Apple unveiled the MacBook Air back in January of 2008. It only took PC makers 4 years to catch up. Unfortunately, the entire concept is already obsolete. The Laptop is soon to go the way of the desktop, regardless of who makes it. And the new iteration of the computer is one you most likely already have: your phone.
The latest iPhone is about ten times more powerful than my first laptop — maybe more. The new dual- and quad-core Android phones are even more so. Smartphones are pretty powerful computers with an extremely convenient form factor and a limited user interface. But, it doesn’t take much to improve that interface, and several companies are more than willing to expand the utility and implications of mobile hardware.
I’m a big fan of the ASUS Transformer. I have one myself and I use it all the time, especially when I’m travelling. But, despite their success, Asus is not resting on their laurels. They continue to innovate, and their latest is the PadFone concept, shown in the pic above. It combines an Android phone, a Tablet screen, and a keyboard dock into a scalable computing platform. Besides just being geekily cool, it makes a lot of sense — the computer and the wireless connectivity are built into the phone, the accessories just expand the experience. Only want a phone? Just get the phone. Want a tablet, grab the screen — now you have a phone and a tablet, but only one data plan. Want the full laptop? No problem, grab the dock and you’re good to go. And, like the Transformer, it has additional battery power in the accessories, as well as expanded capability (HDMI, USB, SD-Card). Your apps carry over and scale up with each accessory. I’m telling you now, when my iPhone needs an upgrade, I may just switch over to the PadFone…
The Motorola Atrix phones actually started the “phone as computer” concept, with their first Laptop Dock. Now in it’s second generation, the Atrix 2 carries the same idea forward with beefier hardware and specs. I don’t think it’s as elegant as the PadFone, but it’s pretty effective — want to do more work with your phone? Plop it into the dock and get typing.
These two companies are already facing the future head on — the next wave of computing is centered on the phone. It puts the web and communication technology in the palm of your hand when you’re out and about, but it also has strong enough guts to power a full laptop when you sit down for a spell. Combining the right expansion accessory just makes sense. No more need to sync with a computer back at home — all of your files, apps, content and contacts are always there with you.
Canonical, the maker of the ever popular Linux distro Ubuntu, also has a twist in store for the mobile phone market. Aimed at business users, it asks the simple question: How mobile can we make your computer?
Considering the hardware specs of most new mobile phones are more powerful than many of the “thin client” computers powering office desktops across America, Ubuntu thought it would be pretty cool to put your whole desktop computer in your phone. So they did.
The idea is simple. Since Android and Ubuntu both use the Linux Kernel as a core, it makes it pretty easy to package them together. When you’re out and about, it’s plain old Android phone OS. Plug it into it’s dock and you’ve got full Ubuntu. Feel free to add programs, apps, files, whatever — it keeps the files, and uses the appropriate OS for the right situation. All you need is a dock, a screen, and a keyboard. At the office, this means having a monitor and a keyboard at your desk, the “computer” you carry with you – brings a whole new concept to “mobile office”. For home use, you’d have a dock connected to your flat screen TV with a wireless keyboard of your choice — now you have a super-smart TV!
Rushing to Extinction
We went from deskptop, to laptop, to netbook, to MacBook Air, to tablet, to Ultrabook, and now, to Super-Smartphone. Just as Blu-Ray fought so hard to be the last hard copy format to be superseded by digital downloads, Ultrabooks are fighting to be the last “computer” you’ll ever own. Each platform oblivious to the fact that they are already dinosaurs. Both now victims to palm-top digital technology.