Flashback: The post-post-PC era – News GSMArena.com
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in 2010, he said the post-PC era was upon us. A few months later, at the D8 conference, Jobs expanded on this, saying that the PCs would stick around, but with a much smaller capacity, saying that “they’re going to be used by one person in X “. Most people will use tablets as their primary computing device.
More than a decade later, it’s clear the PC isn’t going away. The iPad is undoubtedly a very successful product for Apple, but few manage to do serious work on one. Plus, despite an ever-growing list of features, iPad still can’t do everything Macs can.
An iPad Pro pretending to be a MacBook
Speaking of which, Macs have entered a sort of post-PC era. “PC” is a generic term now, but it came from the IBM PC – a microcomputer based on the Intel 8086. It lacked the graphics skills of an Amiga or Macintosh, but became quite popular. Competing companies reverse-engineered the design, creating “PC-compatibles”, which led to the global dominance of the x86 platform.
At the time, Apple used Motorola 68000 processors, which were considered fast until Intel released the Pentium. Apple would switch from Motorola processors to PowerPC processors. Then history repeated itself and Intels outperformed the best PowerPC chips, leading Apple to another platform change, to Intel this time. Recently, the company went through what may be its final platform change by replacing nearly its entire Mac lineup with computers powered by Apple silicon. In this way, Macs – and some iPads – entered a sort of post-PC era.
However, Apple is still quite reluctant to allow iPads to behave like desktop computers. The newer iPad Pros are powered by the same Apple M1 chip found in some Macs, but iPadOS retains that platform. Ironically, macOS can run iOS/iPadOS apps, but the reverse is not true. Thus, the PC – as in a desktop or laptop computer – is always ahead of the tablets.
Other companies had a different approach to the post-PC era – smartphones would replace PCs by becoming PCs. That’s exactly what Microsoft did with Windows Continuum, a feature in Lumia phones that ran a standard Windows 10 desktop environment when connected to an external display. Add a keyboard and mouse and you edit an Excel spreadsheet like the best of them.
While Apple executed its platform transitions flawlessly, Microsoft struggled. Windows RT was an attempt to bring the Windows 8 platform to ARM, but it turned out to be a dud. Windows 10 is much better in this regard because it can run x86 software on ARM hardware – the lack of compatible software has really hindered RT adoption (most software ever written for Windows was x86 based). However, by the time Windows 10 arrived, it was too late for the Lumias and Continuum to have lost their playground.
These days, Microsoft is approaching from the other side – Windows 11 natively supports Android apps. The company has even partnered with Amazon to secure a relatively well-stocked app store. Microsoft has a huge suite of apps for Android and even dabbles in the Android phone occasionally.
Android apps now run on Windows • Android and Windows apps side by side
Not that the Microsoft Surface Duo was particularly successful, nor its sequel. But it’s clear that Windows in a pocket format will remain dead for now. We say this because no one has heard of the Surface Neo for a few years. It was a dual-screen device like the Duo, but it was going to run the now-cancelled Windows 10X instead of Android.
Several other companies have tried the desktop-in-a-pocket concept. Let’s start with Motorola and the Atrix phones.
The Motorola ATRIX was released in early 2011 and was powered by an Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset. It had two Cortex-A9 cores (1.0 GHz), 1 GB of RAM and a GeForce GPU. The phone ran Android 2.2 Froyo out of the box, with Motoblur UI. But that’s not why we’re here.
Two docks promised to turn the ATRIX into a computer. One was the Laptop Dock, a hollowed-out 11.6-inch laptop shell that offered a keyboard, touchpad, speakers and 36Wh battery, along with expanded connectivity (two USB ports -A full size).
When logged in, the phone was running a desktop version of Firefox, with Adobe Flash support. You could browse the modern web – well, as modern as it was in 2011. Add-ons were also supported, so you could extend browser functionality, but you couldn’t install other apps from office. Instead, you were limited to running Android apps on a mirrored version of the phone screen or web apps.
