Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Open letter to ACME Corporation to create the Last Computer: Consumer Model

Dear Important Dude at the ACME Corporation:

For a long time I've been dancing around an idea with all the computer geeks I talk to, everyone I work with, and some plain regular people who spend any amount of time on their personal computer. The idea has taken many wrong turns (mostly involving seeing it wrongly as a data backup problem), but now I think it is clear enough that I'd like to share the idea with you in the simple and remote hope that you can make something come of it.

In short:

    An ACME Personal Subscription Computer: The only computer that any typical person will ever need to "own".

The Current Problem:

    The typical person relies on computers more and more: for email, photos, documents, tons of data. But computers are not getting any easier to use when things go wrong: setup is hard, transfer to a new computer is near-rocket-science as far as most users are concerned, data is lost (those precious photos of my grandkids), viruses, crashed discs. Every time one of my friends or relatives gets a crash or needs a new computer even I usually cannot get things up and running quickly, and usually some data is lost in the process. (BTW, if they had an ACME before the crash, the fact that there were problems does not make them any more likely to buy an ACME again! There is not a lot of brand loyalty.)

Short Description of the Solution:

    Customer no longer "buys" a computer, but instead gets a subscription for an ACME Personal Computer from their local shop (e.g. Best Buy, Office Max, Target, etc...). I expect this to cost something like $30/month. For that monthly price they have a working computer, with all of their data, for as long as they pay their subscription. If ever anything goes wrong with the computer, anything, customer simply brings it in to their local Best Buy (or Office Max, etc...), hands it in, and immediately receives a replacement which is identical or better than the one they brought in. Customer brings the replacement computer home, plugs it in (to monitor, keyboard, and internet), and turns it on. This replacement computer will then churn for a while, and in an hour or two the customer has a working replacement computer with all of their data back. It's almost as if the computer never broke in the first place. They're precious photos of their grandchildren are right there where they left them. They're settings are as they like them. It's almost like magic.

    It is not magic, of course, but simply clever use of automated caching (i.e. back-up) of the computer’s data over their internet connection and without their explicitly having to do anything. They're getting the same computer they used to pay $700 for, but now they're getting it without the old headaches and they're paying for it by subscription. They're happy. ACME is happy.

This has been an extremely truncated description, of course, skipping tons of financial and technical details. I'm always glad to talk on and on about it, if you'd like to.

Like I said, I've covered the issue with computer geeks (who are not the target audience) from a technical angle. But I've also discussed it with regular people (family, in-laws, cousins, friends, kids, and old people) and the idea of paying a small subscription fee for a computer that ALWAYS works and NEVER loses their data is quite appealing. (It's certainly appealing to me, if it means I never again get a desperate call:"Help, my computer has crashed! You're the expert, Mr. Smartypants: fix my computer and save my data!")

Thank you for taking the time to read this far. I think the world will be better off with a computer like this. Maybe ACME can be the company that provides it.

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