We have to face the music now. That doesn’t mean ‘us’ as in the UMPCPortal/Carrypad team, it means us, the ultra mobile PC customers. If you’re looking for solutions then you’re going to have to think differently. You’ll have to consider moving away from heavyweight multi-faceted app suites, multi-user security, built-in VPN and encrypted disk support, full internet experience with plugins and runtime apps, full Bluetooth and USB support, memory and disk upgrade options, multi-boot, disk tools, kernel-level remote desktop and many many more features that we take for granted in desktop operating systems. [I wrote more about this ‘mobile changeover’ theme recently.]
Eventually, all of the above features will be served by third party applications on mobile operating systems and all that will have happened is that the OS will have transitioned but it’s going to take time until they all mature into quality, stable, supported, trusted apps. Of course, you could wait. It’s not impossible that we’ll see a few more UMPCs filter in during 2011. The next 4 months of trade shows will give us a hint as to how that’s going to play out.
Personally I’ll be continuing to use a 5 inch ultra mobile PC clamshell (UMID or Viliv N5) along with an Android smartphone (I’m a Google user) and a lightweight laptop but I’ll be looking towards the day when that 5 inch clamshell can be swapped-out with an always-on device with a mobile operating system. I think it’s going to be an Android device for me although I’m watching MeeGo carefully.
So on to answer the questions at the start of this article…
Are we reaching the end of the line for productive handheld PC’s?
If we define a PC as something using a desktop OS then yes, I think we are close to that day. Cost and complexity, satisfaction, ease of use, application store and other aspects mean it will only happen in very specialist cases now. However, if we define PC as any device that provides the user with the applications and connectivity they require then no. The functionality will still be there but will be performed on different operating systems with different applications and different styles of process.
What OS will fill the gap and provide the apps and full internet experience?
Android 3.0 is sending out good signals. Possible focus on non-smartphone devices with 3.0 means more productivity opportunities. We’ve also got MeeGo which is built with the full internet experience at its core and it can lever a good history of Linux-based apps and developers. WebOS is also one to watch as is iOS which is already proving to be attractive for productivity-focused application developers. Apple may use this to their advantage in new products. Finally, we have to assume that Microsoft is thinking about this and may choose to create a new product sit sit between Windows Phone and Windows 7 (or 8.)
Have we exhausted all design possibilities?
With many designs now locked up in patents, the cost of finding a new, unique, winning solution rises. The Libretto W100 has potential but until we see flexible screens hit the market (probably in about 2 years now) it will take a skilful, daring and financially solid company to get something totally new to the market. The modular PC concept has legs in my opinion but that cuts through some serious pre-existing markets. It’s like asking battery makers to build more efficient batteries. Why would they build something that would negatively affect their profits?
And finally if you need a good mobile productivity solution today, here are our current favorite solutions (with some excellent reader comments) including netbooks, laptops and UMPCs. Of course, smartphones and superphones need to be added to complete a good suite of mobile products too. We’ll talk more about that over at Carrypad.
Are you facing up to a new choice now? How do you see the full internet experience developing on smartphones? Are the applications rich, stable and mature enough for you? Let us know in the comments.
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