What Will Be The First Computer-Free Generation?

Several years ago, I conducted an experiment on Symbian-Guru.com called PC-Free For 30 Days. My main computer had crashed and was going to be in service, so I decided to see how I could complete the tasks that I normally do on my computer using only a Symbian-powered smartphone. The conclusion at the time was that while it is possible, in most cases it wasn’t nearly as convenient to do things from my smartphone as it was to do the same task from a computer.

Fast forward to the present, and I’m honestly convinced that if I didn’t run a blog, I wouldn’t need a computer at all. In the past 6 months, I’ve used smartphones powered by Android, Symbian, and BlackBerry – some of the leading smartphone operating systems.

As I use these smartphone platforms more and more, I’m growing less and less dependent on my laptop for pretty much anything and more dependent on my smartphones to pick up the slack. Aside from the physical aspects (bigger screen, keyboard, etc) there’s really nothing my laptop offers me that my smartphone doesn’t. In fact, my smartphone has a few physical aspects that put it a step ahead my laptop.

1. Better battery life – sure, today’s netbooks can go several hours on a single charge, but the majority of laptops on the market today, barely eek out 2-3 hours of continuous use, much less 6-8. My smartphone – particularly the BlackBerry Bold 9700, can easily go through one, sometimes 2 full days of use before I have to charge it. Impressive.

2. Much more mobile – there’s a difference in mobility and portability. Mobility is the ability to use something while mobile – while moving. Portability is how easy it is to move something from place to place. Portability requires stops to really use something, while mobility doesn’t. My smartphone is a handheld object – I can use it with one hand easily. Even my netbook can’t do that.

3. Connectivity – my smartphone is connected via the cellular network all the time. I get notified of new updates this way, and I don’t have to hunt down a Wi-Fi hotspot to use it. I realize a few netbooks have this built-in now, but the vast majority do not come with this feature built-in.

As the younger generations grow up and get to high school, college, and beyond, how many will opt to have computers – even laptops and netbooks – versus just a smartphone? Even the most high-end smartphone is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the cheapest netbooks, and is just as capable. How many of the generations after them will opt for a full-on computer?

In fact, if I didn’t blog, I’d probably never open my laptop or netbook. Of course, there are WordPress apps for Symbian, BlackBerry, and Android, but it’s not really a great solution. What about you? Do you really need a computer, or have you started to depend more and more on your smartphone for everything? Are there any tasks that you simply need a computer to accomplish?

Published by rcadden

Just a dude with a phone.

28 thoughts on “What Will Be The First Computer-Free Generation?

  1. The semantics of your post are bugging me. Why are you assuming that your smartphone isn’t a computer? “Computer” in terms of legacy PC/Mac applications will die quite soon. But “computer” in terms of smartphone is only going to evolve. How many times have I told you that my dream “computer” is a mobile phone I put on my desk, and then said desk has A) really big monitor B) wireless keyboard/mouse C) small corner that charges said “computer” wirelessly.

  2. The semantics of your post are bugging me. Why are you assuming that your smartphone isn’t a computer? “Computer” in terms of legacy PC/Mac applications will die quite soon. But “computer” in terms of smartphone is only going to evolve. How many times have I told you that my dream “computer” is a mobile phone I put on my desk, and then said desk has A) really big monitor B) wireless keyboard/mouse C) small corner that charges said “computer” wirelessly.

  3. Really interesting thoughts Ricky. I look forward to getting the N8 and using it with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard on my monitor at work. Personally I think this is where Nokia is going with Meego – actually replacing the need for a PC. As a software engineer, I couldn't at the moment dream of doing my day job on a phone, but Meego could make this a possibility. Apple on the other hand are doing well at the moment with their closed systems. Somebody opined to me once that Nokia were deluded for talking about the 'future of totally mobile computing' when (I quote) 'Apple and Google were already there'. Which is pretty fresh when you consider that you can't even use and iPhone without hooking it up to a computer first.

  4. “Even the most high-end smartphone is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the cheapest netbooks.”How so??The cheapest netbooks cost around $250, while high end smartphones cost upto $700.

  5. Great post Ricky. I don't think that day is not far off. I'm a geek and I use various computing devices throughout the day. For me my tasks break down like this:PC/Mac – Design, Photoshop work, torrents, blogging, some web browsing.iPad, Phone – Everything else! And that includes video editing, music creation and gaming, something which I honestly didn't think that I would be doing with a mobile OS anytime soon.Change is coming Ricky. It will start with the likes of you and I. I reckon you'll pick up a nice Microsoft or Android tablet next year – then watch your PC usage go through the floor.

