RJ’s argument was that while mobile was the wave of the future, he felt that the Surface was not a mobile product. Since the Surface still ran full programs rather than streamlined apps, it really didn’t qualify as a mobile device, despite its tablet-like form. His argument was that the industry needs to learn to streamline code to make lighter programs for heavy duty use so that mobile can become more prolific.
My argument at the time, more or less, was that while I agreed with his thinking and supported more use of mobile, I didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon because PCs enabled people to use more powerful programs that tablets just couldn’t handle. I supported the idea of cloud technology, which was just barely emerging at the time, but I knew it wasn’t there yet. Only when cloud technology could catch up, I contended, then we could start making a bigger move to mobile devices as our primary work tools.
Well, here we are, four years later. Have we made huge strides in moving more to mobile? Yes and no.
More tablet-like devices have been created in these four years, and the main leaders in this arena, Surface and iPad, have made improvements over the years. Surface has its standard version of the device, as well as a “Surface Pro” and “Surface Book”. iPad has developed its competition creating iPad Pro, but the various MacBooks continue to be the competition for the Surface Book.
Surface’s OS is still the same thing that runs on laptops, namely full versions of Windows 10. Windows 10 runs regular, full version programs, but it also runs on apps that can be bought through the Microsoft Store, including many cloud-based apps such as Microsoft Office 365. But, it’s still a really flat PC in a tablet format. People still use it like their PC, running more powerful programs in it, and use it as a laptop, just smaller. It’s certainly more portable than a standard laptop, but as laptop design gets thinner and thinner, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Additionally, the price tag on the Surface is still pretty high. To get a powerful enough machine that can create and edit video, you’d pay somewhere around US$3000.00+ for a Surface, when you could get something just as powerful in another brand of laptop for less than half that price (like I did for my current laptop).
iPads, in the meantime, have become more robust, and while still more dependent on cloud-based apps such as its own Work suite and it does run the cloud-based Office 365, other apps like Adobe’s Creative Cloud aren’t the same. There are Creative Cloud apps available for iPad, but they are still the watered down versions of them, and not the full versions that can be used on a laptop. Even though Adobe claims that Creative Cloud is cloud-based, it’s only cloud based insofar as it will save your work in iPad to your storage within Creative Cloud, but that’s about it. iPads have definitely been a frontrunner in promoting cloud-based storage, but running robust apps that are memory-intensive isn’t part of its anatomy.
Still, with these minimal advances, they are still steps forward in the right direction. For example, I do used Office 365 or iWork on my iPad when I help my son write up his homework assignments, and I can store them on my OneDrive or my iCloud. If he’s working on a bigger project, he can use PowerPoint or Keynote on my iPad, save it to OneDrive or iCloud, and then continue working on the project using my laptop or his desktop. Cloud-based storage, and some other cloud-based apps have definitely gotten better, for sure. I like this ability to switch from my laptop to my iPad to work on low-impact project, like doing my son’s homework.
It looks like the PC versus tablet/mobile wars will continue to rage on for a while. I don’t think they’ve gotten that far in four years, but the few improvements made have certainly been in the right direction. We’re not quite there yet. I think RJ’s original thought that all apps need to be streamlined for mobile use was a great observation then, and it’s still one that needs to apply now. If we are truly going to move towards the mobile age, bigger steps have to be made. These are steps forward, for sure. I think more has been concentrated on mobile phones, to be honest, since more people own them. And that seems appropriate. I don’t bring my iPad or my laptop with me everywhere, but I bring my phone everywhere. Then again, I’m not working on HTML code on my phone, so there has to be some sort of balance at some point.
Mobile devices are becoming more powerful all the time, but it looks like we’ll have to be a little more patient before we see another big leap with technology. I know there are some “big” announcements from Microsoft and Apple about these tablet products sometime this week, but I’m not holding out for any big advances, even though they are certainly overdue.
What do you think? How will this lack of technology development–or the future of mobile technology–help or hurt tech comm? Include your comments below.
As of TODAY, Adobe is releasing five new tools for technical communication professionals everywhere! Technical Communication Suite 5.0 (TCS5), FrameMaker 12 (FM12), FrameMaker XML Author 12 (FMXA 12) and RoboHelp 11 (RH11), and FrameMaker Publishing Server 12 (FMPS12) are now available.It’s been about eighteen months or so since the last big Adobe tech comm release, so you can imagine there are some new and enhanced features included.
