The Future is Mobile Only

UPDATED: 8/22/16 Andromium breaks Kickstarter funding records, plus  fixing some embarrassing spelling mistakes.

tldr; smartphones are poised to be the main form factor for all general purpose personal computing, and that’s great.

Last Friday was my favorite human’s birthday.

Since she’s a grown ass woman with an outstanding career, had already bought what she wanted, and I am a shameful procrastinator, I was last minute buying a new smartphone at the local T-Mobile store.  An experience that makes my skin crawl, hate sales staff, hate glitz, hate the feeling I’m getting screwed no matter what I do.  It feels like Wells Fargo pushing a shady mortgage but greasier.

It’s a beautiful phone, shiny, fast, solid, a joy to hold, a pleasure to look at, and more powerful than most of the desktop computers I’ve ever owned. It’s also ~$800 bucks for a small form factor computer that’s not upgradeable, & difficult to service.   In many ways it’s a luxury version of the Commodore SX-64 I learned to type on, or maybe the more iconic OG Macintosh.  With the notable difference that the phone is clearly prioritizing conspicuous consumption more than those much beloved artifacts of my youth.  Favorite human actually cooed “it matches my coach purse”, and it did, the two objects make clear alpha female product statements in a stately navy blue.

 

Congrats on being like everyone else, why is this even relevant?

Those early devices disappointed in a significant minority of ways and the market developed laptops, PDA’s, tablets, smartphones, and *sigh* wearables in a blink of an eye compared to the innovation pace of the rest of human history.  Which leads to my big question:

IF laptops, pda’s, tablets, smartphones, & wearables were all fast enough to make using them a joy, which would you choose as your primary device?

Let’s assume all these devices can dock to your ideal keyboard, monitor, sound, & mouse, that all can fit into your ideal bag of holding accessible any time bag fussing with is a applicable.  I’m sure many folks will frequently use secondary devices for specialized purposes.  I’m really getting to our real primary general purpose computer, the thing we use to as our main brain accelerator.

My choice, all things being equal, is a smartphone. It is just big enough to accept input from a human hand, and no bigger.   Non hand inputs are possible, but voice is awkward in public, and direct brain access is in it’s infancy.

What does smartphones becoming the primary brain accelerator mean?

The clear losers are  laptops, really what’s the point if a smartphone is just as fast?  If a mobile docking station for a smartphone works just as well, why bother with a second machine?  I say this while I LOVE my mac book pro like I have never loved a computer in my life.

Desktop computer manufacturers, they are quickly becoming the modern equivalent of the old desktop sized calculators they were invented to replace.  Desktop computers will still be needed, but for specialized tasks with extraordinary requirements in performance, environmental tolerances, or cost.

Wearables could be a potential spoiler for the smartphone primary device party, if the user interface were improved to compete.  An improved interface likely means as much bulk as a smartphone, or some weird laser light show keyboard that is “almost as good as the real thing”.  Specialized devices, the worker bees, beetles, & wasps of the personal device world.

Tablets, YES, but wirelessly paired to a smartphone as a peripheral instead of a primary device.  Think handheld flat screen monitor, instead of computer.

The folks that will really be doing some neat stuff are the accessory device, peripheral, and network device folks.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is likely to become a greater share of the workplace, which presents interesting challenges to network administrators.  They’ll need better routing tools, and enterprise application stores.

Accessory folks making mice, keyboards, cases, external hdd’s, and whatnot are going to enjoy some nice turn product churn.  Maybe even some nice matched set opportunities.

Monitor makers, could capture some of the tablet market & smartTV (Roku) market by just adding fast local wireless connectivity to replace HDMI cables.

Cloud service providers are going to do well if they can get people to pay for them.  Smartphones are easy to break, lose, and will likely be more frequently replaced.  Backup services, & distributed data processing services will continue grow in utility, as will every other type of actually useful SAAS app.

Internet of Things (IOT) is just going to keep getting more relevant, I’m betting it’s not going to happen like most folks are predicting, and I’m not planning on automating much in my home, but there so many useful things to do with little computers controlling the mundane tasks of our day.

Interface Design will be a continuing challenge, if you’re still thinking mobile first design, stop, and move on to good old fashioned purpose driven design.  When a smartphone morphs to whatever the user needs to be doing at the time, your UI needs to be able to intuit intent and be useful.   Design is just getting harder, and that’s a great thing.

I for one welcome our new smartphone overlords, when can I expect their market domination?

Smartphone docking stations like Andromiumos.com & Microsoft’s Display Dock are already facilitating using a smartphone as a primary device.  Although it appears that Andromium’s 2 overly excited guys designed a better product than Microsoft’s army of boffins.   Honestly, it’s 2015 and the best product design they could come up with was a black box?

Christina Bonnington at Wired thinks 2017, which seems pretty reasonable.  It’s the reasonable I am concerned with, free markets are reasonable, oligopolies with high barriers to entry, like our mobile phone networks, are not.

Smartphones as a technology may be poised to take over as the primary device, but the mobile phone gatekeepers would rather make money on phones that go well with coach handbags than actual innovation.  Who wouldn’t?  Research & development of new wireless networking technology as well as installing new towers is expensive and risky.  Phones that are marginally faster and twice as shiny are easy money every quarter.   The danger is that T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and the few others are allowed to behave more like the much hated Comcast instead of tech companies.

These same mobile phone companies have the opportunity to be major players in the hardware distribution chain, which is likely to very slowly tempt them down the performance innovation path.

My best guess is that Christina from Wired is a bit optimistic, I think I have 1 more Mac Book Pro purchase in my future before laptops go on a shelf in the garage as a curiosity to talk about every so often with the young ‘uns.

UPDATE: 8/22/2016

Andromium Breaks Kickstarter funding records!

Andromium gained enough funding from backers to be in the top 1% of all Kickstarter projects and be the top funded hardware technology project to date.    See the full results on the Andromium Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andromium/the-superbook-turn-your-smartphone-into-a-laptop-f/posts/1660459

I’m told I’ll have my new Andromium Superbook in February 2017, expect and unboxing & review, and a late delivery of the Superbook.

Get your own Superbook at the appropriately named: https://getsuperbook.com