John C. Dvorak, in a typical piece of clickbait for which he is famous, posits that Apple will soon abandon the Mac in favor of iPads and iPhones. His arguments are silly, of course, and are artfully demolished by the Macalope who notes that Dvorak hasn’t been right about Apple since the Eisenhower administration. The Macalope’s takeaway is that Mac fans needn’t start worrying yet.
Still, there will be life after the Mac and, more generally, after the laptop (and Desktop). It’s worth asking what that that life might be like. Mike Elgan notes that today’s smart phones are already as powerful as a typical laptop—or even desktop—and predicts that they will, in fact, replace laptops in short order. He notes that there have already been attempts at this and that while they’ve generally failed, they clearly point the way forward.
This is not a new idea. Back in 2010, Eric Raymond predicted precisely the same thing: your smart phone will be your—main or only—computer and when you’re stationary you will plug in a keyboard and large display giving you essentially the same computing ergonomics that you have now. The difference is that when you leave the house or office you will take your computer with you and use the virtual keyboard and phone display.
The 2012 near-future SF novel A.I. Apocalypse predicts the same thing. In the novel, smart phones have completely replaced today’s conventional computers. At one point in the story, young people, who have never seen a laptop, are surprised at how clunky they are and wonder how people got any work done with them.
There are, of course, details to work out. I’m writing this on my MacBook Pro while sitting on the couch. I do a lot of my work this way and a large screen and keyboard wouldn’t be as convenient. Similarly, some folks take their laptops into meetings and wouldn’t want to try taking notes on their phone. But someone will, I’m sure, come up with an integrated screen and keyboard having approximately the same form factor as my laptop into which I can plug my phone.
This is an attractive future to me because at last I’ll always have my computer and data with me without the need to carry around a laptop in a backpack.