I was privileged to be among a group of tech comm professionals who were invited to get a preview of the products before their release, and I have to say, there were so many new and improved features that it was difficult to squeeze all the information into one press conference! But I’m going to give you the highlights, and I’m sure you’re going to find that there’s something new for you.
In the last release of TCS, namely TCS4, there were several big overhauls of the product, namely that the Technical Communications Suite concentrated on providing tools that supported structured authoring, integrated interactive content, and could support the creation of content for mobile devices while providing searchable, personalized, socially enabled content in a way that would yield bigger results with less resources. It was a major step to enhance these tools, especially in regards to adding mobile and interactive abilities to content. Adobe has continued to build on those major changes with the new features in version 5.0.
The foundation of the Tech Comm Suite has always been FrameMaker and RoboHelp. With the release of TCS5, FrameMaker 12 and RoboHelp 11 have been released with big enhancements that appear to concentrate on making these tools more user-friendly and efficient for the technical writers using them.
For FM12, the first obvious enhancement is the interface. Adobe has improved the user interface to include colored icons and larger icons that look cleaner and sharper in HD. If you like things “old school” in the original smaller, monochromatic colors, that choice is still available as well. There is also more flexibility in customizing your interface. A new “pod” allows the user to access all the currently opened files in one place, from which you can save and close multiple files at one time, while still viewing the unsaved files. There are also enhanced abilities to drag-and-drop to empty areas of the interface, close pods or panels more easily, double-click on empty areas to minimize or expand pods, and searching capabilities have been expanded. These seem like minor details, but when using a product as often as many technical writers use FrameMaker, these finer details can make a big difference! FM12 includes three samples of unstructured content and one DITA-based content sample with the product.
FM12 is not all about a new façade. Adobe has enriched the authoring process with new capabilities. The first thing that caught my attention is that FM12 can generate QR codes now! They can be created for URLs, SMS texts, emails, or to initiate phone calls. QR codes are taking over these days, so it’s great that these can be both created and integrated into FM documentation. Background color enhancements allow uniform height background color and options to specify paragraph boxes. The addition of a new customer-requested feature is the support regular expression coding.
Single-sourcing has been a hot topic in the last few years, and this has been addressed with new enhancements. FM12 gives users a new way to work with conditional text, by using a new conditional tag pod which provides check-box mechanisms with multiple conditions to allow the user to do more complex filtering with conditional text enhancements. It truly simplifies the entire process, that even a newbie should be able to figure it out easily.
Productivity enhancements have also been included in FM12. A searchable smart catalog function allows the user to filter choices based on the valid choices available and phrase typed by the user, while the user can continue to use the keyboard shortcuts as before. There is also a new capability to open all files from the user’s last session in one click, including the last documents and pages in focus, workspaces such as pods, panels and palettes, among others.
Adobe has also taken care to add great collaboration enhancements in FrameMaker. Native connections to any webdev content management system (CMS), such as Documentum, SharePoint, and Adobe CQ are available. Users can now view entire CMS tree layouts, and can access several key CMS functions, such as checking out documents, editing documents, and searching within document, all from FM12. PDF review commenting has been made more flexible. The most proactive steps towards subject matter expert (SME) reviews is that reviews can be done on PDF reader apps on mobile devices, and can also be used on those same devices using cloud technology such as Dropbox for both internal and external reviewers. As mobile devices become more commonplace replacing desktops and laptops, this is a great step forward!
Publishing abilities have gotten a boost on FrameMaker as well. It used to be that if you wanted to create certain types of digital output, such a ePUBs, for FrameMaker content, you would have to export it to RoboHelp, and have RoboHelp publish the document. Now, that step is no longer needed for PDFs, Webhelp, ePUBs, Kindle docs, Microsoft HTML Help, responsive HTML5, or Web help! That’s a big deal, as it allows FM12 to be more efficient by skipping that step of exporting and publishing in RoboHelp. Publishing can also be done through the Web now, too, for multiple users using a FrameMaker server, allowing multiple users to publish simultaneously and automatically to multiple channels and devices. That’s a practical efficiency improvement right there!