  6. I guess I'm using the terms loosely. By 'computer', I'm talking about the typical laptop/desktop machine – classifying by physical characteristics rather than capabilities.

  7. I've been thinking about this recently. While I have discovered the many advantages of my Nexus One over my laptop (as you've mentioned in your post), I must say there is one thing that is unavoidable in favor of the larger screen. And that is… The larger screen.There's no ignoring it, the larger screen is, by definition, larger. It is easier to read the web, to view video/pictures, to type more than a single sentence. The larger size screen and keyboard may be less portable, but they also offer a larger size screen and keyboard. With the customizations and automation I've baked into my desktop experience, I must be roughly 10x faster working on my laptop than my phone. I can do stuff more efficiently with my ten fingers not blocking the screen than my one (or rarely two) fingers partially blocking the screen can ever dream to do…However, as soon as the technology on phones catches up to laptops (and it's doing it much faster), such as microprojectors, voice input and other AI, phones will still offer more, and laptops/desktops will probably find less and less use (on the road – I still want my TV or desktop when I'm sitting in my living room, etc.) I think voice input on Android is one of the most important features introduced to smartphones recently, exactly for this reason – more than screen type or antenna design.

  8. Interesting. True, it would be nice to dream of a world where smartphone replace laptops / desktops.However, it would be difficult, such that what about programmers who do a good load of programming on a daily basis ? and students, depends on what they study, but the computer science students to a large part would be experimenting and developing, installing and uninstallings OSs, SDKs, IDEs, develop, debug, etc. I am not sure, maybe 10 years from now, smartphones will see a day, when it supports programming too and if it were just carry your phone, hook up to a monitor at school ,work wherever, program, browse, blog, everything, then that's something !

  9. Interesting. True, it would be nice to dream of a world where smartphone replace laptops / desktops.However, it would be difficult, such that what about programmers who do a good load of programming on a daily basis ? and students, depends on what they study, but the computer science students to a large part would be experimenting and developing, installing and uninstallings OSs, SDKs, IDEs, develop, debug, etc. I am not sure, maybe 10 years from now, smartphones will see a day, when it supports programming too and if it were just carry your phone, hook up to a monitor at school ,work wherever, program, browse, blog, everything, then that's something !

  10. If you dissect the term “computer” it's mainly a terminal in which external devices are attached for input options.You can already do that with smartphones by connecting it to a larger display and connect a keyboard to it.What is lacking then is good software to make things fly around.If you've ever worked on a large spreadsheet a Symbian handset with this solution takes a bit more time to work with. There's also the issue of reading pdf documents (ebooks mainly) on a smartphone. Maybe I'm a bit critical here, but I do like to read a book with it's illustrations and pictures instead of just plain text.It really depends on what you do on your computer and what tools (that are inplacable) on it compared to similar ones on your smartphone.I think I can pretty much say that I can do about 60% of what I usually do on my computer whereas the remaining 40% I have to have a computer to do.There is also the issue of some strange websites that the built in browser in smartphones can't handle too well. But that is another issue. (The web is broken).

  11. If you dissect the term “computer” it's mainly a terminal in which external devices are attached for input options.You can already do that with smartphones by connecting it to a larger display and connect a keyboard to it.What is lacking then is good software to make things fly around.If you've ever worked on a large spreadsheet a Symbian handset with this solution takes a bit more time to work with. There's also the issue of reading pdf documents (ebooks mainly) on a smartphone. Maybe I'm a bit critical here, but I do like to read a book with it's illustrations and pictures instead of just plain text.It really depends on what you do on your computer and what tools (that are inplacable) on it compared to similar ones on your smartphone.I think I can pretty much say that I can do about 60% of what I usually do on my computer whereas the remaining 40% I have to have a computer to do.There is also the issue of some strange websites that the built in browser in smartphones can't handle too well. But that is another issue. (The web is broken).

  12. I´m holding on and waiting for the N8 it should (hopefully) be out in Aug. here in Denmark , I hope it will be the device that more or less replace my clunky laptop. I think the N8 will look very nice on my 32 inch flat panel tv when a large screen is needed. My 5800 express can almost replace my laptop, there can be days between i have it powered up. (English is not my native)

  13. I´m holding on and waiting for the N8 it should (hopefully) be out in Aug. here in Denmark , I hope it will be the device that more or less replace my clunky laptop. I think the N8 will look very nice on my 32 inch flat panel tv when a large screen is needed. My 5800 express can almost replace my laptop, there can be days between i have it powered up. (English is not my native)

