The divide between mobile and PC application use cases and experiences still seems fairly broad. Even today there are application use cases more suited for mobile devices, such as location based apps, while others more suited for a PC, like performance computing. However with Ultrabooks, developers do have an opportunity to close on that divide and create a new set of applications experiences that marry the best of mobile and PC.
We have all seen and experienced mobile devices and the application growth over the last few years. While the growth is staggering that does not mean mobile is displacing the PC. The fact remains PC's are still a required device for those doing business, productivity, and or creative work. I personally attend a lot a mobile trade shows and I ask about this frequently. Not that I'm a scientific sample, but thus far I'm yet to find a student, a real estate agent, a digital artist, a developer, or an accountant who doesn't use a PC to get their core work and tasks completed.
But mobile is a force, and computing is evolving. The gap between mobile and PC has started to narrow. Cloud services and hybrid mobile devices are bridging the gap between mobile and PC computing use cases. If you own a recent iPhone you know Apple's cloud solutions allows you to synch your mobile device with purchases made on other iOS devices, as well as allowing you to update your phone OS without connecting to a PC. I now go months without having to connect my iPhone to a PC. It is nearly an independent computing device. Also the Asus Transformer allows a desktop mode with a keyboard providing you a better experience for authoring and creating content when in desktop mode. However adding a desktop mode and cloud services to mobile devices do not entirely bridge the gap. The divide is still pretty far, only allowing for minimal PC use cases on mobile devices.
There are still many use cases and scenarios either best suited for mobile or for PC, and not yet well suited for either. However, Ultrabooks could change. Below is my own sample on what use cases and software tasks are best suited for either a mobile vs PC device.
Tasks suited for mobile, difficult for PCs
- At the moment computing: Accessing SMS, social media, and simple photo editing at or seconds after taking photos are all tasks that are easy to do on a mobile device because they are instant on devices, light weight and convenient enough for you to have at hand wherever you to do tasks at an instant and in the moment
- Location aware computing: With GPS mobile devices can be aware of where they are in the world makes sense of that for various application use cases
- Human gesture computing: Touch interfaces and sensor have allowed for mobile devices to interact with applications is a more natural way, allows app interfaces and controls to be more intuitive and enjoyable to use.
- Anywhere data and cloud access: Smartphones allow an always connected experience to data services, allowing them to rarely be restricted to online and cloud services. With mobile you don't need to think about computing when your are connected, it is a natural inclination to get access to online data and services whenever and wherever you want.
- Apps on demand – because mobile devices are paired with apps stores, getting access to the software you need for any given tasks is easy, and allows users to consider discreet and impulse software purchases and downloads
Tasks suited for PC, difficult for mobile
- Authoring: Creative writing and blogging are possible on mobile devices but not ideal. These tasks usually require a devices that has keyboard and mouse features to more tactically and precisely type and edit text.
- Creative production: Video editing, photo editing, app development are more ideal for PC because the precision controls, processing, screen size, and disk space make these experience more suited for PC
- Business / Enterprise: Presentation creation editing, spreadsheet & financial applications and other business related applications are more suited for PC which have keyboards, mice, large screens and processing to manage business needs
- Performance Computing / Graphics: Apps and games that require performance computing such as CakeWalk, Call of Duty, AutoCAD, are out of reach for mobile devices because of the processing power required for these applications.
- File system access: Many applications and many websites still require access to file systems. The ability to upload and download files is a feature avoided on many mobile applications and a restrict many use cases for these applications when using a mobile device. Even with cloud computing the need for discreet local storage for storage, downloading, uploading and management of a variety of file types is still a valid application scenario
Now with Ultrabooks we have a blending of both mobile and PC capabilities and functions. Ultrabooks allow on always connected computing, near instant on access to computing and with second generation Ultrabooks we will also have touch, sensors, GPS, allowing for Ultrabooks to take on many of the mobile use cases and scenarios. Don't get me wrong, Ultrabooks may not be the one device to rule them all. Form factor alone will not allow for Ultrabooks to fit in your pocket and displace the smartphone space, however it is possible that Ultrabooks could provide a more comprehensive computing experience for mid to large size mobile device space.
With Ultrabooks, there is an unique opportunity to more broadly leverage use cases and scenarios from both the mobile and PC lists above. And it will be up to software and app developers to create new application experiences that combine elements from these lists. Perhaps there's a new app use case for file system access coupled with at the moment computing. Or just maybe there are unique app experiences to be had that combine performance computing/graphics with location aware capabilities.
So for our developers out there, know that you are in the driver seat. Consider these use cases, consider how to marry and bridge the best of mobile and the best of PC. While there is likely to always be a large market for discreet devices to do specific tasks best, having a device and software that allows you to do it all is something I can't wait for.
If you have additional thoughts and experiences please reach out to me on Twitter @bobduffy and or share them by responding in our comments section.