Eric S. Raymond had a post a bit ago about where he thinks the future of client computing is going in the near term (4 or 5 years). It’s not necessarily that original, but still, I believe it to be mostly spot on. Read the whole thing (How smartphones will disrupt PCs), but the thrust is that handsets — mobiles, cell phones, smart phones, whatever you want to call them — will continue to cannibalize every area they touch, including the mighty PC and laptop market. The only quibble I have with him is the idea that all these coffee shops will have full size monitors and keyboards ready to go for their customers to connect their handsets to. Err, no, excepting the really high end ones in expensive neighborhoods, perhaps.
I’ve given this a lot of thought, actually, just because I’m so excited about the future. I am, after all, a tech geek. I don’t think people will give up their full power laptops and desktops — with the accompanying CPU power, storage, and easy input/output mechanisms — until decent analogues are created in the mobile space.
Sure, you can plug your iPhone v5 into a full size keyboard and monitor setup at home, but will it be powerful enough to work on iMovie and rip Blu-Ray discs by then? Nope. How about where you put those ripped movies or that raw footage off that HD camcorder you’ve been playing with? With the current curves, your iPhone will NOT have the space or the processing power for that.
And input/output? If you’re working on a complicated spreadsheet, watching a high quality movie, or working on that aforementioned home movie, you’re not going to want a small display, and you’re not going to want a tiny keyboard. Touch can only go so far with this. It’s great for manipulating objects, but for long form writing and number manipulation? Not so much. I think in 4-5 years, we’ll just start to see real alternatives hit the market for these dilemmas. Glasses that project an HD display that doesn’t makes you look like a dork and give you a headache to boot, some sort of a gesture based input or projected keyboards, that sort of thing. There are a lot of very smart people working on these problems right now, but it’s just hard stuff to solve.
But yeah, I think it’ll displace the netbook in 4-5 years, definitely. And in 10 years? Maybe — just maybe — the desktop/full sized laptop will become as obsolete as the land line phone.