Device overload: Can the smartphone, tablet, PC relay last?

Device overload: Can the smartphone, tablet, PC relay last?

Summary: The question today about computing devices is the same as it was yesterday: Will we ever get convergence that doesn't suck?


Everyone and their mother tells you the PC is dead. BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins will tell you the tablet is dead. No one is telling you the smartphone is dead, but perhaps ever-growing screen sizes indicate it may be.

The question today about computing devices is the same as it was yesterday: Will we ever get convergence?

I don't know about you, but carrying a tablet, PC and smartphone doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Yet, I'm stuck and often tote a bit of everything around. I write too much to ditch the PC. The smartphone is a go-to device yet needs a larger screen. Tablets rotate in my life and sort of get a foothold, but not really.

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Does Heins have a point about tablets? Perhaps. The post-PC era cheerleaders may have a point and at the very least scared a big investment firm from trying to buy Dell. The bigger question is whether we're all just a bit tapped out on computing devices. PC sales are falling. Tablet sales are rising. Netbook sales have collapsed. Smartphone sales growth will peter out once feature phones die.

A prediction: Tablets, PCs and smartphones will rotate taking share from each other over time. The end state is we'll have three types of devices before shedding one or two. Convergence will have to happen because wallets just won't be big enough to support everything. Toss in Google Glass and the computing device roster snaps.

Some would argue that convergence is already happening. Just look at the tablet/PC hybrids, supporters say. The problem so far is that these converged devices generally stink.



The conversation about whether you really need a tablet if you have a larger sized smartphone popped up on the Enterprise Irregular mailing list. The consensus: There was no consensus.

  • For some, the smartphone was starting to put the tablet on ice. There was some confusion over the roles for tablets and smartphones. Everyone agreed laptops were for work and content creation.
  • Others wanted a converged tablet/laptop. There's a market for those converged devices should a vendor get on right.
  • Tablets could merely become dumb terminals in various application.
  • A few argued we'll always have multiple devices. Get over it.
  • There's also a theory that Google Glass will replace the smartphone.
  • Another idea was that the smartphone is toast. After all, does anyone really use their smartphone for voice anymore?

What's next? I need to collapse a few of these categories. Anyone have any bright, reliable ideas?

Topics: Bring Your Own Device, Hardware, Smartphones, Software, Tablets, PCs

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  • If...

    my 11" Windows 8 tablet could also accept and make phone calls, like my smartphone, I'd dump my smartphone, as I'd just need to carry around one device. At work I have a desktop dock for it, so that I can connect it to a 24" monitor and work "normally" on it. On the move, I use it mainly as a tablet, with the convinience of having a full desktop, if I need it.

    With a bluetooth headset, it would make a decent smartphone replacement.

    I certainly find that, with my smartphone, I hardly use it. If I get an email, I'll read the first couple of lines and if it doesn't need an immediate reply, I'll ignore the rest, until I can read it on a "proper" screen.

    The same goes for Twitter and web sites, I'll use them in an "emergency" on my smartphone, when I don't have a better solution to hand, but if it can wait, I'll wait until I get back to my desk and can surf and type in comfort.

    The tablet mode of the ATIV means that I am actually surfing more away from my desk now, but a majority is still done in "desktop" mode.

    I tried a couple of Android tablets and the iPad, but I never "got it", it wasn't until I got to play with a Windows 8 tablet that the whole concept of a tablet clicked.

    I think, in the future, we will move away from having devices of different sizes with discrete displayes; I believe we will move towards a "black box", that doesn't have its own screen, but will "pair" with a display in a similar way to Bluetooth today.

    With the device on a belt clip or in a pocket, it would communicate with a watch, or "pocket" screen (4" - 5") or a tablet screen or a full desktop, or for that matter a "wall" display for collaborative work. Even a car mode, connected to the car's display - with limited functionality, like SatNav and hands-free calling, when the vehicle is in motion.

