20 Computers You WILL Own in the Next 5 Years
Would you recognize if you were at the beginning of a technological tipping point? Welcome to 2010! The convergence of ubiquitous connectivity and cloud computing has one simple and very exciting output: the explosion of hardware gadgets we will use to access it anywhere and anytime. Don’t believe me? Check out the following trends plus a list of 20 computers I think you (and your customers) will own in the next 5 years.
First, the evidence.
- Exhibit A: The evolution of the cell phone into an all-in-one multimedia, gaming, social media, content and business access device.
- Exhibit B: The Netbook craze over the last 2 years convincing millions of users that an inexpensive secondary or tertiary device is useful given the right environment.
- Exhibit C: The feverish debate over the recent iPad announcement as well as the Smartbook and Hybrid categories that Lenovo introduced at CES in January.
Interestingly, most people focus the debate on how they use technology today. For example, why would I need a 10” slate when I have my iPhone, or why would I want an underpowered Netbook with a small screen when I have my full function Notebook for $100 more?
If you focus on how you will use technology in the future, the debate changes significantly. Most people generally agree that within 5 to 10 years, most things you plug in will have some level of internet connectivity.
The question becomes, “where and how is the best way to access information in the future?” A good example is text messaging while driving. It would be hard to make the case that a smartphone or notebook computer are the optimal form factors in this environment.
The goal here is to simply lay out how we can more naturally use technology in everyday environments – perhaps increasing human interaction, productivity, and for the example above, safety.
The Top 20…
Now for the 20 computing devices you WILL own within 5 years (in no particular order):
1. SmartClock Radio – an ideal form factor when laying in bed is a device that not only wakes you up but puts together a local news, weather, sports and business “5 min package” to start your day. You fully customize the content and it converts to audio. You can also prioritize important email notifications of what happened overnight.
2. SmartGPS – The devices in your car have got much smarter since their first monochrome ancestors. Helping you with traffic and finding gas stations by price are examples of recent innovations. Think of all the localization data that is uploaded into the satellites. Who will be the first to track all vehicle speeds real-time and predict the right route (as opposed to downloading manual data based on cameras)?
Even more interesting for those of you who are environmentally conscious, by tracking vehicle speeds all traffic light patterns will be predictable allowing you to time the drive perfectly into all green lights. By the way, there will be devices for every mode of transportation you have, optimized of course for ease of use, including motorcycles, bicycles, jetski’s, etc.
3. SmartFridge – This concept isn’t new, but with the advent of Windows 7 multi-touch and the rapid decline in panel price points over 2009, why wouldn’t you want a “home base” device on your fridge? The all-in-one desktop form factors are interesting, but most people don’t have the counter space to give up to keyboards and mice. Having a 22” Wide panel in the fridge will act as a viewer of all things important in your life. From social media updates, to weather, stock prices, important emails, to cameras and sensors in the fridge that order new products automatically as they are used.
4. SmartHome Server – These are available today and will act as the bridge between the cloud and your other 19 devices listed here. Whether downloading movies, or housing your eclectic MP3 collection, this server will provide fault tolerance and performance to drive the pervasive world. Within 5 years, the replication and fetching ability will be significantly improved and predicted behavior artificial intelligence will know your YouTube patterns and already have the data cached and ready to go. At $70 per TB and dropping, this will continue to explode.
5. SmartFishFinder – Taking a smartphone on a boat is a recipe for disaster as electronics and water aren’t a great mix. Lugging a Notebook is even a worse idea. The FishFinder is an ideal device for a few reasons. Beyond being waterproof, they already have a 5” or larger high resolution screen, and not to mention the audio capabilities. I am sure most people don’t want work disturbances while fishing, however the ability to Google the fish you just landed along with the entire Wikipedia history could be interesting. Getting realtime Doppler weather and sea conditions could be a lifesaver – literally.
6. SmartCar Radio – Back to the text messaging example. The car radio is already hooked into 4 or more high quality speakers and can bring customized, location aware information directly to you. When a message is received, it will recognize if you are stopped at a red light and project on the windshield in a HUD format or if driving will convert to audio and read to you. With voice recognition, you will read back a response and it will convert it back to the sender without you ever taking your eyes off the road. How about when you hear that favorite song and want it on your MP3 player? Done. For your passengers? They will all have viewing devices, either on the dash or in the back of headrests that hook into the car radio as the central CPU and wireless device.
7. SmartHealth Watch – It may not win on style points at the beginning, but the initial examples of watches that hold cell phone, GPS, heart rate, and other capabilities, will transform how we take care of ourselves. A watch that monitors your every step (literally) and uploads your heartrate information to your private Electronic Medical Record (EMR). An easy interface that records, either by multi-touch, audio or camera, everything you eat as well. Most people find this very intrusive and it will not go mass market until the privacy is guaranteed and perhaps you get a 75% discount from your medical insurance?
8. SmartSlate – This is the current debate I referenced above. Is there room for a “tweener” form factor between smartphone and Netbook that acts as an eReader, portable TV, game, or business multi-touch data entry device? With millions of applications coming that will be developed to take advantage of a 10” always connected device. The move away from the traditional clamshell Notebook form factor for secondary and tertiary devices makes sense.
9. SmartGuitar, SmartKeyboard and SmartDrums – An example of how musical instruments will be able to train a user with lights and audio/video guidance. The ability to be always connected will mean hundreds of thousands of songs ready to play (for a nominal fee I am sure). Being able to join a virtual band with players all over the world is when this concept starts to get really cool.
10. SmartRemote – Using the program guide while watching TV is cumbersome and interrupts others. Having a device that not only downloads show data, it supplements it with real-time user reviews, gossip, and previews. The ability to record and availability across all other 19 devices listed here will make this technology core in our entertainment plans.