With this release, Adobe is introducing a new FrameMaker product for those who don’t need the full version of FM12, but are mostly concerned in having a tool to do structured XML authoring. FrameMaker XML Author is a tool that has been created especially for the structured XML market. Those wanting to use unstructured content will still need to use the full FM12 version. The XML Author is fully standards-compliant for content creation, and supports the most popular XML technology for single-sourcing. It is not FM12 “lite”, but it is a streamlined, easy-to-use version that supports structured authoring without the bulk of the FM12 features that aren’t needed for structured content, yet still integrate-able with the full version of FM12 and available at a lower price. I’m sure that having this tool will be highly beneficial to many companies who are looking for a way to cut costs (it is priced at 40% the price of FM12 “full”) while still reaping the benefits of having a powerful XML authoring tool.
Another customer request that has been granted by Adobe is the integration of MathML, to allow MathML equations to be imported, created, edited, and published with FrameMaker. Adobe is even including 30-day trials of MathFlow (MathML editor from Design Science) with the shipment of FM12 for those who are interested in trying it out. There are several other features that are also included, along with 55 bug fixes, improved performance and launch time for FrameMaker, but I’d end up writing a book at this point!
Of course, with all these big changes to FrameMaker, we can’t forget RoboHelp 11, which also has had a big overhaul.
RH11, like FM12, has a new UI look as well. Based on customer feedback, RH11 has a new color scheme and a more modern interface that looks more pleasing to the eye. It’s a step in the right direction. Adobe has said that further UI improvements are in the works, but this current new UI is the first step in a long overdue makeover for the interface.
The more important feature enhancements with this new release of RoboHelp include advances with HTML5 publishing, printed document enhancements, and collaboration and single-sourcing enhancements.
The HTML5 publishing enhancements are from the perspective that mobile publishing is central, so new single responsive layouts for all devices are available “right out of the box” when downloading RH11. This new single layout feature will work seamlessly across all devices, can be easily customized, will allow for real-time previewing based on the browser size, and can be published with one click. There is a new wizard-based layout editor available to help with this process that shows the added responsive HTML5 output options. You can also preview layouts, and the customization is great because no coding in CSS needs to be done, as you can use the editor instead. To me, this is true single-sourcing creation at its best while simplifying the process! This is a big deal!
Printed documents have not been ignored. Users can now customize headers and footers of printed documents by defining them in the master pages. Headers and footers can also be imported from Word. There is also the ability to specify different headers and footers for the cover, and even and odd pages for different sections of a document. This is great for consistency within branded documentation.
In terms of collaboration and single-source improvements, cloud integration and topic sharing for SMEs has now been included. RH11 now includes a Resource Manager tool that synchronizes folders using Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft SkyDrive as shared locations, and includes filtering for specific folders. This allows the user to manage linked resources within files used in real time across projects and geography.
The Technical Communication Suite 5.0 includes FrameMaker 12 and RoboHelp 11, but it also includes the updated products of Acrobat Pro XI, Captivate 7, and Presenter 9 to complete the Suite. You will notice that Illustrator, which was included in the TCS4 version, is not included. This was a step, Adobe said, to help lower the price. Additionally, from the way I see it, it makes sense, because both Illustrator and Photoshop–another product that used to be included in prior TCS versions–are now affordably available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I know that I personally have a CC subscription, and I’m guessing that many active technical communicators do too, so this saves us from spending twice for the same product, which makes a lot of sense. TCS5, FM12, RH11, FM XML Author, and the FMPS12 will also be available both as a subscription and through perpetual license as well. There is separate pricing for the FM XML Author and FM Publishing Server software.
The updates made to FrameMaker and RoboHelp are extensive, as there are many more features, but I think you get the idea. Adobe is taking steps to try to stay on top of technological changes that have taken root in the past couple of years, such as mobile and cloud technology, and is working to continue to make a more robust and user-friendly products for technical communicators.
My recommendation is that if you are looking to try TCS5 or any of the TC products out, or are interested in upgrading your current TCS package or individual products, click on the Adobe advertisement in the upper right corner of this page, or visit Adobe’s TCS product page for more information.
In the past week, I’ve made two observations about how technology is going through an advancement surge. What I mean by that is that there are big changes happening, and it seems like it’s happening incredibly quickly–at least in my eyes.
