Can We Make Laptops Obsolete?
This is a question that I hear often these days. Are laptops going to be obsolete soon? Or Can we make laptops obsolete? This question is not only valid, there are people out there who have successfully migrated to a tablet type device for 100% of their work. However, I feel that we have ways to go and we will need some focused innovations to make that happen.
It’s true that we are well on our way to becoming a mobile society. In 2013 on average, people 18 and older were spending roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes per day on their mobile devices. This number is predicted to be 3 hours and 23 minutes in 2018. The facts are staggering. In the first half of 2017, world wide, the top four most popular activities on mobile devices were Email, Social Media, movies/videos, and reading news.
To answer this question, I started by looking at the type of activates I do on my laptop and by asking a very practical question, can I do those same things on my smartphone or tablet? It’s okay if I can do them in a slightly different way. Today, the answer is “No,” nowhere near. At best, a smart phone or tablet is a great companion to a fully functional laptop. Here are my findings.
Hard Drive vs Cloud Storage
There are programs such as high-end graphics, video and sound editing, and serious business applications such as Oracle that still require some software installed on a local machine. There are activities that require local hard drive space say editing video and photo before they can be transferred to a Cloud storage. There are some Windows tablets that come with 64GB of storage but we all know how soon that gets filled up. Just ask your iPhone. So seriously compute-heavy scientific and business applications will have to come up with the Cloud-based mobile versions of their software. Tablets and Smartphone will have to become seriously powerful before I will sell my laptop for the last time.
Another issue is most so called Cloud storage solutions are not truly cloud storage. Most are one or the other. Most are just synching your local files and folders into the cloud. So you still need a big hard drive. I found Amazon Cloud Drive where it allows you to sync select folders with your local hard drive and the rest can be backed-up into their Cloud and accessed when needed. Unfortunately Amazon can’t display most of the file formats in the Cloud so you have to download a file to your local drive before you can even open it.
Bluetooth and WIFI are quickly eliminating the need to connect gadgets and accessories with a wire. However, a tablet or a smartphone will have to offer some external connectivity for the laptops to become completely obsolete. The biggest application is my 1TB slick slim external storage that I need for various reasons, one being peace of mind that I have my files in case the WIFI on my next flight does not work.
Keyboard and Mouse
I am married to my Trackpad or Mouse. I am spending so much time with my keyboard my wife gets jealous. If you are spending more than 8 hours a day on your computer, you need to be able to switch your input devices between trackpad to mouse and keyboard to touch screen. Just to avoid Repeat-Motion-Syndrome or Carpal Tunnel. Today, if you have a large screen tablet you get a full size keyboard. If you have a small tablet you have to lug an extra full size keyboard with you. Speech commands are becoming popular but speech is not the most private method of interacting with your computer. Try sending an email by speaking into your phone while on a crowded train.
Large External Monitor
This could be the first problem and the easiest problem to solve. Some vendors have already figured it out like Apple, provided you stay within their family of devices. We still have a ways to go for docking stations to become popular for tablets. However the biggest challenge will be for those people who use dual or triple monitors.
So, for now, laptops are here to stay. I feel that we are in the transition stage where we are doing some things on a tablet and others on a laptop. The prices for laptops are dropping compared to prices of smartphones and tablets, which are increasing. Perhaps Apple and Samsung will use that money towards research and development. However, it’s clear that there is still room for some serious innovation before laptops can totally become obsolete.