11. SmartSurface / SmartPanels / SmartFurniture – Whether in the home, office, or in public places like restaurants and shopping centers, there will be multi-touch panels everywhere that vary in shape and size based on the environment. These devices will provide ubiquitous access to all cloud based data and allow users to quickly pull up their own designed portal. Imagine going to a restaurant that has a surface computer as a table. Conversations in the future will become very multimedia driven.
12. SmartCamera – The integration of cameras into all devices (including most listed here) is inevitable. However, because of the size, weight, form factor, or usage of these devices, the traditional camera, with high quality lenses and purpose specific function, will continue to be an important device. Having pictures transferred directly to the cloud makes sense, as well as the ability to do photo editing and printing directly from the camera will benefit the photographer. The camera will have GPS as well as internet access to the local weather and automatically import optimal photo settings depending on where you are, the weather conditions, and time of day.
13. SmartTV – Represents one of the most inevitable form factors you will own. As signals are now digital, movies and media are downloadable, and entertainment continues the shift to on-demand, the TV will be an important collection and delivery device of content. Having an external set top box and BluRay player will become redundant and access to all of recorded and broadcast history will be available within a quick search. The storage will likely be in the SmartHome Server mentioned elsewhere, and the searching may be in the SmartRemote, but the content will be cached and delivered from the device. The SmartTV will also be extended to other devices, allowing you easily to send a movie up to the bedroom halfway through, or to the SmartPhone if you are going out.
14. Smartphone – This is a device that you likely already own and will continue to. It is a device that gives you pocket access to all data, and while not being the best at data entry or viewing, wins in outright mobility and battery life.
15. SmartNotebook – Another device that you likely own today and will continue to. The ability to create and consume content while being mobile will as important in the future as it is today. Notebooks will continue to evolve and cover a wide range of 8” to 22” form factors customized by the type of user.
16. SmartElderly / SmartKids / SmartPets – The ability to take care of an elderly parent, monitor the security and safety of a child, or simply track where your pet has run off to in the neighborhood will be important as connectivity options reduce in price. Today there are tag based options that are relatively limited in function. Tomorrow, with integration of connectivity and GPS, these devices will be able to proactively notify and alert if certain thresholds are violated. This is the OnStar button on a personal level. Having electronic medical records as well as detailed allergy and other information available in real-time will save lives and protect our loved ones.
17. SmartJacket – Not to be confused with straight-jacket! Clothing will continue to evolve to the point where some interesting technology can be woven in. How about solar receptors sewn right into the fabric that charges devices when placed into the pocket or wirelessly? How about a 6” screen on the cuff that acts as a viewing device when holding a smartphone is clumsy or ineffective? How about a belt or bottom cuff that has the equivalent of a 9 cell battery spread around to disperse weight and give you all day computing on the multitude of mobile devices I have outlined here? This can also be a SmartShoe as a form factor.
18. SmartGlasses – Whether you wear goggles for your occupation, while you’re out skiing, playing a video game, watching a 3D movie, or simply wearing sunglasses outside, this becomes the perfect device to deliver content. Examples exist today with opaque type projection allowing you to look “through” or “at” the screen. Wireless access to either a SmartPhone or any other pervasive device would bring personalized and secure information to the user. Computing ability can also be built right into the frame making this a standalone device for consuming data. This is likely the most natural way a person can consume information.
19. SmartHome – Much has been written about the smart home. With an alarm system, thermostat, and other appliances being internet-aware, the management of the house will become a reality from a remote location. Even if it is turning on lights in the morning, turning down the heat when the house senses no one home (as opposed to being timed), to monitoring electricity usage at every plug and presenting savings opportunities back to the homeowner, the future will be more cost efficient, green, and secure. Your security system will monitor all of these other pervasive devices you own, and be able to alert you if they are stolen and leave the perimeter that you define because of the GPS and communication capabilities. If everything you buy of value is now internet aware and has self reporting capabilities, is this the end of physical crime?
20. SmartGaming – While many (if not all) devices here will support gaming, the true experience needs a dedicated device with the horsepower and graphics capabilities to drive excitement. Future gaming will be holographic, allowing you to roam “inside” the game. Virtual reality will continue to evolve, allowing you and your avatar to travel the world, and experience things like spaceflight first hand. Games will also evolve away from structured levels and local storage and move into a connected world where the game progresses as the participants lead it. Advancing levels of predictive behavior and AI will blur the lines between reality and games.
That’s Only a Sample
I chose only 20 computers you will own to give a sample of where we are heading in the next 5-10 years. The reality is that most of us own more than 20 computers today. If you combed your house and counted all of the silicon and microchips, the number would be much higher. In fact, your car has more than 20 computers today. The reality is that we will own more than a 100 computers.
Another way to look at it is that every device that you plug into the wall or run on battery today has probably a couple of possible improvements if it was internet aware. This could include small appliances that have recipes built in, or a microwave that take a photo of the popcorn barcode, compares to internet and then cooks it for the perfect time based on the product and its own cooking capabilities.
We are only at the beginning of understanding the capabilities of those physical things around us as they get access to all of human knowledge.
This is my argument of why pervasive computing will be a reality. All-in-one type devices that try to do everything, tend to do nothing well. Single devices that are specialized for ease of use, cost, as well as laser focused on the task at hand (cooking popcorn) will win the day. The second argument is that when the next generation of microwave is invented with some major new whiz-bang technology, you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars to replace the all-in-one device, but simply just upgrade one function at a time.
Jay McBain is director of SMB for Lenovo. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of The VAR Guy’s 2010 sponsorship program. Read all of McBain’s guest blog entries here.