The Distinction Is Blurring

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-05-28 Print this article Print

In fact, the distinction between netboook and laptop computers may have already disappeared. Some analysts, including Mathias, already lump them together. Tablets, likewise, may be morphing into notebook computers more than supplanting them. The touch screen and multitouch technology that's already being used on the iPad and on a variety of smartphones is pretty much a sure thing for laptop computers. Touch screens have been around for years, and so have tablets that can switch between being laptop computers and using touch-sensitive screens. The biggest difference that's on the horizon will be the adoption of some of the technologies that have seen success in the tablet and mobile world. For example, Apple's iPad uses the same operating environment as its iPod Touch. HP's rumored Hurricane tablet may use Palm's WebOS. These new environments will also bring their user interfaces and media display capabilities.

Another area that's already making the transition from mobile devices to notebook computers is solid state storage. While rotating hard disks will clearly be around for a while because of their low price and high capacity, their days in the world of mobile computers, including laptops, are numbered. Solid state disks are immune from the moderate shocks of daily mobility, and also use less power, which in turn allows for greater battery life. Some netbook computers and a few notebook computers already offer solid state storage as an option, but rapid growth in that area is held back by the cost of providing large capacity solid state storage. While the cost will certainly change in the near future, solid state storage is still a ways out of the general run of portable computers.

In the shorter term, however, it's starting to look like a few of the trends that are already showing up in consumer laptop computers have started to make their way into the enterprise as well. In addition, notebook computers will diversify even more than they already have, with desktop and workstation replacement devices becoming more common. In addition, according to Carol Hess-Nickels, HP's director of Worldwide Business Notebook Marketing, you're going to see big changes in industrial design.

Hess-Nickels said that new business notebooks will feature a variety of colors, but in addition will be thinner and lighter than what we're used to seeing. Taking a page from the netbook approach, she said that optical drives for laptop computers will become optional to save weight. She also said that durability is growing in importance, and that more laptop computers will feature metal cases. Hess-Nickels also pointed out that enterprise notebooks will need to feature a long lifecycle (the reason for the emphasis on durability) and security features such as built-in encryption and biometric sensors.

Communications, both within the enterprise and externally, is growing in importance for laptop computers, and while wide area wireless support is already part of some laptops, it's a feature that will be growing. The wireless capabilities will include GPS functionality that will enable GIS software and will also help in recovering lost or stolen devices. Hess-Nickels said that battery life is improving to as much as 24 hours between charges with new processors and better battery technology.

And tablets will come to the enterprise but will supplement rather than supplant laptop computers. They will be very important to health care, insurance and education, and to some extent will provide capabilities similar to the iPad while retaining the capability to be a secure, functioning enterprise device.

There is, of course, a series of improvements you may not see in the new laptop and tablet computers to come. Hess-Nickels said that HP is trying to satisfy the business needs to be as environmentally sensitive as possible, an effort that's becoming common in enterprise notebook computers. She said this includes building machines that are recyclable, are free of environmental contaminants such as mercury and are manufactured in an environmentally sound manner.


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel