What will our next laptop need?

I’ve been thinking about getting a new laptop for a while now. The only thing holding me back is actually finding what I want… I’m a “traveling” web developer and designer and I work a lot at flex workspaces. When I get there I try to get a hold of an extra monitor and I’m ready to go. Everything I need should be in my bag… WRONG. I’m finding things I could really use on a daily basis.

I do have a lot of ideas how a new generation of laptops could look like. is it possible? maybe…

The obvious: Touch Screen

Let’s just state the obvious for a bit. We’ve all seen the iPad and the recent smartphones (htc, iPhone, Samsung, Moterola, Nokia) and the success they’ve had as portable devices with a touch screen. I’ve seen laptops with touch screens in the past so isn’t it a good idea to do that with more laptops? I am aware of the ergonomic issues a touch screen has… But you have to admit that it makes a lot of tasks easier and more intuitive. Especially collaborative working on one machine far more intuitive when you can point and touch the screen to interact with something.

I think a touchscreen would be essential for the survival of the laptop as well. More and more people are getting used to touch based devices so more customers want to have that as a feature when looking for a laptop.

Pen interaction

A touch screen is nice and all… but for my work as a designer I need more accuracy. I’ve worked with a Wacom CintiQ once and I really liked it when working on design. If I could have that built into my laptop I would be in laptop heaven. If it is not a Wacom I would be fine with it. But that quality would just be extra

Extended tabletop interaction

Bonfire is a new experiment that adds small projectors to a laptop. These projectors project an extra interface surface where the user can interact on. Techcrunch has a nice article about Bonfire with a video to show how that works. That would be awesome on production laptops!

Touch interface advancements

Touch is something that is really on the rise. A lot of poeple are doing interaction design research into touch interfacing and the way people use them:

Twist and turn: Tablet

With the touch screen I would like to use it as a table. Fold the keyboard out of the way so you can use it as a sketch-pad, reader or any other surface device you would like. It turns your laptop from just a workstation into a multi-functional device.

While I’m at it… Why is the most delicate part of a laptop the least strong? The screen always has been a troublesome area. The amount of macbook’s I’ve seen with a crushed screen… Why don’t we make the screen stronger and put some hardware in it? I am aware that you need a stand that counterbalances the screen for it not to fall over. But it would have some extra room, I’ve seen stuff like that on CES 2010. Put more in the screen and let the keyboard just be a small and thin attachment!

While we’re at it… connect the keyboard with a simple bracket and a usb… Third party keyboards and interchangeable keyboards… The concept of laptop and tablet should merge in an elegant way where the iPad meets the laptop somewhere in the middle… without it becoming a phone ;-).

Plastic fantastic: Solidity

This might be my major problem with current day laptops. they are all made out of soft flexing plastics… But what you need is a sturdy frame to type on and to carry around. IBM used to make ones with iron frames in it, it’s heavy but it is solid as a rock! To go into the 21st century with materials carbon fiber could be a good answer we could all live with.

Conclusion

Basically I think my next laptop will need:

  • can be bought:
    • Touchscreen
    • Pen interaction (basic)
    • Tablet laptop
  • nice to have but not in stores yet:
    • Pen interaction (Wacom quality)
    • Hardware mostly in screen
    • Detachable keyboard
  • not even close to avaliable:
    • Tabletop extended interaction
    • Carbon fiber frame
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