BW on the Future of Computing

Business Week has a special report:

In the next decade the PC will finally morph from a beige-box bomb to a thing of beauty. The first hint of bigger changes to come emerged with Apple’s nifty iMac, the all-in-one with a swinging flat-panel display on a crane-like extender arm. In the past year, the PC industry has unveiled a plethora of new looks and out-there concept computers that radically depart from the dominant big-paperweight model.

Displays will come untethered from CPUs and will wander all over the house receiving rapid data streams over wireless Wi-Fi connections. Laptops will transform from the rectangular sameness to incorporate new shapes that could resemble a PDA, a portfolio, or even a magazine. Want that PC in hot pink and in the shape of an orb? No problem, the PC factory of the future will personalize a mold for you and fit components to match.

These PCs will be the beneficiaries of a new wave of engineering in every aspect — from newfangled display technology to better takes on battery life to improved storage vaults. Look no further than the dazzling displays now under development. Old-style CRT monitors were deadweights and dead uses of space. Today’s displays are flatter, thinner, and lighter, thanks to LCD technology. But the next generation will be even better. Think plastic displays that you can roll up and put in a tube or tack up on a refrigerator.

How about the old warhorse, the disk drive? It’s poised to undergo a set of technology shifts that, although evolutionary in nature, will have the revolutionary effect of providing massive storage capability exceeding a terabyte in the average home PC within a decade.

That’s enough to handle tens of thousands of high quality MP3s or hundreds of feature-length movies. That compares to 80 to 100 gigabytes that are the standard today, an amount that’s far too small to handle the approaching tidal wave of rich recorded media such as high-definition TV, which sucks up 20 gigabytes of memory in a single hour’s recording.

Add it all up, and you have an industry that’s not unlike a caterpillar that’s about to turn into a vibrant silicon-powered butterfly. In this special report we explore these possibilities and give you an inside look at what the future holds for the personal computer by detailing the innovation path for key areas such as design, displays, storage, and batteries. Advances in all of these categories and more will conspire to make the PC one of the most dynamic players in the electronics segment in the coming decade.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.