This is probably the best moment (with CeBit and all) to look at the near future and at how our PCs will be like then.
Bigger or smaller?
Although LCDs are becoming larger and larger (LG.Phillips develop 100 inch LCD), portables seem to get more popular, with notebook sales outpassing those of normal desktops.
So what I expect is you’ll have one powerfull home desktop, call it your workstation and one or a few smaller mobile PCs, in the form of notebooks or UMPCs. (Ultra Mobile PCs are smaller portable PCs with tablet abilities, but unlike PDAs, will support normal applications, say your normal e-mail program, browser,…) The workstation will then probably be in the living room, with that nice big screen, containing all your movies, photo’s, TV shows, documents,… This one will most likely also be used for backups, heavy duty calculations like video conversions and such. Then with your smaller PCs, you’ll be able to take with you and move arround the house, outside and on the road. Especially with GPS navigation and children (small or big 😉 ) watching movies in the car.
Connectivity is one of the reasons to buy a UMPC in the first place. Those first models all feature WiFi and Bluetooth. Quite a few people have their own wireless network at home. And with more and more cities in the US being covered by WiFi, I expect Europe to follow too. Intel’s WiMax will help a lot in that department. So you can stay connected everywhere you go.
One word that keeps returning: Flash!
Flash memory seems to be the way to go. We see iPod Nano’s coming with a few gigabyte easily. So what about those 500GB hard disks? Portables will probably come first, since they need the power consumption advantage of flash. As with cars nowadays, we probably see hybrid drives first, followed by solid state disks (full flash hard disks). But they are still waaaaaay too expensive at the moment (do the math, 1GB flash memory costs about â‚¬30
â‚¬50. We want at least a few 100GB, let’s say 500. 500 times 50 equals a nice â‚¬25000 for a hard disk, even at a 10th of that price it’s too expensive!).
Intel, the company who brought us Moore (from Moore’s law that still stands for more than 30 years) is probably right again in contrary to AMD. 64bits has been arround since 2004, but outside of servers, we don’t see much of them. Once our home workstation will take more of a server responsibility (delivering content to the other portable PCs) we’ll need more power and 64 bit processors are able to deliver them, together with multi-core technology.
Also those 64 bit processors will allow us to put more memory in our PCs. And we’re going to need it, since Vista seems to be quite memory hungry. With minimum requirements of 512MB (current budget PCs feature a standard 256MB). Ok they support a nice feature as using your USB sticks as memory banks, but they won’t have the same speed as some nice 4GB internal memory.
I see this within one or three years (2007-2009). Especially since at the end of this year, Vista will be released. So people will buy new all in one PCs and hardware upgrades for it anyway. Not right away, but still, soon after. It’s time for something new. (Windows XP has been arround since October 2001)
Samsung, ASUS and Founder already have the hardware for the UMPCs ready. They will be a bit expensive at first, but in a year I hope the prices will lower quite a bit.
Who are the players?
On the hardware side, there is Intel (using the Celeron M) and Via Technologies supply the processors and the trio Samsung, Asus and Founder (that offer the full product).
On the software side, there is of course Microsoft that has been working on its Origami project which is a UMPC running the current Windows XP Tablet (and later on a Vista version) enhanced with a Touch Pack (A suite of apps to enhance the touch experience so you don’t have to use the stylus.) Although there are rumors of a iPod video player, no word on Apple joining the trendsetting.
I see Google more on the networking side of this future, not really in the hardware itself.
Sony on the other hand, which is into hardware, is awfully quite lately. No real revolutionary things from them, probably waiting for their Playstation 3 to help them a little.
Wait till after Vista comes out! Windows XP tables was never popular and since the UMPCs will probably support Vista immediately, there is no reason to buy them now (unless you have too much money and in that case, contact me so you can wire me some 😀 ). That would make March next year a good moment to start thinking about a new hardware investment. Even if you’re not going to buy a UMPC, but a notebook. The prices should go under 800â‚¬, hopefully as low as 500 â‚¬. The Intel Duo processors are just out, so let those prices drop a little first too.
If you can keep yourself from buying a little longer than that, you’ll propably have even longer battery life (the 2,5 hours they offer now, is just enought to watch a movie and answer your e-mail) and a smaller form factor, when the 2nd generation arrives (with those new hard disks mentioned above).