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Predictions for 2009 and Beyond

Stewart has made some predictions for the future of computing [1].

He predicts that within 2 years the majority of consumer machines will be laptops and have SSD (not rotational media). I predict that by the end of next year more than half of all new consumer machines that are being sold will be laptops (defined as being portable machines with the display and keyboard forming part of a single unit), and that more than half of such machines will have SSD as the primary storage (IE used for booting and for most common file access). I predict that by the end of 2010 the majority of all computers shipped (in all form factors including games consoles and servers) will have SSD as their primary storage. I predict that in late 2010 rotational media will start to go away for most tasks, but for at least the next year the model will be SSD for small/light/fast operations and rotational media for large capacity. I’m not disagreeing with Stewart, just being more precise. Also while Val made some good points about the reliability of SSD [2] I don’t think that this will be an obstacle in the low-end of the market. There is no little evidence of computers failing in the consumer market due to being unreliable – it seems that Microsoft has conditioned people to expect unreliability.

I predict that Sun will not release ZFS under the GPL in time for anyone to care. The release of OpenSolaris was way behind schedule and I don’t expect anything different this time around.

Stewart predicts that in five years Linux will have significantly more desktop market share than Apple. I agree and also predict that Apple will convert to the Linux kernel. I predict that Apple will become the first Linux distributor to make any significant hardware sales for the mainstream computer market (Linux bundled with hardware has already done well for mobile phones, routers, Tivo, and similar devices where the user doesn’t know what OS is running).

I predict the death of Windows mobile. I predict that in five years the mobile phone/PDA market will be dominated by Android with a variety of other Linux based phones. I predict that some time after five years the iPhone will go away.

Chris Samuel has made some predictions too [3]. He predicts that within two years “The distinction between laptops, netbooks and mobile phones will get even more blurred with consumers demanding mobiles with more power and lighter and lighter laptops/netbooks”. I believe that the difference between laptops, netbooks, and mobile phones is primarily one of IO (size of keyboard, sockets for peripherals, and size of screen). For desktop use the only application I use which requires more RAM or CPU power than my EeePC 701 can provide is Firefox. A combination of more efficient javascript interpretation and better coding practices by web designers would solve that problem. A significant portion of the mass of a laptop is dedicated to suppporting IO ports and maintaining the structural integrity of the device. A common feature in science fiction is lapotops that can be rolled up, stretched to size, etc (the Thinkpad Butterfly keyboard was an attempt at a first step towards this which failed due to issues of mechanical strength).

As some Netbook class systems already have 3G networking built in it seems a logical extension to have telephony functions built in to a laptop. I predict that laptops with full telephony support will go on sale in 2010.

One promising feature in regard to laptop IO is the new Display Port [4] video port. It will only be an incremental improvement to the space taken for IO capacity, but I am not expecting anything revolutionary in the near future. I predict that HDMI will be a failure in the market and DVI will never gain critical market share, it will be VGA and Display Port on most systems by 2012.

Predicting that technological developments won’t happen is always risky, but I predict that the mechanical issues which separate the heavier laptops and desktop-replacements from netbooks (in terms of making a large display and keyboard that won’t break frequently) won’t be solved within five years. In the same note, I don’t expect anyone to try building a mobile phone which can have a full-size screen and keyboard connected to it (although it would be possible to do so). So I expect that the phone/PDA, Netbook, and laptop distinction will remain for at least the next 5 years.

One thing that would make sense is to have a small device (PDA or mobile phone) store data that is security relevant and connect it to full-size machines for serious work. So for example you could use a desktop machine for Internet banking (maybe in an Internet cafe) and have your mobile phone ask you to confirm the transaction and then authenticate you to the bank server. I predict a larger role for PDAs and mobile phones as computers as soon as people start to take security seriously. I won’t try and guess when that might be, but I predict that it won’t be for at least five years.

I predict that increasing oil prices will significantly make a significant impact on the price of computers before the end of 2010. Not that I expect the prices to suddenly jump upwards, it’s more likely that prices will steadily increase while at the same time new technology to reduce production expenses in other areas is introduced.

I also predict that increasing oil prices will increase the desire to maintain systems for longer periods of time without maintenance. For example my Thinkpad T41p has had a few significant part replacements (a couple of motherboards, half the case, and a few keyboard replacements). This is OK while plastic costs almost nothing and the manufacturing expenses are also very low. But in future I expect that people will want laptops that can run for years without needing part replacments and which have a service life of 10 years or more. This requirement for strength will counteract the demand for laptops that are as light as netbooks.

3 comments to Predictions for 2009 and Beyond

  • Hello Russel,

    I kind of agree with your predictions. Here in my country (Brazil), we saw an explosion of laptop sales last year. I didn’t followed exactly what happened, but it seems the government launched a program that provided laptop makers some tax reductions.

    People started to realize that they can do almost everything they want from a computer using a smaller and portable computer. Also, although yet at the beginning, we started to see an increase in mobile Internet connections, mainly 3G.

    And then people also realized that they can do most of their basic (mail, online text editing, basic Web surfing) online activities using an itinerant Internet connection.

    Too bad stores here are abusing netbooks popularity and corrupting one of the most attractive features they have, which, in my opinion, is its lower price. Yes, Brazilian stores are selling lots of netbooks models almost for the same price of a “normal” laptop.

    At least for now, most of the netbooks buyers here are geeks which want to familiarize themselves with the concept and explore new technologies. Not because everyone else don’t see a reason for buying a netbook.

    Quite the contrary, they would surely like one, but then the “normal” laptops, which tend to be more powerful machines, are only a couple of dolars away.

  • glandium:

    While your article is old, and there was another similar report about the laptop/netbook sales being outrageously good this christmas season, that doesn’t render his point old/achieved.

    The yearly sales of notebooks v. PCs in the entire year has not yet shifted in favor of notebooks. Russell’s prediction is that it finally will within the next two years.