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March 8, 2018

Where is Tech Heading?

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

O, this industry was once so easy to predict: PCs would get more powerful, Laptops would get lighter, and everything would be cheaper. Now the PC is a commodity, basically as interesting as the old office typewriter, tablets are dying, laptops are for the cool kids, phones control the world. What in heavens is going on!

People who 20 years ago were lining up at the Big Box stores to get a PC (with 1000 hours “free” AOL) are now letting those systems waste in a landfill. The replacement is a smartphone, which as I’ve written before, does everything the typical PC user of old could do: games, email, the web, chat, plus it makes phone calls. The tech industry is fooling itself if it believes that this type of person will ever buy a computer again.

Phones rule the tech roost. Not at my house, of course: I still use several computers to generate work. My kids prefer PCs over the other gaming platforms. I enjoy using a tablet to watch videos and listen to music, as does my son Simon. Phones? They aren’t our thing.

On college campuses, laptops are the go-to device for students. And in many organizations, laptops are the preferred productivity tool. The the mobility of the laptop combined with its larger screen and keyboard, not to mention an adult operating system, are driving factors. Also, your typical laptop lasts longer than a tablet with a keyboard.

So wither the tablet?

I remember when Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. It was very seductive, but yet I struggled with its position in the tech hierarchy. Was it just a big phone, or a laptop without a keyboard? I think Apple and other manufacturers struggle with tablets as well, which is one reason why only Apple and Samsung are left in the game.

In fact, it’s Samsung that really killed the tablet when they created the Galaxy Note, the first large-format phone or phablet. Apple joined in with their iPhone 6 Plus and since then phones have gotten increasingly larger. This new format seems to satisfy users who would want a tablet, but come to realize that they can get the features of a phone plus a tablet with a phablet.

In Figure 1, you see from left to right the original Google phone, the Nexus One; an original iPhone; a Samsung Galaxy Note 3; and the Samsung Galaxy S8. The trend today is for big phones. Big phones means less of a demand for a tablet.

Figure 1. Relative sizes of phones available about 10 years ago with phones around today.

Developers recognize that the phone will become the dominant tech device in the future. Cell towers sprout like weeds where the carriers can get them planted. They even have short-distance cells you’ll soon see on lamp posts and the sides of downtown buildings.

Whether this explosion of phone tech is good for humanity or not . . . I’ll have to rant on that in a future post.

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