Regardless of what you want to call it (smartbook, netbook, web book, e-reader) 2010 will be the year that we all realize we need a fourth computer device in our lives, and wonder how we got by so long without it. By the end of 2010 our personal IT infrastructure will fall into four categories:
Design concepts below courtesy of
Desktop computer – The old standby, and still the best tool for most work. Prices are low for powerful, multi-display devices that have high quality speaker systems and can serve as a media hub for the whole office/home.
Notebook computer – The only way to travel with most of your office in a backpack. Large keyboards, decent screens and good battery life make today’s notebooks ready for serious work. Some people are starting to eliminate the desktop computer in favor of using a notebook full-time, but the most powerful are too big and heavy for frequent travel.
Net-smart Book-tablet – This is where the new category fits into the lineup. It’s a device that is smaller and much lighter than a notebook/laptop computer, but bigger than a cell phone with an 8 to 12 inch screen for easy reading. It is primarily designed for consuming media, that is: reading books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs; watching television, movies and YouTube; browsing Web sites for work, school and fun; and listening to music. Skype will allow you to use these wi-fi devices as a phone, but some will no doubt be sold with cell phones built in (the Kindle already includes a cell radio, but only for data). The current crop look mostly like small notebooks, using a clamshell design. But the old notebook form factor isn’t very convenient for reading on the couch, in bed, or in the bathroom, and weight is a big problem. Expect the new 2010 generation to be very light and more tablet-like, or have clever folding or sliding systems so they can be held flat. You’ll take this new device places you would never think to bring your notebook, but not everywhere like your cell phone.
Smart phone – This is the only device that is never out of reach. The newest devices are really small computers that can do almost everything your notebook can handle, and make phone calls. But their big advantage (being very small and light) is also why they won’t replace your three other computers listed above – the phone’s screen is too small for flipping through a newspaper or magazine conveniently and our aging eyes won’t want to read a novel, and the small keyboard means your next business plan won’t be written on the phone.
Apple is already the winner (check their stock price today) in this new category, which is amazing since they don’t even have a device announced yet. But the iPhone/iPod/iTunes/App Store ecosystem is an enormous asset – anything they can plug into this ecosystem will sell like crazy – no competitor even comes close to this power. Think giant iPod Touch and you’ll probably be pretty close to what an Apple Tablet might be like.
Google is also doing its best to create this new category. It makes perfect sense for them. There are no real competitors in this space. Google already offers cloud-based applications (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader, etc) so the new Net-smart Book-tablets don’t need Microsoft Office to be fully functional. While Microsoft’s Windows Mobile has been fading fast all year, Google’s Android is powering the hot new phones. Google’s other operating system, called Chrome OS, will also be available as a possible alternative to Windows on the new devices. A company called enTourage Systems has announced an interesting product based on the Android operating system – they call it the enTourage eDGe™. Expect to see many more things like this over the coming months.
Amazon already has a hit product in the Kindle, but that’s primarily an e-reader with limited capability beyond that. However, it wouldn’t be too difficult for them to add more features to compete effectively in the new category.
If you like technology 2010 is going to be a great year. Have a Safe and Happy New Year celebration.