Next up, The Uber Device; Handy Too

Those of us who are perpetual travelers are less annoyed than we should be by the “need” to port various devices and their support chargers (or even, worst case, that “universal” charger kit that was devised by a lego exec who went crazy). Many professional Blackberry users have kept their phones. Then the “laptop.” Now the tablet, which may or may not supersede the latter. And that mass of charger wiring that makes every single TSA X-ray look like a, well, we aren’t allowed to joke about them so I had better not say what. I met a top global exec who carries 6 phones/Blackberries. Sigh.

I think we all know where we are headed, even though it tends not to be articulated. One device. One genuinely UV charger (unless by then we have osmosis charging as standard). Serious batteries and backup and all-round resilience (as in, as resilient as my old portable typewriter, which will be worth a million dollars when we get hit with a EMP).

Early adopters help fund R and D. Many devices and types of devices have made a surprisingly brief appearance in the anthropocene. The early “mobile phone” with the size of a carton of milk and the charm of an army field telephone has been successively – and surprisingly subtly – succeeded by smaller, neater, more fashionable, until now we go around clutching supercomputers the size of energy bars whose serious powers we rarely engage. But we do clutch them. Except for those guys (sorry) who look like geeks’ dads and plumbers and wear them on tool belts. . . .

Meanwhile, we have parallel tale of the computer proper. Those of us old enough to remember pre-PC when IBM had yet to get its act together and artifacts like the Sirius preceded the early Apples are aware that the first decade or two of that evolution took their time. Remember “luggables”?

Then we speed forward into the standard “laptop” that is almost never actually on a lap and has held court for more than a decade. Suddenly it’s the netbook. Now the tablet. Now the midi-tablet, as 7 inches becomes the magic number. And my sense is we are getting warm. Not that Moore’s Law will ever leave us alone, but there are device plateaus and we are about to hit one.

Point is: Convergence. When those two wondrous 19th Century inventions, the typewriter and the telephone, finally converge. We shall port one device. It will have it all. The question is when, and exactly how will it meet our many needs?

Here’s my prediction.

1. Voice function is exploding in accuracy and appeal, but I expect Qwerty to be there too, very possibly (yes) with a non-touchscreen option. 

2. Use of new materials (there are already flexible, roll-up displays) will go further and give us flex in screen size.

3. The son or granddaughter of Google Glass will give us micro-display options.

4. Cloud-based storage and fast download will be taken as read (though the latter will still be a problem in places long after we arrive at the single device).

What will we call it? The cab firm has seized Uber. But thinking of Germany, perhaps their curious name for the mobile/cellphone will work for the universal device. Using an English word (which the English have never used of their “mobiles”) they call them handies.

So by when?

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