  14. Boo, I call link bait on is 😉 As Stefan stated, this is mostly semantics, and for all intents actually quite possible. I'm living proof. The issues you have around blogging from a mobile and (and should have been) addressed already. Given what was possible on Maemo towards blogging, I'd simply state that the developers for other platforms are simply lazy enough to stretch.Portability will be key before this lifestyle is more mainstream. Opera, Firefox, and even MS to a degree seem to have gotten the memo. But, it cannot be something tied to a service, it has to be tied to the user with services brokering life (think the aims of OpenID). Tyne idea of private clouds and public APIs is where this discussion leads.Food for thought: your mobile can be both hotspot and server today, limitations on what is possible is on the person, not the platform 😉

  15. Boo, I call link bait on is 😉 As Stefan stated, this is mostly semantics, and for all intents actually quite possible. I'm living proof. The issues you have around blogging from a mobile and (and should have been) addressed already. Given what was possible on Maemo towards blogging, I'd simply state that the developers for other platforms are simply lazy enough to stretch.Portability will be key before this lifestyle is more mainstream. Opera, Firefox, and even MS to a degree seem to have gotten the memo. But, it cannot be something tied to a service, it has to be tied to the user with services brokering life (think the aims of OpenID). Tyne idea of private clouds and public APIs is where this discussion leads.Food for thought: your mobile can be both hotspot and server today, limitations on what is possible is on the person, not the platform 😉

  16. @aatifsumar – you can get a smartphone, one that works as a near-PC replacement for less than $300 off contract (Nokia's C-Series is the latest example of this), so its not too far off to say that smartphones are as capable, and nearly as inexpensive as netbooks – and you are more optimized for mobile with a smartphone than a netbook.

  17. @aatifsumar – you can get a smartphone, one that works as a near-PC replacement for less than $300 off contract (Nokia's C-Series is the latest example of this), so its not too far off to say that smartphones are as capable, and nearly as inexpensive as netbooks – and you are more optimized for mobile with a smartphone than a netbook.

  18. What? You can not even compare the hardware in this comparison. Your phone is your phone, your netbook your netbook and a desktop a desktop. I don't care what a phone is capable of…smartphones have been around long before netbooks and always did the “mobile thing”. These apps were designed to make doing task when you weren't near a real pc to do them easier. I never enjoyed doing stuff from my phone for the simple reason that it was such a tiny screen and usually was more cumbersome than usuful. I am not doubting that it is cool even very handy to check your FB stats, tweet someone or pay for something while riding the bus…but there is still the mass populous that doesn't like using phones for that reason. Heck…most phones can barely make a call let alone multitask!I no longer own a desktop…I have had several minis before settling on a nettab (Lenovo S10-3T which is a touch table and net tab all in one) and I own a multi media laptop. (HP Pavillion dv7) I also have a smartphone (yeah it Runs crappy Windows mobile 6…but I do the mobile thing as well) I don't care to FB all the time, I don't tweet and have very little time to blog and my phone barely works as a phone (can you see the biased opinion…lol)My point being…most people are NOT tech and would be very happy (content) doing things at their laptops, nettabs or desk pcs. Most smartphones are a learning curve (uh-huh…people will never admit it but most don't even realize what their EVOs, Blackberries and Iphones can REALLY do) and to them it's all about the apps…or what they can do on their phones.Better Battery Life? I don't know one smartphone that when you doing all processes (wireless, inet, media, music, cam and calls) that last more than 6 hours! You must have a bionic phone! My phone…if I just make calls…will last about four days. When I am surfin, have the wifi and bluetooth on, listen to my tunes I might get four HOURS! My nettab-9hours…doing all of the above including Skype…my laptop 3.Mobility? Connectivity? Man, I don't care what network you are on but when you drive to Po-dunk, SD you ain't got no connectivity let alone mobility. Our nation's network is getting better but I have been with Verizon, Sprint, T-Mo and ATT and all they's coverage SUCKS!!!! If you don't live in a metropolitian area your smartphone is just dumb! Networks at hotspots are more accessable than ever. And my nettab has a SIM slot so if I wanted could esaily pop a SIM in and get connected. But here in lies the problem…why do you want to be plugged in all the time? I can see this going real bad real quick. It's sad that I see people as soon as their phones shake or beep they will stop whatevr they are doing and look at it. What?!? What was so important that you had to finger shush your mom or ignore your girl to text someone about or read a damn tweet?The next generation, as hand devices become sleeker and less user intrusive, will behold real computing power in their hands. IPhone has totally re-imagined the app and makes your phone do more things that your own boby is capable of. Sprint has revolutionized streaming media with the 4G network and Google has truly given us real computing power with Android and the cloud as a mobile plattform. Us 1983 Pac-Man old heads ain't seen NOTHING yet. In fact even here in the US we have not beheld the true computing power about the be introduced in the next few years. I need my nettab. I despise doing things on my phone…if I had to write this comment from my phone…I'd chopped all my fingers off! (I am doing this wirelessly from my laptop)…tomorrow at Starbucks I will check it for comments on my nettab and I'll call my friend from my phone to see if she saw my FB pics…lol…nuff sed!