There was also the HD Multimedia Dock, which was intended for desktop use. It offered a mini HDMI port for connecting to an external monitor, three USB ports, and an IR remote. The entertainment center handled media playback and there was a native file browser.
The ATRIX was an ambitious project, just like the docks. But few found the laptop docking station worth its $500 price tag ($300 if you get it with the ATRIX), even the HD docking station wasn’t very popular despite its lower price. of $100. Firefox swallowed the Tegra 2 chip and the software just wasn’t ready. In fact, Android still struggles with resizable apps, so a free-form desktop environment was too much to ask of Froyo.
2011 was quite a year, it also saw the introduction of the Asus EEE Pad Transformer TF101. We have already covered the history of Transformers in detail. It culminated in the Asus PadFone – a phone that could fit into a tablet dock, which in turn could be attached to a keyboard dock. A phone, a tablet, a laptop, all nested like Matryoshka dolls.
The Asus PadFone is the smartphone version of a Matryoshka doll
The phone’s 4.3-inch AMOLED screen (540 x 960 pixels) has been expanded to a 10.1-inch LCD (1280 x 800 pixels). The tablet dock added 6600mAh battery capacity, the keyboard dock added the same amount (the phone itself only had a 1520mAh power cell ).
Okay, why were manufacturers trying to extract a PC experience from smartphones? Look at the Bill of Materials (BOM) for a typical phone. The chipset, RAM, and storage tend to be the most expensive part of the phone. And those are exactly the things the Atrix and Transformer docks ignored. Wireless connectivity components cost nearly as much, and Motorola and Asus were selling always-connected experiences – few laptops then (and now) have built-in mobile data connectivity.
So (some) of the docks had screens and these are also quite expensive. But a docking station still skips 2/3 of the expensive components that go into a laptop. So docks make financial sense, right?
From the manufacturer’s point of view, of course. However, consumers never really bought into the idea. The ATRIX Laptop Docking Station costs as much as an underpowered laptop (and as established, the ATRIX wasn’t a speed demon), so people just bought one.
We live in the future now. Samsung’s DeX – Desktop eXperience – is quite a capable system that offers a proper desktop environment with multiple resizable and overlapping windows. It doesn’t even need a dock most of the time, a lot of newer monitors have a built-in dock, so all you need is a USB-C cable. DeX also works with wireless screen mirroring, so even cable isn’t a strict requirement. And Samsung tablets can run DeX as their native interface, so you don’t even need an external display.
Samsung DeX running on a Galaxy S9
Motorola is back with Ready For, also running on USB-C. Whether you’re using it for productivity or gaming on the big screen, with much faster processors, improved software and services like game streaming, the phone-as-PC concept works better than ever.
Motorola’s new phones with Ready For are the rebirth of the ATRIX
Asus is also back and offering a dizzying variety of docking stations for its ROG phones. Some are focused on gaming like the Twin View Dock 3, others on desktop gaming and productivity like the Mobile Desktop Dock.
Some of the many docks for Asus ROG phones
Huawei also has its own version of a desktop environment, although we don’t see its phones as often as we used to.
Has the post-PC era finally arrived? Only if you wanted to. The thing is, even without needing a docking station, you still need a big screen. If you need to transport it, you can also bring a tablet or a laptop. If you expect to find one on site when you arrive, what if you don’t? Or if there is already a PC (as in most offices)?
Apple M1 chips work on both macOS and iPadOS. Snapdragon chips run Windows, not just Android. The processor, RAM and storage are always among the most expensive components of a smartphone or computer. Those things haven’t changed, but neither have the negatives of life at the dock.
The funny thing is that computers have started to absorb the functionality of smartphones as fast as smartphones are doing the opposite. Instead of one branch of personal computing killing the other, they will likely merge into one all-powerful class of device. We’re not sure what it will look like, but as long as it’s not a Google Glass-style headset, we’d be happy. Foldable phones (and laptops) may be the best option.