I’m not one to brag, but I’ve been predicting the mobile phone as pocket computer/desktop substitute for over 20 years. I’m kind of surprised it’s taken this long to appear, since the mobile phone has had plenty of power for the last decade.
You can now plug your Windows phone (the Lumia 950 or 950 XL, specifically) into a dock and get three USB ports, as well as HDMI and DisplayPort connections. With this, you use your phone to power a monitor that serves as a second screen, or attach a keyboard and mouse and use it like a PC.
My early vision of the device would have it as a self-contained computer phone with a lot of internal memory. The Microsoft model uses OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage, as part of the equation. The phone’s Wi-Fi and LTE signals provide the Internet connection to stay in touch with the cloud. Smart users will want to keep a hard disk backup nearby for those inevitable moments where the cloud or the Internet fail.
This is all great, yes? Well, there are a couple of obvious problems. The goal of the computer-in-your-pocket idea should be that the mobile device eventually becomes your sole machine and the center of the universe.
We now know that this is impossible and will probably always be impossible. Smartphones are not rugged enough. You lose it and you are out of luck. People constantly drop them in the toilet. If you have everything in the cloud—including all your software and apps—then it becomes a little more workable. But still, the efficiency falls off. No matter how fast your connection, the cloud cannot and will not deliver the speed of local memory, ever.
Let’s look at the math, which has never made sense to me. In the next couple of years Microsoft wants to have 1 billion Windows 10 users. Windows 10 yearns for the Cloud; currently you can get 1TB of storage with Office 365 with promises of even more. That means Microsoft will eventually be obliged to provide at least a terabyte to a billion or more users.
This is the actual promise of the cloud, and it does not add up. A billion terabytes? Invest in Seagate and Western Digital immediately. This also means bandwidth needed to move that billion terabytes back and forth over the public Internet. Really?
We once thought a 1GB hard drive was HUGE. Before that came the legendary non-quote “nobody needs more than 640K.” My first hard disk was 5MB. Yes, things change. It was inconceivable in 1982, when the 10MB hard disk was arriving on the scene, that you could have a terabyte USB flash drive. It would be particularly inconceivable since there was no USB at the time. But 33 years later we have it.
It is going to take another 33 years before the cloud system can handle these new numbers.
What happens exactly when a catastrophic failure occurs and you cannot get to your data or apps for a week? Someone hacks your OneDrive account and erases all your files? It is hard enough to get people to back up their files without the cloud. Now it will be assumed that with OneDrive, Microsoft will be backing up the files somehow. Will it be done in an archive fashion so you can recover your old files after the hacker erases them? More importantly, will they get them back online fast? The maintenance of OneDrive is going to be nightmarish.
Then we have an issue with the software itself. A Windows 10 phone is certainly not running desktop Windows 10 unless the Lumia phones have X86 compatible chips. They don’t. None of the Windows 10 phones are X86 compatible, so do not expect to run Adobe Photoshop on your docked Windows 10 mobile phone anytime soon.
The little phone will be able to hook to a monitor and keyboard and run some browser-based apps and some dumbed-down version of Word and PowerPoint. You’ll be able to keep up with your Facebook buddies and maybe tweet once in a while. Most people can already do the latter without docking the phone.
I’ll be interested to see how this plays out, but I am not expecting a revolution.