Wednesday, 14 August 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Productivity – the final frontier

Those of you who try (used deliberately) to stay up-to-date with the modern technologies, know that the current pace in the “mobile” segment is really fast. This is mostly reflected by the mobile phones and tablets sectors, where each month there is a premiere of yet another super device, powered by the latest CPU/GPU aka SoC (system-on-chip).
And sometimes it begins to look quite trivial. Like the recent announcement by Mediatek (microchip maker) that they are working on a 8-core SoC unit for mobile applications.
You see, most modern PCs and laptops (which actually are PCs but some people think they’re not) are equipped with 4-core (aka quadcore) processors, while 8-core units find their way in more professional machines like servers and graphic workstations.

So are 8 cores really necessary to make a phone call or send a text message?

Well… of course not! Try to think about it like fitting a 500 horse power engine in an every-day-car. Most of the chaps will say “yay!”, but is this much power so important when you want to take your kids to school, or do the groceries, or take your dog to the vet? No. 
And a powerful engine comes at a cost – of purchase and maintenance (like fuel).

Same goes for mobile devices, which again suffer from poor battery life. I write “again” because after the power-hungry cellphones of the early days (‘80/’90) there was an era of super power efficient mobiles, especially Nokia branded, that were able to last 2 weeks on a single charge. Now, with all the big screen smartphones, you feel lucky (or forgotten by the society) if a “charge” last 2 days.

However there is a second part of the story. We all know IBM, and some of us remember a man called Thomas Watson – IBM’s former CEO, who once (in 1943) said: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” So I am far from claiming that 8-core CoSs will never be justified.

Though the big and true problem is productivity

We may have all the GHzs and GBs (RAM and storage) but what are they really good for? Well, fun only, I’m afraid.
Even the modern full HD screens, with so high ppi (pixel per inch) that you need a microscope to see a pixel, and an ongoing acceptance for bigger screen sizes, cannot compensate the fact that all you can do with a smartphone or a tablet, is conduct minor and not very efficient “office works”. Like reading an article / document or editing a rather short message. 

What those gadgets lack are proper input devices (methods). I can already hear many people disagreeing, saying that tablets’ screens are big enough to display a comfortable-size keyboard, applications are optimized to be navigated with finger touches etc. Right.

But I’ll come back to the key word – productivity. You can build a car by yourself, with sweat and blood, and probably a nervous breakdown somewhere along the way. But you can also employ a set of well-developed equipment to help you out. The same is with our everyday business lives – you have a job to do and in your best interest is to do it efficiently and quickly. Although the average human lifespan is getting longer, we are spending more and more time working and not necessarily enjoying our lives.

I own a set of devices – smartphones and tablets, running iOS, Android and Windows 8 Pro and they are more or less rubbish for any office work unless you connect a proper keyboard and a pointing device (aka mouse). The only people who may disagree are teenage fanboys, that never prepared a professional presentation, chart or analysis not to mention any graphics. 
When the iPhone was being designed one of the objectives was to make it usable without any stylus. Really so brilliant? Try working on any of the Samsung Galaxy Note devices with their S Pens – you will see the difference!  

And the paradox continues when you take a look at the mobile devices’ prices. A smartphone with the latest 4-core SoC and 2 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage will cost you ca. $600 (no contract). And what you get is a gadget that can play music, videos and Angry Birds. You can also check your e-mail and write maybe a tweet, because a longer document would make you pull your hair out, sooner or later. 

And for nearly the same amount of money you can get a decent laptop with a proper OS. A piece of equipment designed to provide environment for accomplishing the tasks that earn you money.

So will we ever see a truly productive computing device that fits in a pocket? Of course we will! As soon as someone invents a way to efficiently control such a gadget with our thoughts.

Best of luck with that!

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