The first occurrence was last week. My dad called us because he knew my husband and I had something he didn’t have–more computer knowledge than him. I found it a little ironic, my dad was my first computer teacher in the early 80s when Apple II first came out. My dad, being an educator, was progressive enough to know that these were going to be the wave of the future, and in some respects, he was an e-teacher–an early computer teacher. But here was my first computer teacher asking for help. He admitted that he had let his skills lag, and he was now “a dinosaur”, and didn’t have a clue what he was doing anymore. His desktop had died, but he wanted to retain a lot of information that was still on his old hard drive. My husband declared the desktop was indeed dead, and suggested that if my dad bought a new desktop, we could probably install the old hard drive as a secondary hard drive in the new computer, and that way he could still access the information.
I took my dad to the local Best Buy and Staples to do some comparison shopping. What struck us both is that there were next to no choices at either store for desktop models. Almost everything was either a laptop, a tablet, or one of those sleek all-in-one units. Considering that my dad wanted and needed one of those BIG desktops–not one of the compact ones, the choices were even more limited.
The irony was that once we brought the desktop back to my house to see if we could install the old hard drive into it, we discovered that it didn’t have a bay inside the casing to accomodate it, but it also essentially only had a motherboard, a power source, a fan, a Blu-ray disk drive, and the hard drive inside. That was it. It was a LOT of wasted space for something that was fairly powerful. The machine also came with the “blessed” Windows 8. I’ve had my hesitations about upgrading to it myself, but my dad had no choice, and the poor chap has been using only Windows XP and Windows 2000 up until now, so he was REALLY behind. Our solution to the hard drive issue was that my husband bought a contraption that you can enclose the old hard drive in a special case, and it turns it into a USB-connected external hard drive. So, that part of the problem is solved.
The Windows 8 solution is not. Dad is struggling to figure it all out, and is perplexed at how Windows 8 works in general. He’s not up to speed with the idea of using cloud-based apps for anything, or even using cloud-based storage. Since my husband and I are still using Windows 7 (and we’re safe for now), we can’t advise him on how to use it, even though we can give him some advice on apps and cloud-based apps in general. What’s frustrating for my dad is that my mother is even less computer literate than him (she’s been condeming computers for thirty years now), so she’s REALLY thrown by how to use Windows 8. I sent Dad some online resources including an e-book on how to use Windows 8, and he bought another book, so hopefully he’ll be the expert soon enough.
The second indicator to me that things were changing technologically was the closing of our local GameStop store. Now, to be fair, I live in a very small town–one that’s small enough that I questioned why we even had a GameStop in our town to begin with. We liked that store better than the one at the local mall because we got more personalized service, and we liked the staff there. I was only surprised to see that it had disappeared almost overnight the other day when I passed by the shopping center where it was located. I’m sure the store didn’t get enough traffic to warrant it to stay open, so that wasn’t a surprise. I was just surprised that it was done without a lot of fanfare. Related to that, since the store wasn’t there, my son was itching to get a new game for his Nintendo 3DS, and we ended up looking online for choices. Granted, my son is fussy about what games he likes and doesn’t like, so choices seemed slim. But even from my own tastes, it seemed like there weren’t a lot of choices. Here was a portable gaming system that didn’t have many games, even though it’s the most current Nintendo portable gaming system on the market. That didn’t make sense to me. As I later found out, Nintendo is working more and more on putting out games that can be accessed through the 3DS’s wi-fi connection–in other words, accessed through cloud services, and saved on the device’s flash drive or on the SD card that you can install. THAT’S where all the new games were!
As I thought about my dad’s predicament in catching up to the 21st century and my son’s need for more games, it occured to me that more and more access to media of any kind is becoming dependent on mobile services and cloud services. Really–think about it. As I was finding out from my dad, he could only install or update his Microsoft Office if he subscribed to Office 365–the cloud service. Microsoft has adopted cloud services to deliver its services, as has Adobe. Subscription services are pretty much the main way–and soon the only way–one can get access to this software and applications. It’s rare that anyone gets DVDs to install software anymore–it’s downloaded off the Web now. The same thing was happening with my son. He had better access to games for his device through Nintendo’s cloud services than if he paid for a micro-disk.
These are only two of several observations I’ve made lately that we’re going through a technology surge of sorts that are making what we’ve known and loved for years are quickly becoming obsolete. Tablets, smartphones, and laptops are pretty much the standard now, pushing mobile to the forefront even more. Touch technology is becoming more prolific, even for the all-in-one desktop computers that are out there, putting it on the same level as its mobile counterparts. Even the gaming world is getting the clue, with more games downloaded to smartphones and other mobile devices rather than buying the software. Who buys DVDs or Blu-ray disks anymore when we can download movies and other videos from Netflix or iTunes?