    Then, you can chose which screen makes most sense for the task at hand or where you are going. If you are going to be walking about town, a watch or "pocket" display makes the most sense. If you are going from meeting to meeting, then a tablet display will make sense, if you are working from your desk, you can do so in comfort.

    The mixture of Metro and desktop on Windows 8 tablets makes the most sense so far, of all the devices I've used. The Atom based ATIV covers my average work day, only when I am processing images do I need something with a little more grunt, but for "office" work it is just about fast enough. If the next generation Atom really brings double the performance (and access to more memory), then the next generation tablets should fulfill most people's daily needs.

    The question then is, can Apple integrate iOS and OS X enough to go for a single device, the same for Android / Linux and can Microsoft clean up the rough edges in Windows 8?

    Windows 8 shows how a future could revolve around one device, capable of all roles, but it needs to evolve more, before it can do so seemlessly.
    • Just get a skype number

      your still on the hook for a cell data plan though.
      • For private...

        that is the option I have taken. For business, my company has given me a mobile phone with a "company" number - all mobile phones have a number in the same range... I can reroute the inbound calls, but outbound would get my Skypeout number, not my company number...
    • Bluetooth headset & 8" tablet

      I share your feeling about using a bluetooth along with a tablet. Most folks seem to text on those absurdly tiny on screen keyboards more than talk on their smartphones, as well as using them for internet related stuff. The tiny screen is IMHO useless!! I have no desire to go blind from trying to look at a tiny screen. A bluetooth headset with an 8" tablet/smartphone/gps/camera makes sense to me. The headset for ordinary voice calls, the tablet makes a wonderful video skyping tool, provides a reasonable environment for texting and browsing, could replace your GPS, and makes a wonderful screen for composing photos if you have a decent camera. It could also link via WIFI to a very tiny high quality hand held camera that was nothing more than a quality lens and sensor..... and some electronics. It's big enough that with a reasonable keyboard, it could be a productivity tool as well.
    • well said

      I have ativ 500 with LTE and GPS and I completely agree with you on this comment (Skype integration is still not very smooth, like iphone, on windows 8 thus waiting for it to get right)...

      I do have iphone 5 and had it replaced 2 times already, awesome customer service (bought $99 assurance for 2 years)...

      And to meet apple standard I bought it from Microsoft store and also bought $99 assurance as well...

      For me now every new device has to have LTE (at&t data share plan) and MS surface sucks here
      • Keep LTE with the Casebook
    • Size, task , usability. Require 3 different devices.

      I don't want to carry my tablet, and/or pc everywhere I go. I also don't want to tabl into a giant taco (N-Gauge). I like my smart phone portable, and functional. I don't want to do a lot of work on it though. The tablet is the in between, for when I want to sit and relax away from the computer, but still have access to books/movies/music/internet. The PC is as it always has been for real work. Just because they invented Coffee table they didn't stop making desks. Each device servers it's own purpose by design and people understand this subconsciously. Why the tech world wants to argue is silly. I do not have a Bicycle/car/truck mix vehicle. Why because each serves a purpose on it's own. I wouldn't even want a mix of Bicycle/car/truck, just like a wouldn't want a smart phone/tablet/pc.
      • Spot on

        Been trying different configs, setups, etc... to see what works best and I have fallen into the same arena.
        Smartphone for on the go quick visual and communication (sync'd with my tablet)
        Tablet for travel, general entertainment, and meetings
        Hi-End desktop for power work

        Multiple devices. Sorry, but the one size fits all went out with the reversable pants and jacket.
        • I've been using the Lenovo Helix

          And I think I might be down to 2 devices now. Just my smartphone and the Helix. The Helix is really very cool. Its the first hybrid that actually works well, and for a 1st generation device, is very well built. I imagine that gen 2 with Haswell will be even better, but I have absolutely no complaints about this device. Great battery life, high performance, retina-like screen, precision stylus, excellent keyboard and track pad with support for gestures, up to 256 GB SSD, 8GB of Ram, Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, 10+ hours of battery life. Front and rear facing cameras, can undock and be used as a tablet....I can't say enough good about this device. Perhaps the only complaint might be is a bit pricey, but when you consider I'm shedding 2 devices and replacing it with just this one, its well worth it.
        • Maybe not. Check out the Casebook

