Laptops: The New Desktops09 Nov 2008
As laptop sales are outpacing desktop sales and laptops becoming more and more capable, it's no wonder that laptops are now the preferred choice for a computer. The prices of laptops have fallen dramatically to aid this trend.
However, with this growing trend, there now comes a need to have even smaller portable computers. The laptops are now "too big". So we now have the onslaught of netbooks and mobile phones doubling as handheld computers. So what exactly is it that people need? They want big screens but the device should be portable. They need more processing power but a small device and one that doesn't heat up. It's going to be very interesting wathcing this space in the next few years.
While discussing this topic with Vijay today, he mentioned he wanted to take just the laptop screen around without having to undock his laptop for presentations or short meetings. Tablets don't work for him for some reasons. He just wanted the screen to go with him and communicate with the "base" wirelessly. I thought that should be possible with a low-power, low-speed processor on the screen itself running something off the RAM. Anyway, with the cloud-computing phenomenon, all one would need is a browser and a handful of other software (mainly plugins to browsers). The OSes will either have to evolve to support ASMP or the processor manufacturers will have to come out with low-power chips and being able to share the bus with a stronger processor (Intel's Atom does seem it can fit here). The OS has to evolve in either case along with the chipset.
The desktop software will have to have support for this, of course, where you would click something like "detach the screen safely" and the necessary plugins can be transferred to the screen's RAM. Or the screen can have some flash storage and the browser, presentation software, etc. can be stored natively all the time.
Anyway, is this still the most-desired gadget? Once this is done (as it has, Toshiba had a prototype two years back along the same lines), will people stop wanting more? Just in today's world, I can imagine people just wanting to use their super mobile phones to work as the "screen" -- a low-power computer when not in front of their laptops. They can be hooked up to projectors easily, they can be carried around, can be hooked up to bigger monitors to get more screen space. What's stopping us from doing that now?