People are increasingly living off the Web and living connected 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The gating factors that hold this back arent processing power, storage capacity, or graphics but network speed and access.
We live in a world increasingly defined by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google while the devices we tend to get the most excited about (when we have money to spend) are devices like Kindles, Netbooks, and iPhones. Our applications are more and more often coming from things like online application stores and not packaged software.
We want experiences that are closer to what we get with a TV (we turn it on and it works) and are increasingly threatened by attackers who want to steal our identities. We are in the early days of a massive change in personal computing and it may not be connected that tightly to Intel or Microsoft this times around.
Lets explore that.
The Emergence of the ARM CPU
As I write this Im at a tech industry analyst conference where a bunch of us are brought into a room under heavy security and we share what we know about the market and compare notes.
Much of what is discussed I cant talk about, but the overall sense is that ARM (a power-saving CPU), in a huge number of diverse forms, will shortly be popping up in Netbooks and will have notebooks, desktops, and even servers in its sights.
What ARM brings to the table is performance optimized for battery life. My more processor-focused peers are arguing that they have seen solutions in late development from ARM that outperformed existing Netbook offerings, which used integrated graphics, by a significant margins.
They do this with vastly lower purchase costs, better thermal performance (think thinner, cooler), and vastly lower energy use.
The problem with ARM is compatibility. But that may not matter shortly.
Android and Apple: Changing the Game
If we really look at the iPhone and the Android G1, and I mean step back and take a hard look at them, they represent the next generation of personal computer.
Both products are better connected, run more interesting applications, are more visually rich, and are generally more capable in areas folks want capability than PCs were a decade ago.
Granted you wont write the great American novel on them but people who use them have these devices with them when they have a PC, and when they dont. And we called the Blackberry a Crackberry for a reason. They are all very addictive in use.
They live off the Web and increasingly something we call the cloud and fill up these devices from a wonderful thing called an application store, which we can access and buy from wherever we are. We like this and the vendor, who makes money from every transaction (of non-free product), makes a percentage. Even with free products the vendor makes a little something from any related advertising.
The interfaces are next generation touch and not only showcase very well, but they are also intuitive and easy to use. Ive had people demonstrate that their 4 year olds can easily navigate an iPhone (which generally comes right before an oh crap, my kid broke my phone moment).
The point being that, right now, these devices in many ways are leading the PC market in a number of critical leading technologies.