Cloud-based and flash-memory based technology seem to be taking over! Soon enough, DVDs, CDs, and SD cards are going to obsolete like the 5 1/2 inch floppy disks, VHS tapes, tape reels or punch cards! Seriously–think about it–in a year or two (okay, maybe a little more than that), all those things might be GONE.
It’s great that technology is advancing in leaps and bounds like it is. No one is more excited about these advances than I am, in most cases. But I wish I could keep up sometimes! It makes me feel bad for my dear dad, who is getting left in the dust by these advances. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
One of my favorite indulgences offline is watching reality shows on the US cable channel, Bravo, and one of my favorite shows is the Real Housewives of Atlanta. During a past season, one of the Housewives, Kim, decided that she was going to be a singing star, and recorded the song, “Tardy for the Party.” It was a minor one-hit-wonder song, but it still sticks with me, just because it’s a fun song, and it makes me think about fun in Atlanta.
So, as I start thinking about the upcoming STC Summit in a month, lo and behold, I receive news about a tech comm celebration. Adobe is having another Adobe Day–this time in the ATL! Adobe is hosting another one of its fabulous free networking and thought leadership Adobe Day events in Atlanta, GA (USA) on 5th May 2013 (Cinco de Mayo!), from 8:00 AM-1:30PM.
If this Adobe Day is anything like the one that I attended at Lavacon in Portland, OR, then we are in for a treat and a good time! You can access the details for this event and register by accessing the event microsite.
The thing that is really great about these Adobe Day events is that they are free (I can definitely afford that), and the talks presented are not a long-winded infomercial for Adobe products. The talks are about the leading trends going on in tech comm right now.
I was SO glad that I was able to attend the one at Lavacon, because the information I learned at that Adobe Day actually helped me get my job. No, seriously. Because the Adobe Day talks gave me a better understanding of current trends in content and mobile strategies, I was able to speak competently about these topics when I had my interview for the content strategy job I have now. It really helped! That’s how good this event is.
At the Lavacon Adobe Day, I met some of the top movers and shakers in the tech comm industry, and was blown away by all of them. It was an incredible experience for me. For the STC Summit Adobe Day, the speaker line-up looks fabulous. I met or saw at least half of them at the Lavacon Adobe Day, and they were all creative, smart (and friendly) people who had great information to pass along. I’m looking forward to hearing them speak, as well as meet and listen to some experts I haven’t seen before.
One of the highlights that should be exciting is that the “father” of Framemaker himself, Charles Corfield, is scheduled to speak. How cool is that? I mean, Framemaker is a long-time standard in tech comm software, so to hear about its origins and what he has to say about the tech comm industry now? That’s going to be a treat in itself. And yet, there will be so much more!
It should be a great time! So, don’t be tardy for the party! You don’t even have to be attending the STC Summit to attend Adobe Day. You just have to be sure to register on the event website. If you are in the greater Atlanta area, and want to attend, or you are attending the STC Summit and can come into town early, it’s definitely worth the trip. I’ll be going for sure! I’ll be blogging and tweeting about the event, so keep your eyes peeled for that as well!
If you do attend, please make sure to thank the Adobe TCS team members present for such a wonderful opportunity to learn, and then make sure you say hi to me, too. I’ll be the one with the Nene Leakes haircut. 😉
Recently, due to the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Surface machine, RJ Jacquez released two blog posts promoting the idea that tablets, in time, will indeed replace the PC as we know it, and that Microsoft is going in the wrong direction with this Surface device. Between his post titled, “For the sake of ‘Mobile’ I hope Microsoft Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet fall short” and Tablets Will Replace PCs, But Not In The Way You Think, he says that he feels that Surface is not taking us forward because it embraces the idea of adapting our devices to old software, instead of moving forward with mobile devices and rethinking how to create new productivity software for these new tablets that can make users more productive. After paraphrasing several articles that have been out in the press that claim that productivity apps such as Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro (to name a few) are items that need to be addressed by the tablet industry, he counter argues,
Personally I think that most of these articles miss the bigger point, namely the fact that most people think that Tablets replacing our PCs will require a 1:1 task-replacement approach. I don’t buy this argument….In other words, we are currently shaping our mobile tools and soon these amazing devices, along with the incredibly creative apps that accompany them, will shape us and redefine every single task we do from here on out, including learning design, image editing, web design and yes every productivity task as well.”
