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» » Should We Stop Separating Smartphones, Tablets, and PCs?
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Over the last few years the we way interact with technology has changed tremendously. Because of this shift, which largely based around the rise of mobile, it’s time to reexamine how to look at categories of electronics. For years we have separated smartphones, tablets, and PCs despite an increasingly blurry line there’s a desire to look at these as separate markets.

According to a report released recently by Goldman Sachs, Microsoft has dropped behind Apple and Google to a severely weakened 20% of the computer market. (This information, of course, is only relevant if you consider smartphones, tablets, and similar electronics as part of this market.) Traditionally, we think of these electronics as belonging in separate categories — after all, a smartphone is obviously not a laptop. Even so, the tablet market gets combined with the laptop market in the minds of many due to the notion that PC sales were lost as users decided they could get the same experience from a tablet.

If you look at the last two years specifically, however, there are plenty of places where the future might need to accommodate for labeling all of these devices “personal computers”.

Making a smartphone a personal computer

In the last year especially, there have been a handful of projects geared towards making your smartphone work like a PC for you with little or no effort on your part. The most common has been accessories that allow you to use a monitor, mouse, and keyboard on your smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Note, for example, has a dock that allows you to connect a monitor via HDMI orMHL out and a pair of USB ports for any mouse and keyboard you could want. It is entirely possible for someone to come home, snap their smartphone into this dock, and have a desktop computing experience.


Apple isn’t quite as interested in the concept of your phone replacing your reliance on a PC, but they won’t stop you either. With Airplay and a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPhone, you can achieve very similar goals. With an AirPlay mirroring, you can use your phone to accomplish certain tasks using a larger screen — like displaying images or sharing video, though it’s not as robust a solution as found on Android (unless if you jailbreak).

Finally, there’s the more extreme edge case — Ubuntu for Android. This concept has been tried before, but Ubuntu thinks they have what it takes to enable users to dock their smartphone into a monitor, mouse, and keyboard to accomplish tasks. The big difference is that when you connect the phone to the dock you get a full version of Ubuntu that has access to all of the content stored on your phone. When you disconnect the phone, you get the mobile only experience and nothing more.

Each of these cases blur the line in one critical way or another, and it becomes possible for users to adapt their workflow to support the technology they have at their disposal. In many ways, for many users, the smartphone is the personal computer they use most.

The imaginary line between tablets and laptops

As a result of the constant one-upsmanship that has been going on between Apple and Google for the last four years, the iPad and the Nexus 10 are very much personal computers. Quad-core processors, multiple gigabytes of RAM, displays with higher resolutions than televisions, and access to hundreds of thousands of apps geared to make the tablets feel more like PCs. Either with a proper keyboard or using the on-screen keyboard, it is hard to find me something these tablets can’t do that a laptop can.


Originally, the argument tablets-laptop parity came in the limitations of the operating systems. While the tech world hoped desperately that the original iPad was just going to be a MacBook Air with the keyboard cut off, what we got was four iPhones strapped together. The original iPad and the early Android tablets were just media consumption machines with web browsers sort of glued in somewhere and optional 3G. In time, several important functionality milestones were reached. Today, users can print from the devices, there are proper word processing apps, and the web browsers for mobile operating systems have grown considerable more robust. Even now, with Android 4.2 supporting multiple user profiles, the Nexus 10 has started a shift in tablets as personal gadgets into a computer for the whole family.

Microsoft may be the clearest convergence example with Windows 8 and the Surface tablets. As we have expected mobile operating systems to grow into proper computing systems, Microsoft has completely re-designed their own OS to meet tablet users half way. The touch-focused interfaces have spawned dozens of “hybrid” laptops from nearly every manufacturer, where the screen detaches from the keyboard and you have a tablet.

In the Linux world, a very similar design chance happened in both Ubuntu’s new interface and KDE’s PlasmaActive touch-friendly UI. It seems that the only OS that hasn’t gotten more touch-friendly in the desktop world is OS X.

Revising the definition

There’s still plenty of reasons to use Windows 8 or Linux, the purpose of this article is not to advocate the mass exodus of desktops and laptops. Rather, I think it is time to approach these pieces of technology as though they belong in the same category and look at the strengths and weaknesses of each platform as something that can be fixed instead of excused. By placing these electronics all in the same category, there comes a greater opportunity for there to be further cooperation between them. When you look at something like the Asus Padphone you can see the possible direction that things could head in the next couple of years.


This wouldn’t just benefit consumers, either. Developers, engineers, video editors, and so many other jobs require hardware that is more powerful than what is offered in smartphones and tablets today. That hardware has always been more advanced then what the average consumer uses, and it is unlikely that those jobs will be made more portable anytime soon. This corner of the PC market isn’t affected by laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In the same way that the less functional smartphone shouldn’t be left out of this description the more powerful production rig should remain as part of the group.

Taking into consideration that smartphones have all but cannibalized feature-phones in many markets around the world, laptop and PC sales have decreased over the last year, and tablet sales are through the roof, it’s not hard to see where the market is heading. Every day there are more and more users connecting themselves to the rest of the world digitally, and many of them are starting out with a tablet or smartphone and using it in the same way we used the first thing we were given. In the end, it just seems to make sense to call them all personal computers.

Source: Geek

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