Desktop Replacements vs. Laptop Replacements

Some laptops were never meant to replace desktops. Others were. In an era where the desktop is disappearing, are tablets meant to replace laptops AND desktops?
Notebook-vs-PC
I’ve been a mobile computing advocate since 1992. I’ve been an expert really, since 2003. Mobile computing has become a way of organizing my life, a way of being more efficient at work as well as a way to entertain my family.  If it wasn’t for my son’s Nintendo DS-XL, some car trips would be unbearable. Dad likes a quiet car…

Desktop computers are being slowly phased out by the consumers that have historically purchased them because portable, more mobile replacements have been taking their place for a number of years. The trend can be taken back to Compaq’s luggable” portable computer that was introduced back in 1980 blah-blah-blah. People have wanted to take their computers with them since they were first introduced…

It was long thought that laptops and notebook computers would cause desktops to be phased out, but that didn’t quite happen.  You can credit that to the fact that they were really the same computer, at least on the inside. For the most part they used the same operating systems and the same applications. There was so much mobile form factor diversity, that the laptop PC almost insured that it wouldn’t phase out the desktop.  Tablets however, are a different story. There are basically only two form factors 7″-8″ and 10″ – or more aptly put – a mini and a normal sized tablet.

Apple’s new A7 processor appears in not only the iPhone 5S, but in the new iPad mini and the iPad Air. The A7 runs 100mHz faster in the tablet versions of Apple’s newest iDevices, and with some of the newer keyboard covers that are coming out for the devices, you have to ask yourself the question – will the iPad Air replace the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro as Apple’s mobile computing platform?  Should it?

The A7 runs 80% faster than the A6. It seems to, or appears to, have the chops to handle most of the computing tasks that most consumers would need – web surfing, email, moderate digital photography retouching. As I said before, all that most any casual consumer would need at that point would be the right kind of keyboard cover, and without a doubt, the iPad Air or new iPad mini could be their go-to computing device. Those that are more comfortable with a full featured PC, notebook or other computer can still get what they need today with either a Mac mini or MacBook Pro; or even a notebook or desktop PC.

Consumers want what ever device is going to provide the path of least resistance to their computing goal. The biggest problem with tablets as a primary computing device, in my opinion, has been their slate form factor and lack of keyboard and, even with their touch screens, a pointing device like a trackpad or mouse.

Devices like Surface Pro and Surface 2 Pro have the right idea – a portable slate device with a very usable keyboard and trackpad.  Now that third party accessory makers are providing usable, comfortable keyboard covers for the tablets in general, I think we ARE going to see more tablets with magnetic keyboards.  With processors that are providing notebook level computing power, I think that for the immediate computing future, say the next 3-5 years, notebooks and desktops won’t be completely replaced in the consumer market, but more users will likely be headed in that direction. It simply makes sense from a usability, portability, economic and ecosystem perspective.  Forget lean back and lean forward computing, tablets will be the devices we lean TOWARDS to get work done.

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Windows 8 – Only What Matters

Windows 8 is likely less than a year away, and it can best be summed up as Windows in the post-PC era. That’s not to say that desktop computers and laptops won’t be a major part of the system, but this will be the first version of Windows designed with both computers and portable devices such as smartphones and tablets in mind.

Starting with the basics, Microsoft has confirmed that the sequel to Windows 7 will indeed be called Windows 8. This isn’t so much a lack of imagination as a belief that Windows 7 was much better received than its predecessor Vista: Microsoft wants to convey the message that the sequel will continue that success. As for a release date, there’s been no official word, but the timing of releases (both official and leaked) of in-development editions is, consistent with an Autumn 2012 release.

Over the years Microsoft has generally followed a pattern on alternating between a new version of Windows that starts from scratch (such as Vista) and one that is based upon its predecessor but has key usability and feature improvements (such as Windows 7.) Windows 8 looks set to fall into the former category and it’s the user interface that is the biggest change.

Previous attempts to produce low-specification netbooks and tablet devices with Windows have proven unsuccessful simply because it was primarily designed for desktops and laptops. Windows 8 changes that with the Metro user interface which is designed to work equally well on traditional monitor/keyboard/mouse setups and touchscreens.

There’s also a major overhaul to the basic look of Windows. The default setup replaces the familiar desktop with small icons and then the taskbar at the bottom. In its place is a new customizable start screen with larger tiles that take the user directly to commonly used applications; some tiles can be set to display information updated in real time such as weather or sports scores. Users can switch to the traditional set-up if they prefer.

The Metro system also means a big tweak to Internet Explorer. The default version of the browser will run in HTML 5 and won’t support any plug-ins such as Flash, which is already blocked on Apple’s portable devices. There’ll be a separate version of the browser accessible through the traditional menu system that does support plug-ins.

While full details aren’t available yet, it does appear Windows 8 will reflect the growing interest in cloud computing by which not only is some data stored online, but some processing work by remote computers rather than by the device itself. One confirmed change from this is that users will be able to use a Windows Live ID to log-in, such that they can go on any machine and access settings and files.

The biggest change “under the bonnet” comes with support for ARM processors for the first time. To date Windows has only supported Intel x86 processor system, which is used in the vast majority of PCs. ARM is far more common in smartphones and tablets and works in a way that uses far less power, thus extending battery life. If all works as planned, this should mean Windows is much more effective in portable devices than before.

Download Windows 8 Developer Preview (32/64-bit)

Note: Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers and it may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version.

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