My ideal (and non-existent) device? The one I've been waiting for largely my entire life? Interestingly I can describe that to you.
It would be an 8.5x11 tablet (sheet of standard paper here in Canada.) It would fit inside a standard foleo and be a touch-based input device not dissimilar from an iPad. It would have at least 1366x768 resolution, though I would far prefer 1440x900. It would have reasonable internal storage: flash somewhere north of 8GB for applications with 1GB of RAM. It would have a Wacom digitizer in addition to the touch interface and an operating system that didn’t suck horribly at touch input. (In other words not Windows.)
It would run at least a dual core CPU and come with all the standard phone options. Data from cellular and wifi, GPS, and a plethora of sensors from accelerometers and magnetics to luminance and acoustics. It would allow removable storage via SD card and come with two USB ports. It would be open, allowing me to install whatever applications I wanted and direct access to the file system. There would be an app store for ease of purchasing new applications as well as access to a cloud-storage/synchronisation system that automatically backed up my system to a server of /my choice/ without my having to bother with it.
A lot of thought would go into the design of the case it was in. I want that thing to be able to support this foleo-pad in a number of different configurations at many angles whilst still carrying in the other flap a pad of real, regular paper. When set up at an angle, I want a laser-painted keyboard to be available to me*. I want to be able to use a Bluetooth headset in combination with it and have it serve as my phone. (One less device to carry that way.)
In essence; I want a totally open smartphone/ipad that fits into my briefcase, weighs as little as is humanly possible but has none of the restrictions of the existing gear. It is /my/ device, allows me to add peripherals if I choose, remove media, control my own files and generally bridged the gap between “locked down smartphone” and “full blown laptop.”
I don’t need to replace a full-on computer with it. I don’t even want to. I just want it to be the device to serve as my access to a) a browser b) an RDP window c) all of my cloud-synchronised data. It’s job would be to fill the gaps between when I have a real computer available, not to completely replace a real computer with a real keyboard.
But with USB ports…why couldn’t it have a docking station at home such that I could just hook up a real keyboard? With a fully open device, there would be so many possibilities.
Either way, as far as I am concerned, the era of requiring Windows on the physical device is over. It’s into the VM with that thing and all it’s attendant applications as well. With it goes the need for a lot of the “beef” I used to need on my endpoints. They can really now just be thin clients of various shapes and sizes from any vendor. I know VDI isn’t exactly “cloud computing.” (Or is it? Someone give me a definition, please!) Still, more and more I am designing my digital life around the concept of “my information is available to me anywhere from any device.” This takes “who makes the device” or even “what form factor the device is” completely out of the equation.
If the device comes with a standards compliant browser and the ability to RDP then what makes me choose a device no longer has anything to do with the OS or vendor. Capability/speed, power consumption/battery life, ease of use, connectivity, openness/freedom of me to control my own device, price/rate plan and design/form factor matter.
I have a quad core PC at home with a stupidly powerful graphics card. Velociraptors and Windows 7. Shiny shiny in all colours of the rainbow…and I haven’t turned it on in three months. I have two laptops and a netbook. I use one laptop – very occasionally - because it got migrated to the living room table and sort of never left. The netbook is somewhere in my car. Gods only know what happened to the other laptop.
My Desire has become my primary personal computing device – a remarkable statement for a sysadmin. At work, I use a puny C90LEW Wyse thin client.
Give me an iPad or a decent Android pad and I can pretty much be guaranteed that my laptop at home goes unused as well. Heck, as I type this, it is into an OOo Writer application inside my personal VM located on my home server. I am RDPed into that personal VM from within my work VM. I am RDPed into my work VM from my Desire.
So…ideal device? Apart from the specs I mentioned above it really boils down to one question:
What’s the most convenient device? Because that’s really the bit that matters.
*(http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/keyboards-mice/8193/ for a primitive example.)