It’s no secret that the modern day smartphones are overtaking the desktop’s dominance as the primary gateway to the Internet and for media consumption. Smartphones have become users’ most important device driven in part by the rise of cloud computing. It looks like the only reason to use a computer is for work-related tasks, but that too won’t last long.
Today we hold more powerful devices in our hands than ever before. Our data is already on the device, but it’s also synced to the cloud. So it’s only natural to use our smartphones as desktop computers whenever we need to be productive and get the job done. I simply plug my Galaxy S8 Plus into my Samsung’s DeX docking station, which is also connected to a large screen and peripherals, to deliver an enhanced productivity experience than what’s possible with my smartphone’s tiny screen. That way I can get most of my work done just like with Windows 10 Continuum. There are also other Android Distros (Roms) out there, like Remix Singularity supporting this feature…
Of course it’s not the best alternative to my MacBook Pro because I don’t have all my professional tools (Photoshop, SketchApp, Final cut pro, Xcode etc) for my Android device. But I think it’s only a matter of time until professional tools will be available for ARM-based devices. At least we have Microsoft Office and a lot of productive apps for most Android users. After all, not everyone is a UX designer or a professional video editor.
Design solves problems
Today, more than ever before, we can say that desktop computers won’t be around forever. Hence, most of us have a powerful device in our pockets, and it is already productive and makes our lives easier, even at work! So nowadays smartphones are powerful enough to run productive and creative applications, and most of today’s operating systems are already designed to scale and adapt to all screen sizes (responsive design) out there: Smartphones, Tablets, PCs, Consoles, TVs, IoT, and MR/AR/VR devices.
Hardware is not a barrier anymore
Until recently, Linux (and most of the Distros) was the only OS you could install on most of the devices and computers that support for X86 and ARM CPU architectures. But thanks to Android Open Source Project (AOSP) we’ve seen more and more devices and even computers running Android.
Just like Linux and Android, Windows 10 will soon be able to run on ARM processors and emulate traditional desktop (X86) applications. It even runs full Office Suite. And if that’s not enough, you can even run the full version of Adobe’s Photoshop on top of ARM devices running Windows 10. So in the near future, Windows Universal Platform (UWP) will be installed on all kind of devices (Mobile, HoloLens, Xbox, Surface, IoT, etc) and will share the same Eco-system: one SDK, one Windows store, and it will even make developers’ lives easier, they’ll have to develop once, and their apps will be available for all Windows 10 devices.
Smartphones will even replace your PC at work
There have been many hybrid devices from different manufacturers who tried to do that, transforming phones into tablets, and even to laptops, and there were even weirder “Frankenstein” devices in the past.
But as I said, thanks to Microsoft’s Windows 10 Continuum, Samsung DeX, and Jide’s Remix Singularity (Unofficial Android OS), soon you’ll be able to use your smartphone as a desktop computer! Not to mention, today we have so many Cloud applications (SaaS), Streaming services, and Web apps for work related tasks, that even if there’s no native application for your platform, you can still get the job done.
Windows — Windows 10 Continuum:
Android — Samsung Galaxy DeX:
Android — Remix Singularity:
Apple — Hmmm…?
OK, let’s talk about Apple!
As I mentioned in my previous articles (Part 1 and Part 2), a new patent by Apple made public few months ago, suggests that Apple is exploring the Modular concept of turning an iPhone into a “Brain” that powers a MacBook device. So it looks like they are already working on some sort of solution for their Eco-System. But nobody knows what Apple is actually working on… Well, I believe that they are trying different concepts. I won’t be surprised if one day they will ditch macOS in order to make iOS their primary “Cross-Platform OS”, and I won’t be surprised even if they are thinking about merging iOS and macOS in order to support legacy desktop apps (for backward compatibility, just like Microsoft is doing with x86 emulation for ARM devices). But if we’ll get one OS (AppleOS?) for all of our devices, it would be awesome! And in case they are working on modular devices, I expect two scenarios:
- An iPhone that turns into a MacBook and iPad (with iPhone as its brain).
- A MacBook that turns into an iPad by detaching the screen from the base.
Just to clarify, a “Cross-Platform OS” can work both ways:
Once the UI is Adaptive and the OS supports both x86 and ARM (with x86 emulation for legacy desktop apps) then we‘ll be able to buy the modular device we need!
1 — Buy an iPhone and turn it into a MacBook
With special accessories to turn your iPhone into a MacBook, and also into an iPad, powered by your iPhone. As shown in my concept video.
2 — Buy a Modular MacBook / iPad
Detach the screen from your MacBook’s base and it turns into an iPad! The UI automatically adapts itself and changes to Tablet-Mode (iPad UI). And even if you’ll buy an iPad without the base, you can use it as a Mac — simply by connecting your Smart Keyboard, or any other Bluetooth Mouse and Keyboard and the UI automatically changes to Desktop-Mode. With x86 emulation, you’ll be able to run any desktop App (Photoshop, 3D Studio, Sketch, etc).
And yes, I like the first scenario! Well, until Mixed-Reality (MR/AR) devices (glasses and contact lenses) will replace our smartphones and computers… ;)
Guidelines for Designers and Developers:
Prepare yourself, know the rules. For additional guidelines click here.
- Microsoft: Windows Universal Platform (UWP)
- Google: Android Material Design (And soon maybe Fuchsia OS?)
- Canonical: Ubuntu Convergence (They’ve canceled the project)
- Apple: Well, iOS is designed for iPhones & iPads only, and macOS is designed for Macs only, (as for now)…
If you enjoyed this, read my other articles:
Apple, it’s time to merge iOS with macOS
The differences between VR, AR & MR
iOS11 UX on the iPhone 8 (Concept)
Apple is going to reinvent the modular computer
Cross-Platform UX Guidelines (for Devs & Designers)
UX Vs. Cyber-security — Where we draw the line?
Design Thinking as a framework for Innovation
Lifehacks for Productive reading!
Originally published at StartUX by Avi Barel, on August 14, 2017