During his keynote address at the SEMICON West conference in San Francisco, vice president of Intel's architecture group Rama Skukla said that the lines between a netbook, laptop and tablet are disappearing faster than today's designers can even realize. That said, it's quite possible that these form factors will be gone within ten years.
"It's going to be very difficult to see where one device goes and the next one takes off," he told the audience. Even today, the concept of PCs is already outdated. He added that future PCs will probably serve as "personal companions" instead of bulky devices, synchronizing around the owner in an individual cloud of information that users will be able to share with others or keep private.
To achieve this oneness with the cloud, Skukla suggested to the captive audience that hardware manufacturers will have to address this cloudy trend by working closely with software developers and distributors so that end-users will have a solid way to manage their identity while also experiencing a seamless, secure computing environment.
Intel is already gearing up for this change, he said. In fact, the industry will see major advances in processor technology within the next five years. Graphics performance on mobile chips alone is expected to rise by a factor of 12 by 2015 – just look at what Intel has achieved with its second generation Sandy Bridge processors.
Unfortunately, Skukla didn't really explain what he envisioned consumers would actually use in ten years. Looking back on the last decade however, desktops still look like desktops, laptops still look like laptops (although they've gotten bigger and thinner), and consoles still look like consoles. The biggest change that's taken place, or so it seems, is in the mobile sector. Tens years ago phones were bulky, ugly and had enough brains to store a few phone numbers; now they can load Flash-based websites, play Angry Birds and stream video content straight to our palm.
So if all of our familiar mobile form factors will be eradicated in the future, what will we use? Smart-watches that can project HD+ imagery on any surface while detecting our finger motions, making mobile keyboards obsolete? Will it connect to Bluetooth glasses that are capable of displaying HD video and audio directly to our eyes and ears? Will the desktop grow wheels, a domed head, and toot electronic beeps while it projects holograms for our entertainment?
There's definitely some fun with speculating.