Smartphones and tablets have already swallowed up the MP3 player, the digital camera, the PDA, the camcorder and, according to some at least, even the wristwatch. Sure, you can still buy most of those as standalone devices, but for most people their phone does the job well enough.
One thing it has largely failed to displace so far though is the PC. Tablets are fine for media consumption, and most of us will tap out shortish emails on a smartphone, but when it comes to writing a report, giving a presentation, accessing a CRM or any one of many other jobs, most of us prefer to use a PC, whether desktop or laptop.
That is changing, however. Early attempts at smartphones that docked into a PC-like base unit, such as the Motorola Atrix, appeared to underperform in both roles, saved little in cost over buying two separate devices, and needed physical docking. However, new generations of mobile technology will have both the power and the connectivity needed — in particular, the display connectivity — to do both jobs well and, more significantly, to do them wirelessly.
Indeed, market analysts at ABI Research reckon that in five years time more than half of mobile devices will have something that’s been standard on PCs forever: the ability to connect to an external display, whether to mirror the primary display or as a second screen for presentations or video.
We can already see harbingers of this in the HDMI ports available on many tablets, but newer technologies such as VESA DisplayPort, the MHL Consortium’s Mobile High-Definition Link, and the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Miracast offer a whole lot more. Some even offer wireless connectivity which could be very interesting for conference rooms, home entertainment, gaming, in-car use, or even for regular office tasks. And new 60GHz wireless protocols such as WirelessHD and WiGig will be capable of pushing even Ultra HD video content from the mobile device to a home, office, or vehicle display.
As for the necessary power, that’s there now too. Modern quad and eight-core mobile processors have stacks of power to spare, more than enough to run a desktop operating system. Note if you will that when Microsoft developed its own computing hardware, it went for a Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard, while Ubuntu-developer Canonical has been busy adapting and porting its operating system to run on mobile phones.
All of this means that, within the next few years, we will see smartphones and tablets replace more and more PCs as the “computing hub”, whether at home or in the office.
Of course, both the displays and the devices can be expected to have solid security and management capabilities. If you weren’t already worried at the potential for data loss or leakage with today’s mobile devices, the prospect of users in effect picking up their PCs at the end of the day and putting them in their pockets should be suitably enervating.
Still, we get into our cars we already expect our smartphones to automatically hook up to the audio system, both for telephony and music. Why not to the keyboard, screen and mouse on our desk too?
Image credit: WikiMedia Commons