Computing Magazine

What Is The Future Of Computing?

Posted on the 05 November 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds

Today, I look into my crystal ball to see the future of computing
Today, I look into my crystal ball to see the future of computing

Contents

  • Desktops 
  • Laptops 
  • Tablets 
  • Mobile Phones 
  • Wrap Up 

In most of my articles, I make a concerted effort to be unbiased. I try to cover topics for what they are, not for what I see them as. But every now and then, it's kind of fun to stir the pot and throw my two cents in. Having said that, I feel like doing that tonight. To all of the loyal readers out there, sorry for not posting this morning. I'm doing some work on the house and had to prime and paint before we could make anymore progress; so I got in touch with my inner Sherwin Williams today. But you don't read this because you want a play by play of my day, I believe Facebook would suffice for that. No, you're patiently waiting for me to divulge what the heck I'm going to be weighing in on this fine evening. Well, boys and girls, fans of all things nerdy, our topic for discussion this evening is the future of computing.

I know; it seems like a huge topic to try and cover in a mere two thousand words or so. And while I do have a dozy of an article on quantum computing in the works, tonight I want to discuss the future of computing and mobile devices impact on it. Steve Jobs famously posited this analogy for the future of computers; 
"... as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them."
To clarify, Mr. Jobs wasn't actually taking a shot at Microsoft on this occasion. He was stating that the future of computing is in mobile devices; tablets and phones. Now the late King of Tech Cool does have a track record of knowing a bit about the industry, so who am I to say he's wrong. And I'm not here to disagree with him. I'm just going to be musing a bit about what I see as the future of computing. I figured we'd structure this article in a way that allows us to look at each computing device, and it's future uses. So without further ado, let's get started, shall we?

Desktops

Desktop computing has been around forever. How much longer will it last?

Desktop computing has been around forever. How much longer will it last?

The old trusty desktop; what's there to say about them. You know 'em, you love 'em. But where do these beasts, and some are pretty big, fit into the future of computing. This one is a tough one for me. I have a special place in my heart for my desktop; I really do. But it may be time to face facts about my beloved desktop. A desktop really doesn't have any advantage over a laptop. The laptop I am currently writing this on has an Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 512 MB graphics card, great sound, a full 10 key number pad along with the standard keyboard. So that leaves one simple question; why would anyone want a desktop when they can get an equally well equipped laptop?

Well, for one, there is something to be said for the sheer number of desktops currently out in the world. It'd be hard to say there's no future for them seeing as millions of people own them. But I know plenty of people that had 56K dial up internet ten years ago; so desktops won't survive if that's all they have going for them. I honestly don't see desktops, in their current forms, being too relevant in ten years. But remember that quantum computer thing I was talking about earlier? That could be a game changer for desktops. I won't go into it now, but quantum computing may be something that saves the desktop for quite a while. Short of that, there isn't anything you can do on a desktop that can't be done on a laptop or tablet. Since you can hook up peripherals, such as a mouse, drawing tablet, keyboard and others, to a tablet or laptop, you no longer have to use a desktop to do graphic arts, computer programming, game playing or really anything else. As far as usability goes, the desktop just doesn't offer anything you can't find elsewhere. So for those that like definite answers, I agree with Steve Jobs on this one; people will not need desktops anymore in the future.

Laptops

Laptops combine the power of desktops with the convenience of a tablet.

Laptops combine the power of desktops with the convenience of a tablet

Unlike it's bulkier, more stationary relative, the laptop may still have a place in the brave new world of computing. While it is arguable that anything you can do on a laptop can be done on either a desktop or a tablet, not everything can be. For instance, game playing. If you want to really have a good gaming experience, a tablet or mobile phone won't really cut it. First person shooters just aren't the same without a mouse and keyboard. So you need a desktop or a laptop for gaming. And since they both can do the same thing, why tether yourself with a desktop? It's not that laptops are better at gaming or anything like that, it's just that they more practical than desktops.

