Device Wars

surface-bookAs technology relentlessly moves forward, functions continually consolidate and devices get smaller as capabilities increase. This march forward has caused form factors to shift. The first desktop computers were relatively large and boxy and certainly not portable. Over time as laptop computers improved, desktop sales began to fall.

Imagine the succession of devices you have gone through over a long period of time. They start out as clunky and single purpose, and over time as the tech improves they get smaller and some of them are simply absorbed such as camcorder and point-and-shoot cameras. Imagine them endlessly changing and continually morphing as your expectations changed over long periods of time. There is an ongoing war not only between devices, their capabilities and their form factors, but there is also a war going on inside of each end user of these devices as to which one is better and performing specific tasks.

The first mobile phones were large and clunky. Mobile phones went through a long progression over time of getting smaller as capability increased and eventually turned into the ubiquitous smartphones we know and love today.
The ongoing warfront is now between smartphones, tablets running apps such as the iPad, and conventional laptop computers. Which one is better at performing what task?

Up until about 2011, I did all of my mobile computing on laptop machines. I got an iPad 2 in 2011. I found the iPad 2 to be a great media consumption device, so between the iPad 2 and my Android phone, I gradually stopped using my laptops for all but real productivity tasks, where the iPad and other tablets really seem to fall flat.

In 2013, I bought an iPad Air. In retrospect, I justified the purchase to myself thinking that the faster processor in the iPad air might enable me to move completely away from laptop computers altogether. Sadly, this was not the case. The iPad remains a great media consumption device, but as a productivity device it is still quite lacking.

My primary use for computers includes writing articles, editing video, editing my websites, and recording and publishing audio podcasts. While it is possible to do all of these tasks on an iPad or an Android tablet, it’s an unnecessarily painful, slow experience necessitating jumping through multiple hoops.

I believe many people did exactly the same thing I did, trying to turn the iPad into a small ultraportable laptop. The iPad makes a lousy laptop. There is no mouse, and though the iOS apps are great for media consumption, the apps make lousy productivity impostors. The iPad makes a poor netbook. I believe that is why Apple forbids the iPad from using a mouse.
The conventional laptop makes an inferior media consumption device.

Beginning in May of 2014, a new entrant entered the ongoing device war. I believe a significant portion of the future of computing resides in the so-called 2 in 1’s. I don’t believe that conventional laptops or tablets running apps will go away, but I believe the 2 in 1’s such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and above will eat into laptop and tablet sales. Apple has yet to enter this 2 in 1 market, despite the recently-announced iPad Pro. The iPad Pro running iOS apps will be a bigger iPad and thus a bigger media consumption device that can’t run genuine productivity software.

I personally see a future for myself with a large screen smartphone, and a 2 in 1 tablet/computer, with some room left over for inexpensive mid-sized tablets that function as media consumption devices and offer mapping and GPS functions. I will allow my conventional desktop and laptop computers, the majority of them now-older out-of-date Macs, die of attrition as they inevitably quit working over time.

2 thoughts on “Device Wars

  1. Calling the Microsoft Surface a “mistake” is an inaccuracy. The Surface 3 is already a multi-billion dollar success for Microsoft, so it’s not a “mistake.” Microsoft has a hit on its hands and it’s making some brand loyalists who have pitted themselves on the other side a bit nervous. With $200 billion dollars in the bank Apple has nothing to worry about from Microsoft.

    Before I am accused of being an Apple hater, I own numerous Apple computers, iPads and iPods. I also own competing products and am only a fan of technology. The technology itself wins me over, or not.

    The history of invention and innovation is replete with ideas that were tried too early and failed, but similar concepts tried later by others are met with success. For example, the Zenith Television Corporation had a subscription TV product idea dating back to as early as 1939 called “Phonevision” that revolved in part around broadcasting first run Hollywood movies over the air to descramblers attached to subscribers’ Zenith TV sets equipped with a special “Phonevision” descrambler input. Though Zenith declared the system a success, most people never heard of it and would likely be surprised by the fact that the concept of a subscription video service was being kicked around as long as 76 years ago. Today subscription video services are a roaring success.

  2. Apple needs to stay out of the 2 in 1 market. its been tried before… some might like it, but its not going to be significant. Microsoft’s desire to make one OS fit both mobile and desktop is a huge mistake that will only satisfy some enterprise and nerd niches. Most others have already voted no – fancy new Apple copy hardware won’t change that.

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