Do You Really Want to Have It All?

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-12-09 Print this article Print

We already have aids to accumulation. We need better tools for association.

Ive always wanted personal computing to help me with personal organization. I bought my first laptop, in 1988, to run Ashton-Tates Framework III. With one command, I could search all my current work, all my recent e-mail and anything in my desktop library. It was worth the $8,000.

Fourteen years of Moores Law progress have given me more—more clock speed, more memory, more storage, for much less money—but they have not given me anything better. Im concerned that Microsofts OneNote, promised next year, may continue that trend. "Add little to little, and there will be a big pile," wrote the Roman poet Ovid. "Create as many notebooks, folders and pages as you need," urges the OneNote FAQ in rather less poetic language.

Yes, that FAQ page also promises that well be able to search our note collections without specifying notebooks, folders or files, and thats a good thing—except that well still have to know what were seeking, and every advance can make that more difficult to recall in terms of searchable attributes.

For example, during my most recent chat with Microsofts Steve Ballmer, did I write down his comment about customers demands for greater ease of administration? Did he even use the word "administration"? Or did he just say something like, "People want to manage our products more easily"?

Is that comment, perhaps, in an audio file from my digital voice recorder, rather than in written notes? Or was it in one of the video clips that I captured when he got really enthusiastic and started pounding the arm of his chair? MOV04010.MPG? Oh, there it is.

Will OneNote find such things?

We already have aids to accumulation. We need better tools for association. If I could ask for everything I have, from any time slot thats on both my calendar and Steves, wed be breaking new ground. Im sure that you can imagine other useful associations.

Security problems? Of course. Bandwidth issues? You bet. But lets define our goals in terms of what would be more useful than what we have—not in terms of what would more fully use the hardware that Windows OEMs would like to sell.

Tell me what would organize you at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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