I don’t know what defines a personal computer anymore. It’s probably true for you too, look around and think again. Computers aren’t the same and that’s not because they needed to. Every technology category needs a revamp once in a while for sustaining innovations and keeping up with the advancing culture. A personal computer isn’t just keyboard, monitor, processor, and mouse nowadays. They’re constantly evolving in order to adapt to customers’ desires and businesses’ objectives for staying ahead of the curve. When I look at my desk, I see three entirely different products – a Chromebook, a regular ol’ Windows-running laptop, and a tablet attached to an external keyboard. All of these are attempting to achieve the same agenda with varying outlooks. While one is betting on the future of web services, the other is a heavy powerhouse capable of doing anything and lastly, a lightweight tablet trying to balance the right blend of productivity and leisure.
Laptop or a personal computer as a generalized product is now being branched towards various streams, they can now work in a thousand different ways you still haven’t figured out yet. Personal computing left our desks a long time back, however, they still aren’t that straightforward for a mobile device. I was under the impression that laptops are supposed to achieve everything a full-fledged desktop computer can, but that’s not required anymore and consequently, companies have started to perceive the embarking trend. Currently, portable computers are unknowingly divided among several categories you may haven’t noticed until now. Let’s try to list the major ones.
1. Convertibles, The Flexible Ones
These notebooks are equipped with a touch screen and additionally, have a rotating hinge so that you can also use them as an inconvenient tablet. They’re primarily aimed at users who occasionally require a screen-only mode for demonstration purposes or just watching a movie on the go or just don’t want the hassle of carrying another gadget in their backpacks.
2. Hybrids, The Tablet Wannabes
Laptops from which the keyboard can be detached and voila! It turns into a run-in-the-mill tablet. They work more or less and are considered one of the best representations of how modern computers should look like – merging the productivity of laptops and portability of tablets. However, these are usually not the first choice for more advanced users as for enabling that kind of environment, OEMs usually need to sacrifice crucial hardware aspects.
3. The Classic Ones
These are your usual “laptops” without any kind of fancy ability, just pure keyboard and display to get things done. You might still have it but your next laptop purchase is definitely not going to be a classic one unless you’re precisely looking for it.
Chromebooks, if you still don’t know, essentially run Google’s Chrome browser and its consequent applications under the title “Chrome OS”. Additionally, they benefit from Android’s vast marketplace of apps. Google’s ambitious bet on the future of web services is finally looking promising as Chromebooks pick up the pace required to succeed in the market. They’re primarily designed for consumers who vastly rely on the internet and that, as it turns out, isn’t a tiny chunk of an audience anymore.
And lastly, there are the tablets which due to their stagnated position, are now attempting to break into the laptop market. Almost every OEM out there is launching a tablet that is powerful and portable enough to satisfy the need of both worlds.
6. The MacBook
Apple’s attempt to vanish the existence of ports is another shot at leading the personal computing rivalry. The MacBook comes with merely a single Type-C port and a headphone jack, however, the Cupertino giant has managed to stuff in a decent amount of power to keep things going. Most users will feel it’s a vacuous move at the future, however, as our lives become more connected to cloud services, it might look feasible after a year or two. After all, they did manage to successfully predict the extinction of the CD-ROM.
7. Your Phone
Yes, that tiny device in your pocket is one of the candidates that personal computing revolves around. A lot of manufacturers have been attempting to achieve a single device environment through smartphones, however, none of them has actually gotten closer except Microsoft.
Microsoft recently showcased that they’ve managed to get the complete Windows operating system on chips which power phones nowadays. This not only allows users to solely depend on their handhelds but also, create a mobile first and a single OS ecosystem Microsoft has been trying to attain. Additionally, these “Cellular PCs” (that’s what they’re called apparently) will function as an extension to their Continuum feature and will bring a significantly more powerful interface for using phones as full-fledged computers.
So Which Among These Will be the Gold-Standard?
Among these, if you ask me right now to select a standard that manufacturers will build products upon for the next ten years or so, chances are you’ll see me scratching my head. I’m the living example of the whole laptop dilemma faced by every other buyer today. That’s why I own a Chromebook AND a Windows laptop. You can also throw an iPad in the list, although, Asus’ Flip has overshadowed the use of that. You can’t buy a type of laptop right now that’ll promise you that after a couple of years, it won’t start feeling outdated or old-fashioned. I invested a hefty amount for the HP laptop, however, after three years, when I compare it other product lineups, it just shows signs of agony.
Goodbye, Traditional Laptops
“Agony” literally means being in the final stages of painful death and I’m not over-exaggerating that whatsoever (ok, maybe a little) but the thing is, if you look at any decently specced tablet or a Chromebook for that matter, it can fulfill most of the tasks you perform on a regular computer and yet, the price difference is exceedingly substantial especially if you compare high-end products like the Macbook or premium Windows machines. And when you think about the minuscule line between them and advanced machines, you will realize that the difference is what every OEM is trying to encapsulate within a single device as of now. A laptop that can manage all your resource-hungry tasks as well as is suitable for leisure. Most users don’t even require the former factor and are mostly dependent on the browser which puts Google’s Chromebook in the front seat.
Commenting on the eighth consecutive decline in the PC market, Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner stated “According to our 2016 personal technology survey, the majority of consumers own, and use, at least three different types of devices in mature markets. Among these devices, the PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to. Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again.”
The Hunt for Competence
Hence, each family of products available in the market has been devised to figure out how personal computing will look like in the coming future but as of now, no one has a clue. More likely than anything, chances are multiple aspects from these products will eventually fuse to fabricate the perfect blend of functionality and flexibility. As of now, it’s certain OEMs and buyers are in an endless conundrum, however, the end result of this profound period will be something completely divergent with what we’re used to.
We’re living in the age of mobile
Currently, two ideas are matching themselves up – Google’s vision for a closely connected world and Apple’s wireless claim, both converge towards a common junction. The absolute idea for creating a hassle free environment with a minimal existence of strings and an omnipresent availability of information is what will define the future of personal computing.
The portable personal computer was originally introduced back in 1971 when Xerox PARC demonstrated the Dynabook. The goal was undoubtedly manifested and as expected, was picked up by every vendor at that period of time, eventually. This was in fact when massive desktop computers were still in their development stages and have just started to look feasible in terms of mass adoption. However, during that time, these machines were complicated, some demanded purely a technical mind and others which tried to ease things, fell short on functionality. Through the coming years, manufacturers kept improving and refining their products that would appeal to a normal customer and finally, they reached a level of satisfaction with laptops which then were carried on for years. That phase is referred to as one of the most crucial experimental technology age and believe it or not, personal computers are back again in that lengthy juncture of unsettlement.