With the PC industry in decline, manufacturers are introducing newer (and crazier) form factors with each generation. Hybrids are this year’s Ultrabook, with nearly every manufacturer coming up with a different solution for the touch-type generation. And with so much emphasis on touch-based interaction in Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS, the keyboard and mouse (and trackpad) could soon become obsolete. Will traditional laptops soon become extinct? Here’s our Round Table:
Will laptops succumb to the touch fever?
As far as productivity is concerned, notebooks will continue to be the go-to computing device and this is because the legacy Windows apps are still best used with a keyboard and mouse. And a majority of people still depend on this, be it for work or leisure. Notebooks may evolve into hybrid devices that we have today, but I don’t see a future where tablets will replace notebooks. Many OEMs are adding touch to notebooks purely as a marketing gimmick in an attempt to lure you to use the new Windows 8 UI, but it’s not something that will change lives.
And laptops are just as portable as tablets—just take a look at the MacBook Air or the new crop of Ultrabooks and you’ll know what I mean. Tablets will continue to serve their primary purpose of media consumption while notebooks will be the de-facto device for productivity.
Not anytime soon. And by that I mean, not in the next three years at the minimum.
One of the not-often-mentioned reasons for this is clearly the continuing availability of “installable” pirated productivity and specialist software. It was this “free” availability of software that gave the humble old desktop computer its ramp up, and like it or not, continues to keep the notebook alive and kicking too.
It will only be when the lines of cloud computing, more powerful hardware in tablets and no alternate installable software, all converge and meet, that the traditional notebook will begin to truly have a torrid time in our market. And this, I’m afraid, is some distance away. Having said that, I do know a number of users who have migrated entirely to a tablet, but their need for specialist productivity software was always minimal (writers mostly), so their transition was probably quicker than most.
I don’t think laptops would die completely, since they are now evolving into hybrids with Windows 8. We are already seeing Windows laptops with removable displays and newer devices focusing more on portability. Yes, Android and iOS tablets are out there, and there’s also plenty of choice available when it comes to Android. But the operating system is still not the best from the productivity angle. Apps are still evolving to take tablets to the next level. Since Microsoft is only starting with its touch-oriented vision, it will take a while for hardware manufacturers to get compact, lightweight and inexpensive hardware so that PCs can compete on equal footing with tablets.
Personally, I don’t consider using a laptop simply because of the weight and space it demands in my bag. A tablet is convenient, boots faster than a laptop, starts apps faster and does not have storage issues. On a tablet, basic tasks such as writing documents, emailing and making presentations is easier. Try doing the same with a 2 kg notebook on your lap when you are travelling and you will feel more discomfort than using a tablet. However, the onscreen keyboard on a tablet is still nowhere as good as a physical one on a laptop. To round up the whole talk, I would state that a tablet is best for displaying your presentations while a laptop is the most convenient when creating them.
Laptops are the closest and most affordable replacements for desktop PCs, and they are here to stay. Smartphones and tablets have come a long way in a very short time and they are becoming incrementally powerful and versatile. It goes without saying that they are most convenient when you want to stay connected while you’re on the move, but they lack certain features that make laptop a better choice. You don’t get the luxury of a physical keyboard, large screen, touchpad, a terabyte of storage and a bunch of USB ports that come handy when you wish to use external storage devices and peripherals. Then, you also have immensely powerful laptops with discrete graphics processors for gaming and demanding applications like 3D modelling, CAD, imaging and video editing. Laptops won’t be replaced very soon, but they will gradually evolve into hybrid devices. These are expensive at the moment, but a massive price drop over a period of time will make them more practical than laptops.
Have your say below.