In my previous post, I established that, despite strides made in screen keyboards and text-to-speech programs, a hardware keyboard is still the best way to write text documents.
In this one, I'll look at how phones and tablets work as replacements for PC's.
Problem 3: Phones Are Still Phones
Of course, you can connect a phone to a computer monitor, and to a keyboard. Or to a game controller.
Awhile back I hooked my phone up to my TV, and paired it to my DualShock 4, and fired up Sonic 4.
The game ran fine -- I didn't like it very much but it ran fine.
And then my mom called me.
The game stopped, and my TV screen filled up with a message that I was getting a phone call. So I walked across the room, picked up my phone, disconnected it from my TV, and answered it.
This is not optimal behavior for a computer.
Now, there are possible ways to fix this.
Headsets and speakerphone are two ways to answer the phone without having it in your hand, but neither one is optimal. Speakerphone is often hard to hear and can have that awful echo. And as for headsets, well, do I carry one in my pocket? Do I keep one in every room where I might dock my phone and use it as a computer?
A better solution would be to "connect" your phone to a monitor and speakers wirelessly, maybe using a device like a Chromecast. That way you could keep it next to you, or in your pocket, while still editing documents, or playing Sonic 4, or whatever. And if it rang, you could answer it, and not lose whatever was on your screen -- say I get a call where I want to take notes with my keyboard (as frequently happens); there could be a way to do that.
But the easier solution is probably to have the device that's connected to your keyboard and monitor(s) not be your phone. Especially if people continue to buy other devices, such as laptops or tablets.
Problem 4: Phone Interfaces Don't Make Good Desktop Interfaces
Windows 8. Do I even need to elaborate?
Microsoft tried to design an interface that would work on phones and on desktops. It was a huge failure.
This was entirely foreseeable. A 4" touchscreen is completely different from a pair of 1080p monitors with a keyboard and mouse attached to them. An interface designed for the former is a lousy fit for the latter, and vice-versa.
So, with Windows 10, Microsoft tried something else, and something altogether more sensible: the OS was designed with a phone/tablet interface and a desktop computer interface, with the ability to switch between the two. If you connect your phone to a dock that's hooked up to a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, then the interface changes to desktop mode.
Which is a good idea (and one that Canonical has been moving toward for years), but Windows Phone hasn't exactly set the world on fire (and Ubuntu Phone isn't a thing that anybody seems to want). Windows tablets, on the other hand, including Lenovo's Yoga series and MS's own Surface line, have fared much better.
Google's moving toward this sort of convergence too; it hasn't gotten as far as MS or Canonical yet, but there have been hints of future compatibility between Android and ChromeOS.
Ah yes, ChromeOS -- and the return to dumb terminals running server-side programs.
I think that's going to be key to bringing a few of the major special-case users on board with the transition to lower-powered systems: gamers and media designers.
We'll get to them soon. But in the next post, I'll be looking at the market that's really going to continue driving PC sales: business.