I understand what he’s saying. If I’m interpreting him correctly, his argument is that devices like Surface should not be adapted to run bloated “power” software that needs the extra storage and peripherals to work, thus making the devices less mobile, but rather software should be streamlined to become more efficient so it can run in a tablet like an iPad which doesn’t need extra storage because it relies on the Cloud nor does it need any other peripherals to function. Some of the other “power” apps that RJ mentioned that critics think would need PC power include Photoshop, Microsoft OneNote and Avid Studio.
Well, I do have to agree with RJ insofar as I think that mobile is the future, and it is forcing us to really look at software and its limitations, and it’s making us think about how to streamline processes and our needs. mLearning is in the midst of a huge revolution due to that mindset right now. And actually, there are tablet versions of Photoshop, MS OneNote, and Avid Studio available for tablets that cover most of what users need. So it’s not like these kinds of software can’t be adapted for most people’s uses. The average user does not use Word or Excel or Photoshop or other apps the same way as a power user, so streamlined apps are fine.
However, I think there may be a need–at least for a little while longer–for PCs to still exist for other kinds of “power” uses. The first thing that comes to mind are apps that are not as mainstream as the ones mentioned so far. Tech comm apps like Framemaker, RoboHelp and Flare are the first ones that come to mind. Now I know that Adobe is working to put just about all of their major software products on the cloud, so that’s a move in the right direction. I have no idea if Flare or the other leading tech comm productivity software packages are moving that way as well. The same thing with e-learning software…again, Captivate is part of Adobe’s cloud-based Technical Communications Suite 4 right now, but what about Lectora or Articulate or other instructional design software packages? These are all software programs that aren’t quite ready for tablet use yet, but for the sake of mobile productivity, it might not be a bad idea to move in that direction. But for now, staying as desktop apps is probably fine.
There’s an app called Cloud On that has the right idea. It’s an app that’s available for both iOS and Android use, and essentially it provides a means of accessing full versions of Microsoft Office on tablet devices, and then saving documents in a Dropbox, Box or Google Drive account. No short cuts here! Full functionality of the software, on the go!
So, why aren’t the all the big software companies jumping onto the bandwagon with this? Apple already has by creating tablet versions of their iWork and iLife apps, but what others? Some companies have taken baby steps, or are working on it, and others…well, I think they are not keeping up, or are in denial that having a lean version of their software is needed.
I can say, as I mentioned, that I’ve used Cloud On, but I’ve also used my iPad’s Notes app. I used the Microsoft OneNote app on my iPad heavily last year during grad school, as I would start my homework assignment on my iPad during my lunch hour, and then sync it in my SkyDrive account so I could access it from my laptop at home to finish an assignment. I recently used Photoshop Touch on my iPad when I was too lazy to power up my laptop one night to fix a photo for a friend. When I’ve made movies or did any digital photography projects, they’ve been done more on my iPad than on my laptop due to more affordable choices that meet my basic needs for editing.
So, my answer to RJ’s question is that I feel there will still be some apps that will need a PC to do much bigger jobs. Desktops and laptops are our workhorses right now, and you wouldn’t ask a pony to do the work of a Clydesdale horse. The PC isn’t going away anytime soon, and it will remain the hub of business and other work for some time to come. But, I agree with what RJ said, that in looking forward to the future, we need to continue to think mobile and how we can make it work so that much of these workhorse products can be made more lithe and flexible to our needs.
One last thought to put the mobile/tablet point in perspective–if you are a Star Trek fan like I am, you will have noticed that everyone carries portable devices–the size of a tablet, e-book or smartphone– to access huge databases and information, and to do much of the “heavy” information lifting for anyone aboard a starship. This was depicted on the shows well as much as 25 years ago, before the advent of tablet devices and smartphones. Think about how the various characters on the show used their devices. They would tap into a main computer device on the ship–much like we would access a network or the Cloud–to obtain information and make various calculations as needed.
It would seem to me that we are getting closer to that kind of scenario in reality, but we’re not quite there yet. We’re getting close, though!