Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cloud Computing -- The Solution and the Problem for Genealogy?

Business, Client, Cloud, Communication, Computer

I have transitioned from using a laptop to using an iPad Pro computer that is basically a connection to the internet. Current news reports indicate that Apple's sales of desktop, iMac, computers during Quarter 2, 2016 are down for the first time in years. Intel announces it will layoff 12,000 jobs globally in 2016 and 2017. The workforce reduction is attributed to the fact that most of Intel's microprocessors and chips are sold in the PC market. Intel intends to move into mobile chip support and gaming. In addition, home broadband use has declined recently and the declined is attributed to increased reliance on smartphone connections to the Internet at the expense of home-based broadband. Recent Pew Research Center Studies indicate that cell phone usage among those 18 to 29 years of age has reached 85%.

During the time I was deciding whether to transition to an iPad Pro or buy another MacBook Pro, I read and studied the trends. As I have previously written I also went through every program on my MacBook Pro and determined exactly how I was using the program and whether or not the iPad Pro could do the same things. The reviews of the iPad Pro focus on the things it "cannot" do rather than the things that it can do. If, as the news and research studies show, people are beginning to transition from home broadband Internet connections to using their smartphones, such as the iPhone, then it must be the case that the smartphones perform enough of the functions of a desktop computer to erode the sales of desktops. The sales figures support this view.

What does this mean for genealogy? It means that unless the genealogy companies begin more aggressively to move into the mobile market and support all of the functions they deem important by online apps or programs, they will ultimately be marginalized. When I say ultimately, I mean within a year or two, you will see real changes.

Now if you are sitting and reading this on your old PC or Mac computer that is sitting on a desk, then you are now in the distinct minority. If on the other hand, you are reading this on an iPad, Android tablet or smartphone, you are part of the trend. One interesting aspect of this transition is that I had the option of buying a laptop such as one of the new MacBooks and docking it with a large monitor and some hard drives. Essentially, I could then have a single computer rather than an iMac and an iPad Pro. For the time being, I have opted to retain my iMac and upgrade it at least one more time, but I may well move to a laptop only at some point or an iPad only if they evolve even more than they have already.

There is nothing that the average genealogist does on a computer that cannot be done on a laptop and there are very few things that any genealogist does that cannot be done on an iPad Pro or a Microsoft Surface 4. The key to this transition is that most of the programs that used to reside on a local, desktop computer have now moved online, to the cloud so to speak, and there is no need for the local machine to be desk-bound.

Let me take one example. I use word processing more than any other single function on the computer. For years, I have used Word Perfect and now Microsoft Word. I also use spreadsheets in Excel and I do a lot of PowerPoint presentations. I have now moved to Apple's Keynote for making presentations. I have Keynote on my iPad Pro and it works just fine. The main issue is inserting graphics and I have mostly solved that problem by moving my graphics to the cloud. I can also buy Microsoft Office for the iPad Pro. Issue resolved.

Why do I still need a desktop computer? I still do a significant amount of high-end, graphic intensive editing and photo manipulation using multiple programs. This is where the mobile computers still cannot compete. But if you do not use Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop extensively, you probably will never run into this particular problem. I also have over 3.5 Terrabytes of data and it is not convenient to use a laptop or iPad because they do not have the ports to connect to all my hard drives, scanners and etc., so until that issue is resolved, I will still need to return to a desktop iMac.

One final example, we now have a WiFi enabled HP printer. I can print from my iPhone or my iPad Pro directly without a wire connection. In fact, I can print from anywhere I have a WiFi connection to my own printer.

There is no end to this story.


  1. The use of my iPad for genealogy is extremely limiting. While I enjoy using it for things like access to Facebook and other sites and games, I do not conduct any serious research from it. Nor, do I like working from my laptop PC. I want to be sitting at my desk, with my two monitors. This allows me to have my Legacy database open on one screen and the web on the other. Genealogy research involves more than just finding a record and clicking a few times to add it to a tree.
    While the use of desktops may be falling, I do not believe they will be going away any time soon.
    That's my input. Thanks for your post James.

    1. I agree or I wouldn't be putting my money into a new iMac.