A mobile computer.
Yes, I know, I can already hear you balk and shout out, “get a laptop, bud!”.
I have a laptop. It’s one of those big 15 inch MacBook Pro models. It’s got plenty of RAM and disk space, and a pretty speedy CPU, which is exactly what I need, as a software developer.
And technically speaking, it is a mobile computer. I can undock it from my docking station, whoever I need to bring it home or into a conference room for a meeting.
It’s light and portable enough that lugging it around from place to place isn’t that hard.
Yet it’s not my idea of a truly mobile computer.
The thing weighs almost four and a half pounds. And before you tell me I need to spend more time at the gym and stop whining about lugging around a mere four and a half pounds, let me stop you and say four and a half pounds can start feeling quite heavy, if you’re having to jump from meeting to meeting and carry any necessary accessories with you.
For instance, I don’t like using the built in trackpad on my laptop so I usually carry an external mouse and mousepad with me, when I bring my laptop to a meeting … when i’m doing demos or working on code, the external mouse makes me more productive. I can move around much faster on the mac desktop with the mouse.
And if I need to hook up to an external tv or monitor in the conference room, I need to make sure I have all the necessary cabling to make sure I can connect my laptop to the external display.
It’s just enough hassle that I often think twice whenever I need to attend a meeting and have to decide if it’s worth the trouble to lug around a four and half pound laptop with all the cabling and external accessories I need to bring with me.
That’s not quite my ideal mobile computing experience.
What WOULD be my ideal experience with a truly mobile computing device?
Well, we already have the device. It’s called a smartphone. Regardless of the flavor of smartphone, iPhone, Android or Windows mobile device, it’s a device that’s somewhere in the ballpark between 4 to 6 inches in diameter and weighs somewhere in the 5-6 ounces in weight. Something that can easily fit into a jacket or jean pockets (skinny jeans, I’m not so sure, but i’m not a millennial so i can’t say for certain).
But what about the specs? Does a smartphone have the horsepower and necessary software to emulate my work laptop experience?
Even 3 or 4 years ago, I would say no. There just wasn’t quite enough disk space storage, enough RAM or a fast enough CPU on any major smartphone, that could keep up with an equivalent laptop or desktop computer.
But if there’s one thing you can always count on technology to do, it’s bringing about a newer, faster, more powerful version of a piece of technology in a future version.
Especially in the world of smartphones, which is where the world of computing is undoubtedly heading.
Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple, was famously quoted as saying we will soon live in something called a “post PC” era. What he meant was that sooner or later, traditional desktop computers, those big personal computers you bought and put on your desk in your living room or office, would eventually be replaced by smaller and more mobile devices like tablets, smartphones, and wearable devices like smartwatches.
Jobs said this back in 2010, when personal computers were still the dominant kind of device in the office and home. But it turns out history has proven him right.
All one has to do is look at hard sales numbers from big computer and software manufacturers and the proof is in the pudding. PC sales have been on the decline for the past 7 years.
Even the mighty Microsoft, which relies on the PC hardware market for it’s flagship operating system, Windows, has been directly affected by this PC sales decline. They forecasted they would sell well over 1 billion copies of their latest Windows operating system by mid 2018, and so far this year, they’re somewhere north of 200 million, well short of their billion copy goal they would like to reach.
The underlying reason behind their sales decline is quite simple … people are buying less of those traditional personal desktop computers. And Microsoft completely missed the mobile device opportunity … whether out of short sightedness or their confidence that a post PC era would never happen, is anyone’s guess, but they are scrambling to try to figure out how to replace this lost PC market revenue in this new post pc age.
Apple took the ball and has been completely dominating the mobile device landscape, in terms of total worldwide revenue and profit. Their iPhone division alone makes more profit than ALL of Microsoft’s business divisions across their entire corporate structure for quite some time now.
Apple and Google know full well the future of computing lies in this new post pc era, where everyone is doing computing on smaller and more mobile devices, and they are pouring all their energy and resources into post PC products like smartphones, tablets and wearable devices.
The first generation iPhone introduced in 2007, was quite underpowered. It had 4, 8 or 16 gigs of onboard storage, 128 megabytes of ram and a CPU that ran at a clock speed somewhere around 400 megahertz … nowhere near powerful enough to run desktop equivalent applications of the day.
But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since that first generation iPhone. We’re coming up on their tenth anniversary iPhone and the specs of their latest phones are within arms reach of the average desktop PC you see in a typical home or corporate environment these days.
My latest iPhone 7 plus has 256 gigs of onboard storage and 3 gigabytes of ram and a CPU running around near 2.5 gigahertz. It’s already significantly faster than my several years old MacBook Air laptop I’m currently using to write these very articles which you, dear reader, are reading.
It’s quite possible that in another year or two, we will see an iPhone with 512 gigs of onboard storage and 4-5 gigabytes of ram, which is more than ample horsepower and storage to run heavy duty, desktop class applications.
Your smartphone is powerful enough these days, that it can quite literally replace your laptop or PC, for most consumer or work professional needs.
What are the most common applications that most workers in an office environment use in their day to day activities?
A web browser, an e-mail client and word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software.
The current generation smartphones from Google, Apple and Microsoft are plenty powerful enough to run these kinds of applications.
There’s really only one area of technology that Apple, Google or Microsoft or perhaps some other upstart technology company, needs to come up with and create a device, that can deliver a truly innovate and disruptive mobile experience.
A completely wireless environment.
Here’s the user experience I often dream about when I arrive in the office.
I arrive in the office. I sit down at my desk. I take my nice little portable smartphone out of my pocket and plop it on my desk.
There is a wireless keyboard and wireless monitors already set up on my desk.
My smartphone automatically and wirelessly connects to the keyboard and monitors and mirrors the display output of my smartphone to the external wireless monitors.
At no point in time do I have to dock my smartphone into a docking type device. Nor hook up my smartphone to the keyboard and/or monitors with external cabling.
It’s all wireless. It connects automatically. IT JUST WORKS.
No fuss or hassling with connecting ANYTHING. I could theoretically take my smartphone device to ANY physical workstation location at my company, with the same wireless keyboard and monitor setup, and connect automatically to the corporate network and I’m ready to work.
IT departments could save tremendous amounts of money and resources eliminating the need to purchase laptops and desktop computers. Smartphones, on the whole, are significantly cheaper in comparison. You also save money eliminating the need for docking devices, external cabling and any other hardware accoutrements that are usually necessary to connect a laptop or tablet device to a corporate network.
It’s something that all the technology bigwig companies have been struggling to bring to market.
The technology i’m talking about to wireless connect my smartphone to other devices isn’t quite there yet.
Microsoft has a feature called Continuum that allows their Microsoft phones to mirror their smartphone display output to external monitors, but the catch is you need external cables and a docking device to wire up the external keyboard and monitors to the windows smartphone.
It’s a problem worth investing in because whatever company can successfully pull off creating the truly wireless mobile computing experience I descried, will introduce a new disruptive force in the technology market space and all the riches and revenue that would come with it.
So yeah, next Christmas, that’s probably what i’ll be asking mall Santa for. That is, if he doesn’t sic the mall cops on me first before I sit on his lap.