What's next for the laptop?

What's next for the laptop?

Summary: The last few years we've seen great advancements in the laptop, from powerful components to small, practical form factors. The laptop has come so far it makes you wonder what the next big thing might be.

TOPICS: Laptops, Mobility

Wireless all the way

Wireless connectivity is now a reality, from web connections to peripherals like the mouse. The mobile laptop is a form that shouldn't be tethered to anything in its purest form.

Imagine coming back to the office, pulling the laptop out of the bag and when its set down on the desk amazing things happen. The laptop begins charging the battery wireless, the external monitor on the desk fires up and connects to the computer. The mouse setting on the desk fires up for use with the laptop, as does the full keyboard.

Dell Latitude Z
Dell Latitude Z -- Image credit: Dell

This is not farfetched, we've seen attempts at this in the past. Wireless USB was demonstrated several years ago to handle wireless peripherals as we've described, but it never went anywhere. Dell produced the Latitude Z that worked with a wireless dock for connecting wirelessly to an external monitor. The Latitude Z also had wireless charging. Unfortunately it was ahead of its time and never went anywhere.

Maybe the hardware can now handle all of this wireless connectivity. Having the scenario described above become a reality would be a big step forward for the laptop, especially in the workplace.

What do you think?

These are just a few technologies that stoke the imagination. What do you think we might see in laptops in the near future? What would you like to see? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Topics: Laptops, Mobility

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  • Multiple screened laptop?

    Kinda kludgy, no?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • rollout screen

      A rollout screen would not be limited by the size of the box. You could then have a large display, even multiple displays. OLEDs were suppose to provide this capability. As a developer I use dual screens all the time.
      • NanoTechnology

        I had the pipe dream idea of a somewhat liquid screen that you just kept in a pen-sized vial and poured it out on a table. Using nanotechnology, the screen would simply coalesce into a very thin TFT....THEN, when you're done, all the pieces are returned to the container. Good idea, right?! I know.
    • That depends on the implimentation

      And yes, most current ideas for laptops with multiple screens feel like they can't possibly not be awkward as hell. But the point is that having multiple screens on the go would be an incredibly useful capability so it's obvious that engineers will keep looking for ways to make it less awkward, and hopefully succeed eventually.
      Possibly a wifi laptop and tablet setup so that the tablet can with one button push pair with the laptop to act as a second monitor and secondary control interface. Or if some sort of wireless hdmi comes to market, find ways to exploit it to make using available extra monitors (Or tv's) absolutely painless.
      Hmm, and I'd definitely like to see laptops start using gesture recognition, I know I saw a proof of concept for a system that broadcast inaudable sound from a laptop's speakers and then determined hand movement via the microphone and that seems like it's to potential to do impressive things.
  • Get rid of 16:9 screens

    There is an easy way to get back to usable laptops. Get back to 4:3 screens... Vertical space is more usable for me than horizontal.
    • Smaller keyboards.

      Unfortunately, that's the reason why we can't go back to 4:3.

      A 15-incher in that format would be needlessly large and hard to move around.

      The 11-inch range would die completely due to the lack of keyboard space.

      Only the 13-inch notebooks would survive.
      • 4:3 screens

        Agree on 4:3 screens - 16:9 OK for playing - need vertical space for work - don't see the problem with 15" 4:3 screens - my T60 fits nicely in my briefcase
    • 16:9 allows two programs side by side

      In my work (academia) I use two programs side by side all the time, whether it be reading a pdf and taking notes in Word, watching a movie on one side, going side by side word or spreadsheet files for copying back and forth, etc. That's really only possible with a 17" 16:9.

      Additionally, the 17" 16:9 allows for a full keyboard with numpad, which I use all the time. It is a desktop replacement.

      Obviously a 4:3 with the same screen and keyboard width would be too bulky.
    • 4:3 fan myself

    • Yes 4:3 or at least 16:10

      Yes, for practical work, one needs the vertical distance. 16:9 is for watching videos, not serious business work. Been saying this for years. Willing to settle for 16:10, but even that is disappearing.

      Got a Dell mobile precision for serious work, 16:10 at first, then they went to 16:9--never understood why, so many complained, but Dell does not listen.

      I still keep, but rarely use, my 15 inch laptops with 4:3 screen at 1,600 x 1,200 UXGA. The new ones cut vertical down so much.
      • Why the modern 16:9 monitos rather than the outmoded 4:3?

        Well, of course it's the manufacturers wanting to make life better for us because we NEED to buy laptops and desktops with big monitors to watch MOVIES! That's THE ENTIRE EXPLANATION! They're doing it for US!

