Thursday, July 14, 2016

How Mobile VR will change home computing

Many people have both a smartphone and a laptop.  We use smartphones for a lot of things but when it comes to doing work - with lots of typing and editing - a smartphone is hard to use, so we still need to use a laptop.  Nonetheless, people want to have only one device.  In an attempt to fill that need, we've had tablets, phablets, and laptops that convert to tablets.  But none of those are perfect solutions.



An innovative solution to this problem is to use the phone as a laptop.  With all your data in one device, you won't have to worry about syncing.  Similar solutions have been attempted in the past using laptops with built-in docks for phones.  However, they were too expensive and they failed commercially.



Now the idea is becoming practical again, thanks to the increasing processing power of smartphones.  Motivated by consumers' desire to use their smartphones for ever-expanding applications, smartphone manufacturers have been creating more powerful smartphones.  Most recently, the need for a higher quality mobile VR experience has led Google and its partners to design powerful smartphones ready for Google's new Daydream mobile VR platform.



The Superbook (photo by Andromium Inc.)

These new smartphones have more than enough power to function as a laptop for typical applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, surfing the web, or even some games.  And indeed, you can turn your phone into a laptop with Superbook, a new crowdfunding project.  Unlike previous attempts to use the phone as a laptop, the Superbook leverages the power of new smartphones by being powered entirely by your smartphone.  The Superbook is essentially a laptop with no processor or storage drive of its own.  Instead, for those, it uses your smartphone.


To use the Superbook, you just install the Andromium app on your phone, plug the phone into the laptop then you're ready to go.


This solution has several advantages:
1.  Because it has no processor or storage, the Superbook costs much less than previous laptops for smartphones.  In the Kickstarter campaign which starts July 21, the Superbook will be available for just $99.
2.  You don't have to worry about syncing data.
3.  You don't have to worry about upgrading your laptop - it will be upgraded as you upgrade your phone.  This also reduces electronic waste.
4.  The Superbook has its own battery, which can charge your phone.



I don't know if Superbook will fail or succeed commercially, but in any case, I think this will become the dominant computing model, at least for the home.  You would just buy a high-end smartphone, a laptop "shell" like the Superbook, and your smartphone will function both as a phone and as a laptop.  You won't need to buy a separate laptop.  Even though a more powerful smartphone would be more expensive, it would also function as your home computer, which would make it more cost-effective.  As this becomes the dominant model, smartphones will become even more powerful, which will allow even better VR and AR experiences.


As for desktops, I think they will remain, but I think they would be primarily for commercial/industrial uses, games, video editing, or other processor-intensive applications.


What do you think?  Would you be willing to get a high-end smartphone that will function both as a phone and as your home computer?