There is also the small matter of computing power. Tegra 3, quad core processing chips, are on the horizon for mobile devices. And tablets and phones are starting to get into the big boy RAM realm. But they aren't quite there yet. So for the foreseeable future, a laptop is the absolute best combination of power and portability. Tablet makers don't want to add the space to accommodate more memory and hardware; if they did, they'd just be making laptops again. So I don't really see tablets being able to match laptops on specs for some time. But should I be wrong, and it's possible I will be, there is the concern of upgradability. If your laptop doesn't have enough RAM, just pop in another stick or two, assuming you have room. But what if you want to upgrade your iPad or Xoom's RAM? You're just S.O.L. How about memory? My laptop has 500 GB of hard drive space; what does your tablet have? The biggest SD card I've seen, expandable memory you can put in most Android devices, is 128 GB. So that's getting close, but I know people with twelve terabytes of hard drive; I don't quite see SD cards getting that big. Oh yeah, that big bad SD card costs about $700. But if price weren't an issue, most devices can't handle that size card anyways. Instead of going component by component, let's just agree tablets are no where near upgradable enough to supplant laptops. I still see laptops being very popular as a family computer and for working professionals; though the latter group are starting to switch to tablets.

Tablets

Tablets have the highest level of faith a technology can get; the Jobs seal of approval

Tablets have the highest level of faith a technology can get; the Jobs seal of approval

This is the device that Mr. Jobs saw as the future of computing. And I think he may have been on to something. What can't you do on this thing that you can on a desktop or laptop? I still stand by my assertion that hardcore gamers won't be switching to tablets for that aspect of their lives; it is still possible, however, to game on a tablet. There are some great looking games in the App store and Android Market. Developers are also starting to see the potential in tablets. There are scaled down versions of word processor and document packages, full featured browsers, video chatting and a host of productivity software are all now available on tablets.

From a hardware perspective, tablets are beginning to pack some impressive specs. As I said above, these probably won't overtake laptops on the computer food chain; but just because Dwight Howard will never be Wilt Chamberlain doesn't make Dwight a bad asset to one's team. I decided to not go with the Lebron-Jordan comparison, it just feels too played out. Can you tell I miss the NBA? Anyways; back to topic at hand. As I said above, tablets will soon be able to sport Tegra 3, quad core processors; just like the older kids do. They will easily have 1 to 2 GB of RAM as well. But as we know, this isn't on par with laptops or desktops. Graphics, sound, memory, all will lag behind more standard computing technologies. But do you need 500 GB of memory? Or do you need a 1 GB graphics card? If so, you aren't considering getting rid of your desk/laptop anyways.

If that's not enough for you, look at Windows 8. The next version of Microsoft's OS is meant to bridge the gap between mobile OS and desktop OS. Tech Radar does a very good job covering Windows 8 in this article. As you can see, the OS looks like the love child of Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7. Mac OS X is also taking steps in that direction. Ubuntu Linux has done the same. All modern OS' will be tablet friendly in the not too distant future. So what does this mean? Does it mean tablets are the future and the major companies are trying to acclimate everyone to there style of OS? Or does it merely mean that they are trying to capitalize on mobile's simple to use, yet powerful interfaces? Either way, it leads one to believe that the future is, if not entirely in tablets, going to be heavily influenced by tablets.

Mobile Phones

Can the phone in your pocket really be the future of computers?

Can the phone in your pocket really be the future of computers?

When discussing the future of mobile phones, it's hard to overlook how they're linked to tablets. They run the same OS', they typically have most of the same internals and they are both highly practical. If you look at the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S, you'll notice they have the same dual core processors. They also have nearly identical amounts of RAM, and many other similarities. I'd list them all here, but if you really want a comparison of the hardware, you can find it on Google. The obvious difference between the two is the screen size. The difference in size actually makes the tablet much more usable, and a more viable alternative to standard computers. But, mobile phones aren't meant to replace computers; their primary function is still communication. They are wondrous devices as far as potential and power, but they aren't computer replacements. The mobile phone is in no danger of vacating the tech world; where would we be without them? But a mobile phone also won't single handedly replace a desktop or a laptop.

Wrap Up

So what is the future of computing? Is it tablets like Steve Jobs believed? Is it laptops and desktops? Or might the future actually fit in your pocket? It's still too early to tell, and all of these computing devices have pros and cons; and some have huge aces up their sleeves. Unfortunately, as I said before, this is one race that is too early to call. But in my opinion, the average home will have the standard array of mobile phones, at least one tablet and possibly a laptop, though probably not. With mobile OS' being less a stripped down version of the regular OS and more a first thought for the OS; it's hard to deny mobiles impact. If computers and mobiles end up running a unified operating system, I think that will be all she wrote for traditional computing devices. Like Steve Jobs said, computers are like trucks; people will still have them, but they won't need them as much. Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear what you guys think about this. So stop by the Facebook page and let me know where you stand on this.


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