Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Computing Platform of the Future

What will the computing platform of the future be like? (The consumer-side platform, that is)

It'll be a super-slim, compact and lightweight laptop with some innovative folding smarts that will let people carry it around in their pockets, yet open it up to a regular laptop form factor for ease of use. It will feature several important innovations, some of which are already available, or tending towards a tipping point:

1. Really cheap hardware - $50 for the device that you can pick up at the supermarket and toss into your trolley without a second thought (impulse purchase territory)
2. Absolutely free software either on the device (like OpenOffice) or in the "cloud" (like Gmail)
3. Ubiquitous wireless connectivity (some cities do have 'em)
4. High network bandwidth (Australia is investing in this right now)
5. Breakthrough battery technology that lets you work a regular day without power supply

Needless to say, this device will double as a mobile phone, portable music player, portable video player, SatNav, game console and much else. This "computing platform" will be the enabling innovation that will let many others ride on its back. And it won't be a real innovation so much as a perfect storm of many tipping points being reached at the same time.

The key technology to watch is Android. By standardising and commoditising the core software layer, Android will enable innovation both below it (i.e., hardware) and above it (i.e.,applications) in the stack.


Julien said...

Sounds an awful lot like the OLPC, don't you think? Apart from the battery aspect, but even that will happen sooner or later.

Ganesh Prasad said...


The OLPC set the trend, all right, but I envisage something even more radical emerging in the next few years.

It's the convergence of multiple devices within a flexible form factor with other aspects crossing their respective tipping points.

Hardware trends are promising. With the newer generation CPUs like Atom and the promise of GPGPUs, plus solid state storage, the price should approach mobile phone territory in 2-3 years and continue dropping.

Software availability and cloud capability are already here.

The rest of the trends are also favourable (ubiquitous wireless access, high network bandwidth and battery life).