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The laptop is dead

Mike Elgan | April 3, 2017
Here's my open-and-shut case on why the venerable laptop is on its way out

It's possible that even Apple may get into the docking racket.

Apple last week published a patent application for a clamshell laptop-like device that runs off an iPhone. The iPhone is inserted in the same spot in front of the keyboard where the touchpad now sits on a MacBook Pro. The phone not only powers the device entirely, but you use the iPhone's screen as the touchpad.

This would give you the laptop experience without the laptop price. Better still, you'd use iOS instead of OS X, and could use a single device for everything.

You can bet that if Samsung and Apple are enabling the use of smartphones instead of desktops or laptops, the rest of the industry will do so as well.

In fact, a small company called Andromium, which makes the Andromium OS (an app that gives Android the look and feel of a desktop OS) is offering for pre-order something called the Superbook. It's a $129 laptop-looking "shell," that's powered by an Android phone.

I think the practice of docking in general, and docking a smartphone in particular, will go mainstream fast.

The smartphone-size laptop alternative

Docking isn't a new idea — even docking a smartphone isn't new (consider Microsoft's Continuum, for example). What's likely new is the embrace of docking as a mainstream alternative.

Here's another old idea that's about to go mainstream: clamshell smartphones.

In 1997, a company called Psion perfected the so-called personal digital assistant, or PDA. Psion did this through amazing industrial design. The Psion Series 5 had a surprisingly large and touch-typeable keyboard.

Sadly, this perfection was washed away by the rising mobile phone movement, which replaced PDAs.

Now, the same designer who created the Psion Series 5, Martin Riddiford, is re-creating it as a dual-boot Android and Linux smartphone called the Gemini PDA. He's designing it for a company called Planet Computers.

gemini pda 
The Gemini PDA is a clamshell Android phone that you can use instead of a laptop. Credit: Planet Computers  

While closed, the Gemini PDA can be used as a phone.

While open, it can be used as an Android smartphone with a built-in keyboard — or a Linux laptop that fits in your pocket.

In fact, the smartphone-size PC idea is emerging more generally, including in the gaming space.

Even Apple has a patent for a clamshell iPhone, which uses a bendable screen.

If users want a physical, touch-typeable keyboard, in other words, they won't need a laptop to get one.

 

3 more trends fatal to laptops

 

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