Monday, December 08, 2008

Convergence of the Cell Phone and the Laptop

This quote is from a story speculating on the possibility of Apple releasing a netbook or tablet computer - a product somewhere between an iPhone and a MacBook. There's been and I'm sure will continue to be lots of chatter about this unannounced and as yet unconfirmed device, but I'm interested in the implications of this quote. So what we're seeing is processors for cell phones getting increasingly more powerful - to the point that they can run a full blown OS on a tablet/laptop/netbook form factor. At the same time, the power consumption of traditional tablet/laptop/netbook processors (Intel, AMD, etc) is dropping - to the point that these chips could find their way into cell phones. I see three possible results. First, we could see an entire new class of devices - powerful, low power ultraportables with fullscale OSs. Second, we start to see cell phones with greater capabilities and feature sets - to some degree we are already seeing this. And finally, we'll start to ultraportable notebook-class devices - again already happening with netbooks. All three trends seem to be gaining traction at the same time. Sort of a convergence to the center. The problem with the second and third approach is that in each case it's one device (a cell phone or a laptop) trying to masquerade as something entirely different. If Apple is indeed working on an entirely new class of device - it could have the advantage of defining this new center. Time will tell. Apple's netbook/tablet to be based on ARM Cortex architecture?
ARM and Intel are doing battle because they are encroaching on each other's turf in much the same way that Verizon and Time Warner are in the Cable/Phone/Internet space. ARM is getting fast enough to build a netbook while Intel is getting miserly enough in power to be put into a phone. 2009 will be a huge face-off between the two in this field.

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