      • A cheap dumb phone is good enough

        I have three devices, one for real work, a laptop which I've had for a while, the other an iPad for entertainment and a dumb $20 TracFone for making phone calls. Most of my phone needs are still met by a good old-fashioned landline phone with voicemail. Most of the time I only take my phone with me, unless I have some work to do, in which case I take the laptop. Unless someone is constantly on the go, traveling to strange places and has the need to document their whereabouts on Facebook, I see no need to have a fancy phone. The iPad does have a $15 a month service from AT&T, but that gets seldom used for the meager 200 MB a month of data service, because Wi-Fi connections are available in many places and of course at home. I have used the iPad with its 3G service to access Google maps when I went to a town I did not know my way around in. I grew up in a time when there was a pay phone on every corner and teenagers were not walking around as if they had a crink in the neck.
        • Seconded!

          I have a Nokia "feature phone". Seriously buggy, but I only use it for phone calls and texts. Yes, it can get my work email, but I almost never use it for that. Its great advantage is that I can tuck it into a trouser pocket, which I wouldn't be able to do with any usable smartphone. Not and expect to be able to walk, anyway.
      • OK, but what about this?

        Check out the Casebook here:
  • Just like TV

    It's much like the evolution of television. Back in 1980, over 90 million viewers watched Dallas to see who shot J.R.
    Today, most network television shows struggle to get over 10 million viewers. Cable shows like The Walking Dead regularly beat network programming. We now have streaming-only television shows by Netflix and Amazon.

    There probably isn't going to be a dominant computing platform anymore. People will mix and match whatever devices suit their lifestyle. It's all good - especially for the consumer.
    • Android Linux has now 52% market share

      Q1 2013:

      smartphone: 216 million, 152 million Android-devices, 8 million WP
      tablets: 49.2 million, 27.8 million Android-devices, 2 million Windows
      pc: 75 million, 45 million pre-installed with Windows
      total ~ 340 million new mobiles/non-mobiles

      Android: 180 million
      Windows(with pre-installed license): 55 million

      Android: ~53%
      Windows: ~16% (~22% if rest of non-Macs are installed with pirate Windows/older Windows license)

      Now you browse Net Application/StatCounter and enjoy the world of yesterday. But reality is little bit different.
      • Here's a way for all of them to benefit from convergence

        It's called the Casetop. Check it out here:
  • A couple possible outcomes

    I think we will see multiple devices remain, including a wearable. What will change is that most of the form factors we now consider computers should be considered peripherals. I.E. the tablet, PC, wearable, or smartphone will all be form factors accessing the same core system.

    The question that I see is will this really be in the cloud as many predict, or will this be some sort of block that is portable and we carry around? Both have desirable features and both have significant problems.
    • Check out the Casetop
  • Fold

    Think about a 'foldable' device. It is the size of a smartphone, just a keyboard and small visor(maybe just voice controlled). When opened it shows touchscreen, much like a tablet.
    It would converge two of those, but I guess the bezel and glass joint is something that still needs to be solved technology - wise.
  • Divestiture is even better

    We have allowed device and carrier marketing to schnoker us into believe we must be connected at all times on the fastest possible network so that we can keep current on everything. Truth is they just want our money and don't really care about us. And we fall for it.

    I have a computer at my work desk. I have own a laptop, which stays home unless I really need a mobile computer. I own a simple flip phone. My work makes me carry a Crackberry to get work emails and calls, and that's all I use it for. I'm looking forward to retirement so I only have to carry my simple flip phone. Anyone that is expecting me to be connected will have to wait.

    The ones I most resent are the ones wandering malls, offices and the streets with a bluetooth headset in their ear. They seem to think it makes them look "with it", but it really just makes them look silly. They need to unplug and smell the roses for a change.