I spent a couple hours procrastinating today, and, as is often the case, started surfing the web.  Mainly Hacker News as it’s pretty much replaced every other news source in my life. (Crowd-sourced technology-centric news, with brilliant, engaging discourse on each item?  Yes please!)  Today brought me to an article by Max Klein, originally about his wondering what do with $24k made in a single month on the iPhone App Store, then to an interesting suggestion to Apple about their flagship iPhone.  Basically, add a mini-DVI (or mini-DisplayPort, whatever) output so you can view your phone on your giant 24″ computer monitor.  Applications would have two interfaces — one for the phone, and another scaled-up for an external monitor.

While thinking about a world where this was possible, my imagination took over:

  1. Having two interfaces is inherently awkward, especially when one is on a touch-screen and the other controlled with a mouse and keyboard.  I learned this the hard way while trying to “fix” a simple website to work properly on iOS. A shared, alternative input method (voice recognition?  Neuron readings? I digress) would help.  Or why not just have cheaper, largish (by today’s standards) multi-touch-capable monitors?
  2. What about a pocket-sized projector that plugs into your phone?  Then, you have the processor (the “brain”) and a large display, both of which are completely portable.  Perhaps we’ll have white 4×4 squares painted every 100 yards on every building, wall and home to facilitate projection.  Applications these days are increasingly “cloud-based,” meaning they live on servers rather than on the devices themselves, so as long as there’s connectivity, the functionality will be (already is) there.  The only thing missing is the transformative input device, as keyboards and mice obviously won’t work (and when you think about it, are laughably outdated).
  3. It would pretty much make the personal computer obsolete.  I’m not saying nobody would sell PCs anymore, but for most users, those who just use the web and email, there’s really no point in having an electronic device other than your “smartphone” (which, in this case, would desperately require a new name).  We’re already seeing this with the iPad.  Current laptops may be the hardest hit, as the only real use for a separate device is for “work” purposes (photo/film/media creation, design, programming, etc.), and you might as well have some beefy hardware (think towers) for power and speed.  With further hardware advancements, even phones as we know them will be capable of performing “real work.”

Realistically, personal computers and laptops will still have their place for a few years to come, but their market share will dwindle drastically as smartphones become ubiquitous. This will be especially true in poorer countries (which have effectively already skipped the personal computer era).  It seems that the next big technology disruptions will be enabled from two things:  improved batteries and an intuitive, portable input device.