How will you be served? A map of modern computing devices

My friend who got me into computing made a prediction almost 20 years ago. He was holding a calculator in his hand and said something to the effect of, “Our kids will walk around with something smaller than this that will be far more powerful than what’s on our desks today.” Now back then, powerful was a 486 or early Pentium class machine. But it wasn’t until the advent of the smartphone with the cell data network did his prediction come true. Smartphones are more computer than phone.

And yet, we still have desktop PCs. They’re tremendously more powerful and capable than smartphones (for now) — perhaps even more powerful than we should have imagined 20 years ago. So we find ourselves in a world with a variety of computing devices where no one “uber computing device” rules. I thought I’d perform a somewhat academic exercise and map these devices on a type of “infographic,” to help pinpoint where the gaps are as well as where each type of device excels. It’s a first draft, so feel free to comment. (Click below to get the full size version.)

A Comparison Map/Infographic of Modern Personal Computing Devices

A Comparison Map/Infographic of Modern Personal Computing Devices (Click to view full size image.)

(Note: I realize there certainly could be more spectra added to the map. For instance, I didn’t attempt to include Cost (both purchase price and on-going maintenance costs), User Skill Required for operation, options for Peripherals, etc. It’s not intended to be exhaustive.)

After completing the map, one thing stands out: there is no perfect device yet — no one personal computer option that is at the “best end” of all spectra nor one which falls solidly in the middle of all of them as a perfect balance. What do you think will fill the gap? How will you be served in the future?

5 Responses to How will you be served? A map of modern computing devices

  1. Danny says:

    I initially read iPad as “ipaq”, which I thought dated me – but now tha i’ve checked, HP still uses the name. This knowledge makes me feel better.

    In any event, I agree with most of the graph aside from the native connectivity. I’d argue that desktop and laptop should probably be closer; that all four devices should be more tightly clustered. But I’ll ignore that because I really like the “ideal use” continuum at the bottom. That’s a particularly useful concept to express.

    To directly answer the question asked,I thought that the netbooks were going to fill the gap. I like mine, but I think my goal for my netbook will be filled in the future – probably the near future. A little more horsepower in a smartphone combined with a docking station for a larger monitor and keyboard when at home would get pretty much what I’m after in a device. I think. I’ve long said that my current smartphone was a crummy phone but a great device. 🙂

    • Ben K says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I struggled with how to depict the Connectivity spectrum. In hindsight, I think I’ll change the left end from “not convenient” to “supplementary.” I was more trying to convey that some devices are more natively designed to operate networked, and while the others can, that native integration is less so. The fact that smartphones use the cell network natively grants them wide connectivity. Certain models of iPad also do, which is why it’s up toward the right. Both iPads and Laptops use WIFI, which means connectivity might be a little more limited (due to the range). The difficulty is that desktops could also use WIFI, but most don’t necessarily come equipped to do so natively. (Yes, I know laptops also can use a cell card,so making a linear continuum becomes difficult.) The essence here is that as you move away from the right end, the connectivity options become more “supplementary.”

      But, again, I’m willing to be convinced to depict it in other ways. I always appreciate feedback.

  2. Ryan says:

    Nice infographic!

    Your final spectrum, contrasting casual consumption with formal production, reminds me of a prophetic comment from a video about tablets over 15 years ago.

    Knight-Ridder produced a video in 1994 demonstrating their faith in the tablet newspaper of the future. It included this quote:

    ‘We may still use computers to create information but we’ll use the tablet to interact with information.’”

    But while the iPad excels for consumption, I’d argue that it’s also great for some types of creation: visual and musical sketches, using apps like Penultimate, Garage Band, and iMovie. Thanks to its input capabilities (touchscreen, cameras, microphone), portability, and immersive UX, I’d even argue that the iPad could be better than PCs for capturing the initial burst of inspiration during the creative process. (But NOT for polishing and publishing the finished product – at least, not usually, not yet.)

    Where the iPad really falls short as a creation tool is its lack of coding. You can’t use your iPad to code a new app to run on your own iPad, or anybody else’s. You have to use a Mac for that. It’s a significant shortcoming, as you mentioned in another one of your recent blog posts.

  3. Ben K says:

    After trying a friend’s new MS Surface tablet yesterday, I have to say that this device runs pretty well right down the middle of most of the spectra on this infographic, a ballance between casual consmption and formal productivty with good input and output (nice keyboard/cover and decent screen size). Native connectivity isn’t perhaps as high as something that uses a cell network, but in this day and age where so many people have phones that can act as mobile hotspots, I don’t think that’s a major factor.

  4. Claud says:

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