Where the Worlds Collide: Smartphones turn into Desktops (or SmartTops*)

The past decade has seen more technological innovation than the past century – at least in the world of mobile computing. Netbooks, Smartphones, Tablets, and finally Phablets have revolutionized the world.

A new phenomenon is emerging – where Smartphones are turning into desktops. Sounds funny, doesn’t it?

Consider this: What’s the configuration of your smartphone? Most likely, it’s a dual-core processor with at least 2 GB RAM, and a 32 GB of disk space. Good examples are an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S3. What’s the configuration of your home computer? Most probably, the processor is lesser than a dual-core, with 2 GB RAM, and a large hard disk. Putting all of these together, your smartphone today may as well have more processing power and memory than your basic home computer.

Yet, we have a home computer, for general Internet surfing, printing, or for things that you can’t yet do with your smartphone. And yet, most of us carry a smartphone.

Here’s a revolutionary idea: What if your smartphone could also be your home computer?

And this revolutionary idea comes to you not from Apple or Google, but from Canonical, the guys that brought you Ubuntu. Canonical has released a developer version of Ubuntu for Mobile. You can load this operating system on your smartphone. You can connect your smartphone to a dock to switch to Desktop Mode. You can then use your smartphone as a desktop computer simply by connecting a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to the dock. After using your Smartphone as a Desktop, just unplug it and put it in your pocket!

Here is a conceptual representation of the setup:

Ubuntu_Mobile

Intriguing? I think so. Here’s where you can read more about Ubuntu for Mobile: http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/phone

In my opinion, here are some advantages of using a single device (for a home user):

  • Programs: Install all software programs on only one device..
  • Data: Store your data on only one device (may also be synced to a cloud).
  • Mobility: Carry the device around.
  • Security: Manage security for only one device (anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, theft protection etc.)
  • Cost: Cheaper, since there is only one device to buy.
  • Software Updates: Update software on only one device.
  • Space: Saves space in your home.
  • Environment friendly: Save power and creates less electronic recycling.

Here are some advantages of using a single device (for a business):

  • Mobility: Welcome to the mobile enterprise – all employees are mobile.
  • Mobile Device Management: IT administrators can now use Mobile Device Management instead of Desktop Management solutions (the desktop market is shrinking anyways).
  • Licensing: Save on licensing costs for expensive programs.
  • Unified Threat Management: Unified Threat Management on only one device – a boon for IT administrators.

I would love to have an Ubuntu Smartphone that is also my home computer.

In all fairness and much as I love the concept, there are some serious disadvantages to using an Ubuntu phone as a computer:

  • Processor Speed: Can we have a processor that is as fast as Core i7 on a Smartphone? Not yet.
  • Memory (RAM): Smartphones are yet to reach the 8 or 16 GB category.
  • Network Speed: Smartphones do not have Gigabit Ethernet. Ethernet ports are still very useful when it comes to communicating over high-speed networks.
  • Battery Technology: How reliable are smartphone batteries? Obviously not as reliable as a desktop computer that is plugged into a power line. (You might want to read more about my idea on battery technology in my earlier post Is the Smartphone Industry Curious about Curiosity?.)
  • Applications/Programs: Finally, the obvious – Ubuntu for Mobile may not have as many programs as Windows. Windows still rules the market with millions of programs, drivers, and tools for business.

I guess technology has reached a full circle from Desktops > Laptops > Netbooks > Smartphones > Tablets > Phablets > finally to SmartTops*!

Let’s wait and watch to see if SmartTops* rule the market like Smartphones or Tablets.

*SmartTop is not an industry terminology. I came up with this term for this blog post. Remember, you heard this word here first. Ubuntu for smartphones may get in touch with my $$ anytime soon 🙂

 

Laptop, Netbook, Tablet or Smartphone?

The problem: I already have a desktop at home as my primary computer. I am trying to choose my secondary device to carry around with me. I am looking for something that I can travel with and also take with me to the local coffee shop. I am interested in social networking, writing blogs, Google Maps, and e-mails, but nothing much else.

Following are the options:

Laptop: Carrying a laptop has its own advantages and disadvantages. A laptop is a complete system with a lot of processing power. A good laptop has enough battery to last you a long time. With a large screen, and multiple programs installed, a laptop is a good workhorse to carry around on a day to day basis. On the downside, it is heavy, bulky, and comes with a lot of accessories that need to be carried around. The power cord, the laptop case, and the mouse (an optical mouse or a magic mouse for a Mac).

Netbook (Ultrabook): The best part of the netbook is its battery power. Most netbooks have a battery life of around 8 to 10 hours (the ASUS Eee PC 1000 HE). However, it has a small screen without a CD/DVD drive. A netbook is slower and mostly used for travel. A netbook is very compact, but can be used only for email or basic surfing. Once you start doing some advanced word processing or graphics, and the netbook starts stalling.

Tablet: A Tablet is a very good option IF you don’t need to type a lot. Most tablets are very good for multimedia, movies, and social networking. If you need to type a lot, you need to have an external keyboard. A tablet does not have tactile feedback and you don’t feel it when you have pressed a key. Some tablets can play a sounds when a key is pressed. Also, in some tablets, the key is highlighted when you press it. Other than that, there is no tactile feedback. A good bluetooth keyboard is very important for a tablet in case you need to do a lot of typing.

Smartphone: A Smartphone is a very good option if you want to make and receive calls (and stay connected to the Internet). You can use a smartphone for emails, social networking, and apps. The smartphone is always connected to the Internet. The best part of a smartphone is it does not need to be booted up like a netbook or a laptop. Since smartphones are basically phones, they are always ON. Using a bluetooth keyboard, you could always type a lot of long emails or blog posts. The screen is small, but with a slightly larger font, it would be readable from a distance, say top of a table.

Assuming you don’t want to invest in a laptop or a netbook and you want something as your ‘secondary’ device, a tablet or a smartphone can serve as a very good option.

How do you choose your secondary device? Here’s how you can decide. Which of the following features do you want to use the most?

  • Internet
  • Social Media
  • Games
  • News
  • Email
  • Blog
  • Camera
  • Movies

Once you zero down on what you want to do, we could probably choose the best device. Tablets are really cool since they can do all of the above (with an external keyboard of course!).

Let us assume you just want to type long emails or blog. And you also like to interact with people using Facebook. If you don’t want to watch movies or do anything advanced on your device, maybe a smartphone with a keyboard would be a good idea.

If you would just like to use the device for blog posts or long emails, it might be ok to have a small screen. You could just get a bluetooth keyboard and type away!

This is what your setup (smartphone with a bluetooth keyboard) would look like:

20120311-175532.jpg

However, if you want to do something rich in multimedia, watch movies or just edit photos, you might want to go for a tablet.

Comparing a large and small screen might seem funny, since this is what the comparison would look like:

20120311-175613.jpg

But you can’t really carry around your iMac, can you?

Another good device (which the ad classifies as both a tablet and a smartphone) is the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Samsung Galaxy Note is slightly bigger than smartphones but definitely smaller than a tablet.

Once devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note enter the market, the decision just gets more difficult. In a world where you need to decide between netbooks, laptops, tablets, and smartphones what would you call the Samung Galaxy Note?

The decision just became harder.