It’s hard to believe how far the personal computer has come in such a short space of time. From room sized coding machines to the sleek, powerful modern pc’s we enjoy today, the leap in sophistication is enormous.
Early computers were also enormous, frequently burned out, and were prone to actual bugs (hence the name computer bug). In the late 50s, the switch from valves to transistors facilitated a smaller computer; this downsizing occurred again several years later with the introduction of the microchip.
By the mid-80s, computers had taken over the world, and the rest is history.
Now, here we sit in 2019, awaiting another release from Microsoft or Apple, ever hungry for the latest and greatest in laptop design. We are used to yearly updates that promise faster components, brighter screens, better battery life.
But Is it realistic to expect exponential upgrades to the laptop? Or has the current design hit a wall? The laptop, as we know it hasn’t changed much since its inception, with a familiar layout, honed and perfected through countless upgrades and revisions. With exciting developments on the horizon, what can we expect to see in the future of laptops?
Battery life is a major selling point for laptops, computers like Microsoft’s surface laptop 3 have incredible battery life, promising over 11 hours of use. The surface 3 is not the only laptop with the juice to go for a whole day, with the entire Surface range offering similar stamina. Eleven hours of use is awesome by today’s standards, but what about future laptops?
Emerging battery technologies could change the laptop design forever. A big limitation in current lithium-ion battery technology is the lithium. Lithium is hard to mine and very toxic, replacing lithium with a cheaper, less dangerous material could mean cheaper, greener laptops.
Replacing lithium as the electrode material can not only save on cost but weight too, with Chinese researches finding success with aluminum, reporting a %50 percent decrease in weight over standard lithium, as well as a higher energy density.
While weeklong battery life mightn’t be a reality now, in five years, we could see thinner, lighter batteries with huge increases in energy density. Any significant increase in battery power will enable manufacturers to increase performance of the processors, RAM, etc.
How much more performance do we need? A razor-thin laptop like the Microsoft Surface laptop 3 can render complex 3d environments and editing high resolution video, what more could anyone want? For any computer geek, more power is always a must. We will see an increase in performance not because we need it, but because we demand it.
A limitation in mobile performance has always been thermal efficiency. Thin wedges of silicon and gold get very hot when crunching numbers fast, and when they have little to nothing in the way of a cooling system, thermal throttling will occur.
Perhaps future laptops will see more efficient cooling materials, coupled with advanced power management software, for maximum performance with minimal heat and noise.
Cloud based computing.
We are all familiar with ‘the cloud’, whether it be iCloud or Google drive, cloud-based storage is an established and popular technology. In the future we may see data being not just stored but processed via a cloud. Cloud based computing would revolutionize the way we use computers.
Imagine being able to perform complex tasks or play the latest games at the highest settings on a device smaller than your wallet. Cloud based computing relies on technologies that have yet to see prominence, but the future looks promising.
Modern laptops have 4k screens, OLED technology, and amazingly sensitive touch functionality. So, what’s next? Flexible and foldable screens seem to be emerging as the hot new design, with most major brands demonstrating a variation in this technology.
A foldable screen would afford a laptop or mobile device twice the screen real-estate for the same physical footprint. Imagine being able to share a movie with a room of people by folding out your laptop screen. These technologies are here now, but what the future?
Who knows what technology we will see in five years’ time. Future screens could emulate texture or temperature, giving as new ways to interact, or could be done away with altogether, with optical implants sending images directly to our eyes.
Modern life and technology have become inseparable; it is reasonable to assume that moving forward, our relationship with technology will only deepen. With advancements in biometrics, future laptops may be able to recognize not just our face and voice, but our moods and feelings.
It is doubtful we will see a vast leap in artificial intelligent in the next five years, but the possibility of an intelligent being ‘living’ in your laptop isn’t as far fetched as it seems. Google Assistant and Alexa have already shown us the benefits of a virtual assistant, perhaps in the future we will have virtual friends too.
The laptop becomes a relic.
One day your grandkids may laugh at your old Microsoft surface laptop 3. They may ask what a laptop was, and what I was used for. Computers have become smaller and smaller, is it so hard to imagine computers small enough to fit inside your body?
In the future, there may be no need for laptops; computers may have become so advanced that we can control them by thought. Who knows? In the future there might be no need for money, wouldn’t that be nice?
Predicting the future is always fun, especially if you hold hope for an amazing new generation of computers. Will the laptop see significant changes soon? For me, it’s doubtful. It’s more likely that we will see further incremental improvements on the traditional design until materials sciences have advanced.
The biggest hurdle for the future of laptops, and perhaps for the future of all portable technology is battery technology. Promising advancements are being made and maybe, in the next five years, we will see the future of the laptop take shape.