For some time, I have been contemplating getting myself a Chromebook to serve as my personal, private computer for writing, reading and research. A Chromebook, I thought, would suit me nicely, because they offer a light-weight user experience, unencumbered by the time-consuming updates that regularly beset Windows computers. For writing, I would either use the very minimal Chrome plugin, Caret, or the Android version of Microsoft Word. All I need is a good keyboard, a silent fanless chassis and a reasonable screen. To this end, any Asus Chromebook would easily fit the bill.
But observing US protectionism at its worst over the past few days, as US tech companies respond to the presidential decree to block trade with Chinese technology companies, I find myself contemplating a return to an independent Linux distribution. Over the weekend, Google has ceased its relationship with Chinese tech giant, Huawei, which is bad news for users of its excellent smartphones (budget Honor phones included). It’s likely that Microsoft will have to follow-suit where the company’s laptops are concerned, to avoid state sanctions.
All of a sudden, our over-reliance on US software providers seems perilous. All it takes is for an erratic president to announce an embargo on trade with a foreign technology company, and consumers all over the world are effected. Today it is a Chinese company that earlier in the year was seen to be rapidly challenging the dominance of a US technology company. Tomorrow it could just as easily be a Taiwanese, Japanese or South Korean company. Overnight, they can kill off every upcoming device that was just on the brink of coming to market.
So perhaps the way to go is not to embrace a US software house to power my personal computer. For my use case, I could make do with some technological home-brew. It’s not that I imagine that Britain will find itself directly subject to US protectionism of this kind any time soon. It’s more the principle of resisting monopolies that dictate to the end user the choices they make.