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Old November 8th, 2007, 02:36 PM
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Default Re: OT: Even More Proof That PC\'s Are Dying

meh. The PC isn't dying, it's just changing shape. Evolving.

A lot of the PC's current applications (browsing, email)will move to the mobile, especially once those fancy roll up screens they've been promising come out. You may even have two portable screens in one phone-sized device, a little one like on your mobile now, and a bigger roll-up screen that feels more like a PSP or laptop or newspaper. The mobile device will probably start to take on some additional functions, like replacing the wedges of plastic that occupy most peoples' wallets (as it has in Japan- note that cash will never completely die though), and it may well start to see more use around the home: for example it will probably double as an input device (ie remote control) for your home system.

The landline will be dead by 2020.

A load more of the functions currently served by the PC (gaming, music, video, more browsing) will be integrated into your TV. Or rather, your TV will be replaced by a big monitor hooked up to what amounts to a media centre server. As I mentioned before, this will all be controlled by your mobile, which has all of the necessary interface functions built in anyway, and which will be so much a part of your life that you wouldn't dream of putting it down except when you're asleep.

It's worth noting that the boundaries between watching TV and browsing the web can be expected to blur significantly, as broadcasters finally give up on the idea of chaining all those discrete programs into one long continuous string that forces people to be sitting in front of their screen at a particular time (or at least get a machine to record it at the appropriate time), and start distributing them individually, on-demand, instead. I guess I'm saying the web will, eventually, eat TV.

Radio, strangely, will resist all this change and continue to be broadcast in pretty much the same format and occupy the same niche in peoples' lives as it always has, although the method of distribution will probably move mostly- if not completely- from raw radio signals to internet.

Your office will change too, with cool new screen/ interface technologies. Your desk will probably be a giant super-multi-touch input device/ haptic& optic output combo, which not only performs as a screen, but can scan papers put on it, simultaneously charge up and read data from portable devices placed on it and so on.

Microsoft, stupidly, will invent some new name for this, in the belief that the term "desktop" is outdated when it will actually be more appropriate than ever. The first few years of these things will be plagued by idiot users trying to write on them in biro, until someone invents a stylus/ pen hybrid that knows what's underneath it and only emits ink when its supposed to.

Your physical keyboard will be replaced by a virtual keyboard on the horizontal touch surface in front of you: It's cheaper, tidier, easier to reconfigure and doesn't get sandwich crumbs and hair stuck under the keys. The mouse will be obselete. Haptics will recreate the tactile qualities of a physical desk and keyboard: The desk will be able to reproduce textures under your fingers so you will still be able to fumble around and feel things and find things and shuffle them about and touch-type without actually having to look at your hands. You will still want a nice big vertical screen though, firstly to increase the screen real estate, but also because it's more comfortable to look straight ahead than down at your fingers all day. Think iphone meets minority report and you're probably about there. All this will probably be driven by the same machine that's running your media centre or, if you tele-commute (something else that will become more common) by the machine at the office, or by some clever collaboration between the two.

Office chairs will still only be fairly comfortable, until the discovery of the anti-gravity field in 2114.

Of course, there will be overlaps, and any one of these devices will be able to push/ pull data to any of the others and, to a certain extent, duplicate their functions, but they will be specialised. This will simply be because of their setting, their screen size, the interface and the user's habit rather than any other kind of hardware restriction. Until we get full-blown Borg brain implants that render screens and input devices completely obselete (first commercial models available late 2057, but I'd wait until Service pack 2 comes out if I were you), that's the way it will have to be.

But yeah, the PC as we know it, a big beige box that sits under your desk, will diminish massively. Enthusiasts and prefessionals will still want them, but most average people will just buy a series of sleek-looking, easy-to-use PC-based appliances that look and feel more like VCRs or stereos or consoles than computers, but have all the power of a PC behind them. The computer will be something that slides into the background, becomes invisible. Just as someone today might be well aware that there is a little computer in their washing machine or car's engine, but would still answer "no" if asked whether they owned a computer because they don't have a PC, people of the future will still not consider themselves computer-owners, despite having Jetson-style smart-home-systems. Your grandkids will be amazed that non-geeks used to buy computers and install their own software and drivers and battle with viruses and spam and basically manage and maintain the whole damn thing themselves, just to read email and browse pr0n and type a few letters.

An interesting side-effect of this will be the great re-geeking of 2014: As computers become invisible, so too will the people who love them. Geek-chic is in at the moment, because we are currently living in a strange in-between period when everyone has to have a computer[1], and so everyone wants to know a geek. As we move out of this era, the geeks will be gradually driven back into their basements...

[1]OK, no-one *has* to have a computer, and obviously I'm excluding the entire third world from the term "everyone" (although we'll see what the OLPC does for that) but you get my meaning.
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