The futile one device dream

Summary:The dream of having a single mobile device that can meet all computing needs is shared by many. Sadly, it's a pipe dream not likely to be reality any time soon.

Many head out for the work day with a bag or brief case laden with a laptop and a smartphone. Perhaps there's a tablet in the bag in addition to the notebook. Whatever is in there, the thought of having just one device in the bag that can do everything is compelling for lots of mobile workers.

One device

I'm as bad as any in this regard, I've spent over a decade trying to find that one amazing device that can do everything I need. I don't care if that happens to be a super laptop, tablet, or some new type of device.

Legos could be the inspiration for a 'one size fits most' mobile device. 

The Windows hybrids that are popping up all over the place are the first serious attempt at achieving the one device nirvana. With a tablet that separates from the laptop dock, hybrids can fulfill a lot of the duties relegated to tablets while also stepping in for notebook duty when appropriate.

As compelling as hybrids are to many, they still fall short of that imaginary single device that does everything many users need without compromise. A lot of that has to do with the size that most people need in a laptop-type device. Big screen means better functionality in a notebook, but that's the polar opposite of what many need in a tablet.

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The tech space has a lemming mentality, and that's why the tablet/laptop dock hybrid is the talk of the town. OEMs have improved the design and process to make them, so that's what everyone is doing. Unfortunately, having lots of hybrids doesn't make them serve as single devices better. There's just more choice for buyers which while good, doesn't hit the button for those still waiting for a single device to rule them all.

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(Image: Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com)

It's not clear what form such a device should have to satisfy many users needs. The thought of a core processor that pops into different shells, laptop and tablet shells comes to mind, is nothing new. This method has been possible for years but has never taken off.

It's not really a single device for one thing, as it requires one or more hardware shells, and that means carrying more gear in the bag. Or worse, deciding each morning what the tasks of the day will be and thus which shell to carry.

That's the position single device dreamers are in today, carry the tablet or the laptop? Throw them both in the bag or flip a coin to choose just one. That runs the risk of having the wrong one for the situation or need that crops up. That's the very scenario those wanting a single device to serve all needs want to never run into again.

Perhaps this desire to not carry so much in the bag is behind the interest in wearables? Accessories that work with devices already with you that take up some of the load. Of course, those are extra devices to charge and bring each day, even though they are worn on the body.

I'm able to get away with carrying a single device most days, but my work is not like that of most folks. I can carry a tablet in a keyboard case, a laptop, or a Windows hybrid and do my work well with any of them. That's not common, though.

Since we're dreaming about a single device, how about a Lego type of gadget? Not those little Legos, rather different components you pop together in a form that appeals to the individual and lets them do what they need at the time. Assemble the components a certain way and you have a laptop. Peel off some bricks and you've got a big tablet. Lose more bricks and you have a small tablet when mobility is the call of the day. Not only does this sound useful but also fun.

Or perhaps an origami style of gadget would work, and not the failed Microsoft version of old. Unfold different parts of the gadget to do what's needed at the time.

So what form could such a single device take and meet all your daily needs? What attributes are most important to you for one gadget to meet all your needs? Share that in the comments and let's get our creative juices flowing. The OEMs aren't able to figure this out so let's do it for them.

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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