Saturday, February 25, 2012

Your smart phone may be your new PC

This is not going to be your typical rundown of who has what, or who does this or that better. No, this is something a bit less ... tangible. It is time for some speculation. Specifically, is Android poised to wipe the virtual walls of the internet with iOS?

    On February 21st of this year, I read a very interesting article on the web site The Verge. You see, a company called Canonical had released a new version of its Linux desktop operating system called Ubuntu for Android.

    In a nutshell, Ubuntu for Android is a complete Linux desktop operating system that resides on your smartphone. Since the Android operating system is more or less a linux operating system in its own right, it wasn't hard for Canonical to just add their desktop to the current system kernel. What this means is, when you dock your Android device, you get a mouse, a keyboard, a real computer screen, all of your desktop applications and even your Android application. Basically, you get a fully functioning personal computer without the need to actually own a personal computer. You take everything with you all the time. One device does it all ... sort of.

    Of course, the down side to this is horse power. There is no competition between a "real" PC and a smart phone given the processing power, the graphics, RAM (or anything else really) of each system/device. For hard core gamers, video editing professionals and other "power users," the idea of using your phone as a PC is laughable. For the casual "everyday" users who's needs are more modest, the cost savings could be significant. Imagine never having to purchase another PC again. All you need to do is upgrade your phone from time to time and you're set. Throw in cloud based storage and personal routers that can plug in an external "shared" hard drives for more storage, and the idea of spending another $600 on a new laptop or desktop every eighteen months or so becomes less compelling.

    Personally, I think this is a great idea. The fact is, most people rarely get past Netflix, Facebook, Twitter and email on a daily basis and smart phones and tablets have already strutted their stuff for casual photo touch-ups. My guess is that for somewhere in the area of 60-80% of users, this makes perfect sense.

    So what does this have to do with anything about anything?

    Enter Microsoft Windows 8. According to, Hewlett-Packard is working on an ARM based tablet that will run Windows 8. Microsoft has already stated that they intend to give tablet users the full "Windows Experience" that PC users enjoy. In theory, the tablet version of products such as Microsoft Office would be just as full featured and robust as its desktop counterpart. This would allow for better productivity and a more unified experience when working on a document on a device, then transferring it to a PC. So, could your "Windows Smart Phone" also become your PC in much the same way Ubuntu is trying to do? There is no technical reason to say no.

    Slash Gear reported on the 17th of this month that Apple was working on an ARM based laptop. However, I have another idea of what I think Apple is up to; iOS, the software that powers iPods, iPhones and iPads, is also Linux based, much like Android. Some say its actually FreeBSD, but that is neither here no there. Its a Linux kernel, and for the record, osX also uses a nearly identical kernel to its mobile cousin.

    You see, Macs have never been knows as "power houses" or "gaming" computers. Apple has never put any real emphasis on hardware specs. The focus for Apple, and rightly so in my opinion, has been on the "user experience". While Macs may not be the fastest computer money can buy, they certainly are one of the most stable. I reboot my MacBook Pro only about twice a month. Not because the computer needs it, I just feel the need to do it. Its probably an old habit from my days of owning a Windows PC, but I digress.

    If the new quad core A6 processor Apple is developing is powerful enough, they can do the same thing Ubuntu is doing, and what Microsoft appears to be trying to do. Personally, I think they should. Even if it is not in the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 5s, or whatever it's called, i suspect it's coming. Mac osX on your iPhone and iPad - just dock it and you get all of your desktop apps and functionality.

    With the release of osX Mountain Lion, Apple is already pushing their desktop "user experience" closer to that of the iPad and other mobile devices. By merging the two devices into one (as other OS makers are trying to do - and are doing, and having their legendary designers in control of the user interface for both) Apple is most likely poised to make some very serious leaps ahead of its competition, again.

    This of course is all just speculation, but Apple has a long history of being late to the game then dominating it. Apple didn't make the first mp3 player. They didn't make the first tablet computer. They didn't make the first of a lot of things. What they are good at is analyzing the direction of consumer demand and then rolling in with a vastly superior product that people actually want to use.

Until next time ... 

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