Laptops are falling behind tablet, smartphone in social-networking era. Apple, others will likely address this more aggressively as it becomes clear that old laptop paradigm no longer works.
Market researcher Gartner released a research note Thursday claiming that laptops are not meeting the demands of the social-networking era. So, will mobile PCs become more like the Xoom and the iPad, which are, in turn, larger versions of the smartphone? In a word, yes.
This theory--or fact, depending on how you look at it--can also be restated as the post-PC era, which is the Apple marketing-spin corollary to the Gartner argument.
But let's stick to Gartner's analysis about the unsuitability of laptops in the social-networking era. Here are the most significant points in the note about the average mainstream laptop:
What this means is more laptops need to be like the 11.6-inch MacBook Air: very light, very thin--just like a tablet and, by extension, like a smartphone.
Though small laptops aren't for everybody, more people will gravitate to this style as companies like Apple upgrade to powerful silicon like Intel's low-voltage Sandy Bridge processor (and its future Ivy Bridge chip) and upcoming power-efficient chips from Advanced Micro Devices.
And don't count out a clamshell MacBook--or a variation on that theme--sporting a future Apple A6 processor or an HP laptop packing a Qualcomm chip.
In the more immediate future, this trend stipulates that Apple seriously consider built-in 3G/4G capability in the next version of the Air, as an Apple survey about 3G in a future MacBook Air seems to indicate the company is doing. As always, battery life would need improvement too.
So, what about the Netbook, you might ask. That delivered on mobility but not--until recently--on long battery life, nor on standard 3G. Nor, most importantly, on adequate performance (for a laptop that would serve as someone's everyday machine). The Netbook was ahead of its time but has always been hampered by Intel's too-specific ideas about what a Netbook should and should not be.
For better or worse, it's going to take a company like Apple to take the lead in redefining the high-mobility laptop. With help, of course, from companies like Hewlett-Packard and Sony--the HP Pavilion dm1z and Sony Y series, respectively, are a good start.
A $999 MacBook Air with 3G/4G and monthly broadband plans similar to those of the iPad? That's another good start. Any takers?