  19. What? You can not even compare the hardware in this comparison. Your phone is your phone, your netbook your netbook and a desktop a desktop. I don't care what a phone is capable of…smartphones have been around long before netbooks and always did the “mobile thing”. These apps were designed to make doing task when you weren't near a real pc to do them easier. I never enjoyed doing stuff from my phone for the simple reason that it was such a tiny screen and usually was more cumbersome than usuful. I am not doubting that it is cool even very handy to check your FB stats, tweet someone or pay for something while riding the bus…but there is still the mass populous that doesn't like using phones for that reason. Heck…most phones can barely make a call let alone multitask!I no longer own a desktop…I have had several minis before settling on a nettab (Lenovo S10-3T which is a touch table and net tab all in one) and I own a multi media laptop. (HP Pavillion dv7) I also have a smartphone (yeah it Runs crappy Windows mobile 6…but I do the mobile thing as well) I don't care to FB all the time, I don't tweet and have very little time to blog and my phone barely works as a phone (can you see the biased opinion…lol)My point being…most people are NOT tech and would be very happy (content) doing things at their laptops, nettabs or desk pcs. Most smartphones are a learning curve (uh-huh…people will never admit it but most don't even realize what their EVOs, Blackberries and Iphones can REALLY do) and to them it's all about the apps…or what they can do on their phones.Better Battery Life? I don't know one smartphone that when you doing all processes (wireless, inet, media, music, cam and calls) that last more than 6 hours! You must have a bionic phone! My phone…if I just make calls…will last about four days. When I am surfin, have the wifi and bluetooth on, listen to my tunes I might get four HOURS! My nettab-9hours…doing all of the above including Skype…my laptop 3.Mobility? Connectivity? Man, I don't care what network you are on but when you drive to Po-dunk, SD you ain't got no connectivity let alone mobility. Our nation's network is getting better but I have been with Verizon, Sprint, T-Mo and ATT and all they's coverage SUCKS!!!! If you don't live in a metropolitian area your smartphone is just dumb! Networks at hotspots are more accessable than ever. And my nettab has a SIM slot so if I wanted could esaily pop a SIM in and get connected. But here in lies the problem…why do you want to be plugged in all the time? I can see this going real bad real quick. It's sad that I see people as soon as their phones shake or beep they will stop whatevr they are doing and look at it. What?!? What was so important that you had to finger shush your mom or ignore your girl to text someone about or read a damn tweet?The next generation, as hand devices become sleeker and less user intrusive, will behold real computing power in their hands. IPhone has totally re-imagined the app and makes your phone do more things that your own boby is capable of. Sprint has revolutionized streaming media with the 4G network and Google has truly given us real computing power with Android and the cloud as a mobile plattform. Us 1983 Pac-Man old heads ain't seen NOTHING yet. In fact even here in the US we have not beheld the true computing power about the be introduced in the next few years. I need my nettab. I despise doing things on my phone…if I had to write this comment from my phone…I'd chopped all my fingers off! (I am doing this wirelessly from my laptop)…tomorrow at Starbucks I will check it for comments on my nettab and I'll call my friend from my phone to see if she saw my FB pics…lol…nuff sed!

  20. Dude, you have a device that is essentially a PC. Use it like one. First, get a Redfly to replace that netbook. There are several other utilities you can use to clone your mobile's screen on a desktop, then uses those. Pull your online activites thru Windows Live and Google, and poof you can go mobile as Ricky describes, without the fear of your batteries not making it on all but the heaviest of days.Don't think of your mobile as just that small window. Your experience with mobile, specifically Win Mobile, taints your perspective there. Think of mobile aaa starting smaller, so that you can build on top of it the experience which works best. Same as what folks do when they purchase a laptop, desktop, media center, and smartphone (in that order) and use syncing to knit it together. Start the other way, and things get fun, a lot of fun.

  21. I find myself using the iPad more and more. My iMac gets less use everyday. Everywhere else I use the Nexus One plus with 2.2 I can tether with the iPad on the go.

  22. I find myself using the iPad more and more. My iMac gets less use everyday. Everywhere else I use the Nexus One plus with 2.2 I can tether with the iPad on the go.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s