With the recent release of Ubuntu for Android, in addition to the upcoming debut of Windows 8, the market for personal computers continues to take significant steps towards a world where all your computing needs will be handled by one device that fits conveniently in your pocket.
Sales of tablets are already cutting into the global demand for PC’s. Only yesterday, Apple reported they sold 11.8 million iPads during their second-quarter, a 151% increase from the same quarter a year ago. Mac sales grew 7%, and the global market for all PC’s, just 1.9%. Yet, to my surprise, when asked about the market for a hybrid laptop / tablet, Apple CEO Tim Cook replied that “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.” He appeared to be taking a shot at Windows 8 powered tablets hitting the shelves this fall. I, however, side with the response from Microsoft’s Frank Shaw, head of PR, when he tweeted back, “must be a typo. it’s not a toaster/fridge. It’s a toaster/oven. Those seem pretty popular. Just saying.”
I’m also not entirely convinced a toaster/fridge wouldn’t be a great idea as well.
As the growth in iPad sales illustrates, more and more content consumers are beginning to prefer tablets to traditional laptops. The roadblocks to your mobile phone being the only device you need is heavily tied to the enhanced computing power, along side an experience that promotes productivity, required by content creators. For developers such as myself, efficiently running a local development environment on a phone or tablet, and implementing the various technologies involved, has not been feasible. Well at least not until now.
Ubuntu for Android allows you to run a full-featured distribution of the popular Linux operating system on Android devices. The problem of converging the experience of a mobile and full-fledged operation system is solved through auto-switching the OS context based on whether the device is docked or undocked. With Windows 8, Microsoft is attempting to address this problem by instead creating one operating system that provides a seamless experience between all devices.
The other big hurdle though is of course the I/O limitations of smaller devices. However, drastic improvements to touch keyboard technology are in the works (check out this article on “haptics”: http://buswk.co/kEVEUV). An explosion in cloud storage providers, and enhancements to this technology in general, has eliminated the need for physical hard drives. All that’s left to be done is the ability to dynamically enlarge your mobile display. Did someone say built-in holographic projection screens? Well yeah, that’s in the works too.