What if we got rid of our iMacs and MacBooks as we know them? Imagine a future in which your primary computing device is an iPad. For advanced tasks, when you are connected via your home WiFi, you could tap an app on your iPad and simply swipe and move it off the screen onto your Thunderbolt display. Like magic, the app is seamlessly transferred to your external display.
This is not some strange dystopian future, in fact this is probably something that will be possible sooner than you think. Though we may be a ways off from ditching traditional computing devices, desktops and laptops in their current form factors, why shouldn’t this be the way most of us get things done? For now, most serious word processing still requires a physical keyboard, but for most tasks you could work directly on your iPad. I know there are writers out there that say they can’t write more than a few hundred words on a virtual keyboard without getting exhausted. Everyones experience is different, and in my case I can write a fair bit on a virtual keyboard — albeit not without reaching my own limits.
I love my MacBook Pro and it’s my primary computer. I don’t really travel often, so if I do I leave it at home. I’m quite satisfied with banging out a thousand words on one of my mobile devices. I own both iPhone and Android phones, and I can do it on both. My gaming needs are already satiated by my console or the occasional game on my iPhone or Android device. 10 years ago, I use to build high-end desktop PCs specifically for the task of gaming, however dealing with that is far more hassle than it’s worth now. Console and mobile gaming for me just seems to work, what with not having to deal with updating hardware on a 12 month cycle just to keep up.
All but a very small niche still enjoy, and rather prefer, dedicated desktop computers for really intensive tasks. The vast majority of people can, and more than likely will, gravitate towards replacing their desktop computers with just tablet devices, iPad or otherwise. So where does that leave geeks like us, the power user who demands way more out of our hardware? Well, if we examine just how powerful tablet devices like the iPad are, we can see just how efficient it is at most tasks. The iPad ships with far slower CPUs and much less memory that any desktop or even laptop computer available today, yet due to its more modern architecture, it feels more fluid than working on a traditional computing device.
While the hardware in the iPad is certainly fantastic, the real disruptor is its operating system. These new computing devices have new interaction conventions, require new operating systems, ones not encumbered or tied to any of their desktop siblings. With this is mind, we start to see why we can do quite a lot on these new devices, with far less power than is required on our current iMacs and MacBooks.
At some point down the road, the power users, tinkerers et al, will just come to use these devices because they just work. Worrying about bus speeds, cache sizes and spindle speeds will be so early 2000s.