        Or maybe there are some economic factors. They sell the monitors by diagonal size so you'd think a 15" monitor was a 15" monitor. Remembering a long time back to my trig, I did a little calculating.

        A 15" monitor in the 4:3 format is 12" wide by 9" tall. That's 108 square inches of monitor screen. A 15" monitor in the 16:9 format is 13.07" wide by 7.35" tall. That's 96.1 square inches of monitor screen. That's essentially 12 square inches of monitor saved, which is 1/9=11.1% of the area of the 4:3 monitor. Let's see: if you have 50 square feet of monitor screen, you can get 66.7 monitors of the 4:3 format or 74.7 monitors of the 16:9 format. Is it possible the change in format was the result of the manufacturers' wanting to sell less monitor for the same (or more?) money? Why did the first monitors in the 16:9 format COST MORE than the old dull boring obsolete 4:3 monitors?

        I have a pair of 4:3 monitors on my desk, knowing that when they die, I probably won't be able to replace them.
  • More cpu power

    Having multiple screens open is just as great as having multiple books open. Switching between screens all the time is like having only one book open at a time and having to switch between books. Too old a reference? Imagine four tablets on your desk but only being able to see one of them at a time.

    I like tablets but want them to be faster! My PC, yes tower, is far faster than my laptop which is faster than my tablet which is faster than my droid.

    Google Chrome runs on all four. Speed follows size. Smaller is slower.

    What do I want for Christmas? Wireless electricity so I do not have to recharge. :)
  • Two words

    Battery life.

    12 hours is enough to get one through an entire day, leaving overnight for charging. It's also enough for a weekend of intermittent use. Beyond 12 hours, I'm not sure that the cost/weight/benefit ratio works. The problem is that most of the new thinner laptops have built-in batteries, so you are stuck with whatever fits inside the case.
    • 12 hours?

      Slacker! You know what we called the 12th hour of work when I was a young lad? Lunch time. That's what we called it. We clocked out. Took our 15 minute lunch, and then clocked in for the next 12 hours of work. And we were thankful for that work!
      • And we walked

        ten miles to work and back, uphill both ways, in the snow!

        Seriously, I remember those "death marches" caused by management cluelessness about the need to PLAN projects realistically, and false "economy" which was paid for many times over in bad results. The proverb went like this: the first 90 percent of the job takes 90 percent of the time (and budget); the last 10 percent takes the OTHER 90 percent.
      • Jolt Cola and Pizza

        We didn't get the fifteen minute break. Food was sent into our cage -- er office.
    • Can wait for this to get smaller/lighter (no pun intended)


      Cool new tech IMO to possibly solve that battery life problem.
  • Laptop

    Is battery powered portability, first and foremost, which makes it attractive to the market, not display size? Are most people using it while sitting down and focusing on the current sized screen? Isn't using it as a desktop what most do?
  • Simple solution for multiple monitors

    I used to always have a desktop computer and had multiple monitors and loved it.

    But as I seek to become energy efficient, I've been searching alternatives for desktops as they consume 250, 500, 750 watts depending on the system. Most laptops are in the 80-150 watt range. And since I don't do much gaming, I don't need the latest and greatest (and power hungry video card).

    I also had a bunch of old 4:3 flat panels that were phased out when I went to wide screens....

    So when I started adding laptops, I now use them mainly as desktops - wireless keyboards and mice and I have taken the 4:3 monitors and added them as a second screen where I need height more than I do width on screens. As I am now using Windows 8 (and loving it), I have modern laptops with their 15 inch screens and then a secondary monitor for secondary actions. The cost of this upgrade is nothing since the laptops I buy still have vga connections for the older monitors. Eventually I'll upgrade those older flat panel secondary screens with wider format bigger screens with HDMI.

    Once you have multiple screens, you won't go back! No longer do I have to toggle between windows when referring to a document while working on another - I can have them side by side - and on the secondary screen I can have my email program open along with my time keeping (for clients) software while reserving my primary screen to the activity I am performing.

    I am no "greenie" - I am frugal. Finding a use for those older 4:3 flat panel monitors that still work makes economic sense; of course if you don't have any of them, add your favorite flat panel as a secondary monitor - and if you use windows 8, you can add a touch screen as a second monitor even if your laptop didn't come with one! So now I have cut my electric bill and gained more functionality - and even adding a second monitor doesn't use more energy than firing up a desktop with two monitors!
    • I went back

      I had dual monitors for about five years and I always found them to be more cumbersome than helpful. I eventually unhooked one of them so I just had one big widescreen monitor and I've found that to be a much nicer working environment for me. I'm a mobile software developer.