Look. Two posts in one day on the future of computing. (sorry)
In the previous post I argued (among a lot of other things) that the Big Next Thing for computers for the public was voice interaction. Actually, that’s only part of it.
The SF ‘computers of the future’ had and have some other features as well. They were always available. They worked as phones. They worked as entertainment devices. Several could interact with more powerful systems, often acting as a personal interface. When a meme happens enough, it’s worth seeing if it might not be the real deal. In this case, it’s almost a done deal.
Look, when I started working in a computer store in 1983, we sold Vector Graphics (among other systems), and added the Kaypro to our lineup when it came out. I owned — and still own — a Kaypro II. It’s 17 years later, and the VERY low-end cellphone I have in my pocket has more memory and a better (faster and larger) processor.
What it does not have is a convenient input, comfortable display for more than a small block of text, and a means of sharing data beyond ‘beaming’ it. (Yay, the cloud.)
Now there are some surprisingly powerful devices with somewhat comfortable displays which can share data. Their inputs are, well, kinda weak. I’m speaking of handheld gaming devices. Devices like Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DSi. (If they had the ability to use SD cards of some sort I’d include Apple’s iTouch and Microsoft’s Zune HD.) They’re intensely focused on graphics and inputs by means other than keyboards.
Add (yes, it’s a hobbyhorse) Dragon Speaking Naturally and a web-compliant browser and I could use any of these devices as my “computer”. VOIP isn’t that much of a reach, just to give an example.
Now that’s the ‘companion’, but I also mentioned an interface. I’ve seen suggestions and I suspect it may become more down the road — just not common unless one of the manufacturers decides to pursue the option. That suggestion is that ‘your’ stuff is on your personal device. While most of the time you either use the device or the cloud, sometimes you need more local power. For those times you hook your companion up to a desktop. That hookup provides your access codes and your profile and such — and maybe files and programs (either from it or from the cloud). The local computer then provides the heavy lift horsepower. I’m not sure this will happen, but I can see it down some roads.
The netbooks are simultaneously too large and too small. They’re too small to outdo ‘real’ computers, they’re too large to carry everywhere. I expect them to be overcome by someone who realizes just how powerful the hand-held gaming devices really are — and who figures out how to get a good input system.
Right now I’d expect it to be a modified iTouch or Zune, if either company will get their heads out of the sand and realize sometimes you need hard sharing (ie a card reader). Even without that, though… add DNS or an equivalent to either or a competitor and watch it become THE device for a while.
The future is now, we’re just waiting for the pieces to fit together.