, but you’ll never see tight iOS integration or see iOS on Mac.)

    Regardless. I have instead targeted major themes or roles for computing. And I’m trying to get a “best” option for each role. I’m even being aggressive enough to just drop non-essential tasks from certain contexts. (I don’t really need my Mac on a business trip. No emergency where I need my personal tech has ever crept up on a business trip. It was mostly because I like using it.)

    For me “best” is as applies to me and my desires, not what is actually technically “best”. (For instance, my family games, and often attend freinds’ LAN party get togethers. I used to lug a gaming desktop around, nowadays I’ll sacrifice a *bit* of raw horsepower for a gaming laptop instead of a desktop.)

    I'm still in the process of determining exactly what that is going to look like, and a large part of it is going to depend on what Apple releases this fall.

    But it is tough to get even a decent “good enough” option for a single ecosystem, so for now, I’m not seriously considering dropping all my Apple stuff for a Windows first ecosystem.

    I’m already planning a gaming laptop upgrade this fall though, so Apple’s hardware will determine what my desktop hardware will look like. I *would* very much, though, like to see the Surface Pro LTE be an excellent option to replace my iPad as my all in-one “mobile” workstation. (I’m not opposed to docking as my “desktop” option, as I would still like to make the “targeted computing” idea work with as few devices as possible.

    Ideal loadout:

    Work - company Windows laptops

    Personal - gaming laptop for play, Surface Pro LTE for personal productivity (coding, writing, etc), media consumption

    Phone - communications (messaging, slack, etc)

    (Yes I know the gaming laptop would also make a great development laptop and would reduce the device count by one...but they aren’t very portable, so you definitely compromise by trying to do too much with a single laptop. I also like mentally and physicallly segmenting my resources...why install all my dev tools on my gaming laptop when I want it sleek and not loaded down with daemons.)

  14. Brockman

    "Of course I could get the paper version" OR... you could read, watch or listen to a hundred different things? I mean, I get your larger point that each device and platform has different strengths and weaknesses, but this idea that you've embarked on and abandoned this experiment because you can't read Wired is just dumb. What happens when you've read the current issue of Wired? Do you stop traveling? ?

  15. cr08

    I have to say I agree with you completely OP. A number of years ago I had been given an old HP Touchsmart convertible notebook which I had been using as my primary Windows machine for a while. During my ownership it had ran both Windows 8 and 10. Early on due to the touch and 2-in-1 aspect I had tried to take advantage of the touch/tablet aspect. But what quickly became apparent to me was the Windows app store just didn't have the content there to make it usable. Seems to have improved some with 10 but is still missing a lot of key apps that you just expect on other platforms.

    Like you I was sorely disappointed that Microsoft decided to stop pushing towards Android app support in Windows. It would have made this all a MUCH better experience for me. Now due to that I have pretty much given up on 2-in-1's for my own personal use as I see very little use for them outside of potential UWP app usage which is few and far between for me. I only have like one or two UWP only apps that I use on a regular basis and all of them are due to being direct clones or ports of their Android counterparts and familiarity therein. What's worse is that often notebook manufacturers will, if the notebook model in question wasn't designed with touch support from the ground up, tack the touch screen option to only one display type, often being either the expensive or (in some years past) the lowest resolution option.

    Now with Google having Android app support nearly ubiquitous across the Chromebook line plus being able to run Windows 10 here in the near future, I think they are going to be eating Microsoft's lunch yet again. If it wasn't for some unique use cases that need a lot more horsepower and storage that a Chromebook can't provide, I'd seriously consider switching once Windows 10 support comes to a stable ChromeOS build.

    And I know many of the other commentors here are like 'There are emulators, they are fine!'. Yeah, they are fine, but I would have much rather had something a little more integrated and seamless into the OS. And I would have hoped that Microsoft would have worked with Google to have Play Store support and actually make a deal that works for both of them.