by Charlotte Miller on March 2nd, 2012
There have been two interesting announcements at MWC this week for those of us who are interested in the convergence of mobile devices with the more fixed world of the PC. The first of those is the consumer preview of Windows 8, the new operating system from the boys at Redmond which is designed to work not only on desktops and laptops but also on smartphone and tablets. The second is Canonical’s demo of Ubuntu for Android which will allow people to use their Android phone as a fully-fledged computer simply by plugging a screen and a few peripherals into the phone.
While Ubuntu for Android is currently only a demo (although the Linux core of Android is what makes this possible), Windows 8 should be reality by the end of this year and both of these stories demonstrate the shape of things to come. In a few years it is entirely possible that our phones will be a whole lot more than personal communications devices and will start to replace our computers, after all they already are computing devices. Certainly dual or quad-core smartphones have the processing power for a wealth of basic tasks such as word processing and surfing the internet. Today’s phones also have serious enough GPUs to cope with running a desktop environment.
Now, phones and tablets running Windows 8 will not be able to run the same programs as the desktop version of Windows 8 – programs must be optimised for ARM architecture chips to run on the mobile version – but there will be cross over. Windows 8 on PC will have a very similar feel to the tablet or phone experience, in fact, the only difference will be that Windows 8 on PC will have access to a traditional desktop environment and as such will have access to a wider range of app, or as we used to call them, programs.
With tablets, this convergence is already happening – plugging in a keyboard gives a laptop like experience and tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime have optional keyboard attachments for a laptop experience. However, there is no laptop like operating system which allows tablet users to use the same programs in the same way as they do on their desktop so the experience on a tablet is necessarily different to that of a laptop. This is the key part of this trend – users having the same experience (or at least a very similar experience) no matter which device they use as well as being able to use those devices in different ways.
While it’s unlikely that enterprise will embrace a PC/phone combo but for consumers the personal computer is about to get much more personal.