Posted by: Vikas Sahni | February 21, 2011

The Future is Smartphones

The Experiment

Fifty days into the New Year, and what started as an experiment on 1st January 2011 is now my way of life.  The laptop no longer goes on the road with me every day! 

If a heavy user like me can survive – no, actually do more – outside the office with a Smartphone instead of a laptop, I am willing to lay a bet that the laptop is on the way out!

The Experience

Before you go off this post, shaking your head and thinking that I am mad, look at the table below which summarises my experience:

Activity / Task Laptop Smartphone Comment
Reading emails Yes Yes Practically no difference
Replying to emails Yes Short – YesLong – No If I need to send a detailed reply, a short note saying that I am away and will get back by a certain time is usually good enough.
Composing emails Yes Short – YesLong – No If I have to compose a long mail, I anyway wait till I am back at my desk and can work without distraction
Casual Browsing Yes Yes More and more sites detect that you are using a mobile browser and serve up a version suitable for the phone
High bandwidth Browsing Yes No Researching on the net,  Downloading software etc. is anyway something that I do at my desk, not when I am at a seminar or conference, or commuting or waiting for a meeting to begin
Note taking Yes Yes The Smartphone wins this one hands down.  As a developer architect, a white board gets used heavily in many of my meetings and I just take photos!
Presentations Yes No Simple workaround, I just mail them in advance to the meeting/workshop/seminar organiser and carry a backup on USB
Demos Yes No The only person who should be legally allowed to give live demos is Scott Guthrie.  Ordinary people like me should use videos and screen grabs
Taking Photos No Yes  
Routes / Directions No Yes  
Carrying it around Pain Easy Carrying a laptop around is a painful task.  It is heavy, has to be lugged around everywhere, and the risk of loss or theft is omnipresent.  The Smartphone is just a bit bigger than my last phone and much smaller than my first mobile!  The risks are still there, but the chances are lower as the device fits into my shirt pocket

 

Try it for a week and see for yourself…

The Next Generation Smartphone

Here is what I think should be added:

  1. A USB port, so that people can plug in a USB hub to connect devices.  Keyboard, mouse, hard disk, DVD, printer… almost all devices are now available with a USB interface
  2. A HDMI (video) port, so that people can plug in a monitor or TV

With just these two additions, most people will no longer require a laptop or even a desktop!  Just plug your Smartphone into the USB hub when you are in the office or at home!

Instead of adding the ports, another way could be to just extend the OS to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to handle devices…

Of course either of these alternatives will require OS support.  However, none of the things listed above are rocket science, they have all been done.  All that is needed is someone with the right resources to execute this, and laptops could become history within five years!

Apple / Google / Microsoft…are you reading this?  The first one off the block has an opportunity to introduce a revolutionary change…

Power Users

For software developers, designers, engineers and gamers, the above Next Generation Smartphone will not work.  The only reason is that these users need more processing power.

Is there a solution for us?  Yes, and again using proven technologies!  This will however require more work than what will do the trick for ordinary users.  An operating system that can automatically handle connecting and disconnecting an additional CPU will do the job quite well.  There are plenty of distributed systems available in the industrial / military domain that do this all the time.

A second alternative that may even support the current operating systems is also thinkable…AMD / Intel…are you reading this???  Multi-core CPUs on one chip…how about the same on two chips?  Look into your archives, such chipsets were produced earlier!

Note – What do I mean by ‘Heavy User’

Just to explain ‘heavy user’ in plain English – my laptop is more powerful than the desktop that most power users have.  For the more technically inclined among my readers – I am a software developer / architect who works with the latest technologies.  My laptop has a i7 processor, 12GB RAM, 3GB Graphics card, 640GB HDD etc.  I do not use a desktop, this is my only machine.

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Responses

  1. Enjoyed reading this, Vikas. And agree. The only thing I can think of (and I’m a fairly limited user of technology, so I’m sure there are ways to do this I just don’t know) is folks who use laptops in the classroom. I haven’t yet begun doing this, but hope to within the next year or so. Specific use: to use real-life student papers beamed on to a screen, and to show them in real time how to reorganize, rephrase, and strengthen their writing in other ways. .

  2. Vikas, You really bought the issue in the correct focus. I agree with you that a USB port along with OS extended to Wifi or Bluetooth or both would change the paradigms of the game as it is know today.


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