Thinner, Better, Faster: Laptops


It's happening. It's finally happening: thinner, better, faster laptops. Apple has been leading the way for years, and now Windows laptops are finally getting thinner, better, faster, less porty, and more desirable.

The old days

Remember the old days? Those old days, when your laptop was a brick, or when your laptop was a complete novelty item, only able to do a fraction of the tasks of your desktop computer?

What about laptop-only accessories, like the PCMCIA card slot, a credit-card sized port that enabled you to add more ports, like FIrewire, USB-A, Ethernet, or SCSI to your laptop.

Ah, the good old days, when your laptop was heavy, only out-weighed by its power supply. When screens were small and low resolution, when keyboards were clicky, when trackpads were tiny and didn't work most of the time, and when wired mice ruled the desk.

The old days, when plugging in your white plastic original-generation iPod with click-wheel to your multi-coloured plastic MacBook was both fun and excruciating.

The old days, when Windows 95 crashed more often than it worked, usually when you desperately needed to print or save something important.

The current state of laptops

For the last ten years, roughly 2007 to 2017, Windows laptops have been exactly the same. Black or grey, with a bad keyboard, bad trackpad, bad display, warm power pack, horrible webcam, achingly-painful speakers, almost-useless microphones, slow processors, and bad bad bad software.

So, you've finally gotten your dream job and you can work from home two days a week. Yay!

You fire up Skype and call-in to the staff meeting. Ouch. The webcam sucks, the audio is terrible, you can't hear them for the background noise, and they can't hear you because your laptop's microphone can only hear you discretely eating popcorn.

The video freezes on an awkward shot of your co-worker, Sandra, sneezing, while someone else is writing on the whiteboard. The video returns to the shot of the whiteboard. You can't see what they're writing, the blur is awful, and the focus seems to be locked on the red pen at the bottom of the tray.

At last, the staff meeting ends, and someone forgets to turn off the webcam. You've got a great close-up of someone's coffee cup. You disconnect, and breathe a sigh of relief.

Looking over the poor state of your reasonably-new laptop, you wonder what went wrong. You spent money on this thing. It's mostly-plastic, the USB-A ports are outdated, the HDMI port contains the only piece of metal you can see, the power cord is getting frayed, and you wonder if your children will even want to attempt to use it for school work when you hand-it-down in the next six months (or the next five minutes).

Your 2015 Windows laptop has a power cord, three USB-A ports, a HDMI port, an Ethernet port, a DVD drive, mic and headphone jacks, an SD card reader, keyboard, trackpad, display, webcam, internal microphone, a hard drive, 8GB of RAM, and produces enough latent heat to warm your coffee.

Early 2018

It's a new dawn, there's a new sheriff i town, and he's gorgeous. His name is Robert, and he walks briskly through your open plan office to his glamourous glass prison in the corner suite. He never seems upset or distracted, he always gets his monthly bonus, and VIP Care is washing his Audi in the car park every Tuesday.

How does he do it?

Well, the first thing you notice is the Apple logo on his new laptop. You realise that he lives on an alternate plane of existence, where catered lunches and endless chai latte's propel him and his ilk toward a life of quiet superiority.

When his iPhone dings gently, he answers it with a lively greeting. When your Android phone vibrates is guts out, you want to throw it on the floor and stomp all over it.

When his new presentation works flawlessly on the projector in the boardroom during a sales meeting, making him look like a genius, you just can't take it any longer.

As Robert drives home in his immaculately-vacuumed Audi, to his three-level home on the golf course, you make a decision to murder that thieving.... no, wait, you can't do that.

You're going shopping for a new laptop.

Mid 2018

The salesman at the computer store looks happy today. You wonder why. Looking around the showroom, you realise everything is on sale, 15% to 30% off the normal price, and you realise that smug salesman is loving it, looking forward to his commission, and spending it all on donuts, coffee, and playing PUBG on his Xbox when he gets home, while you're trying to remember how to make toast for dinner.

After a chat with a polite and not so brainy salesperson, who tried to twist your arm in to buying now, you seek out the timid, nerdy, guy, with the expensive glasses, who actually knows there are different speeds of RAM inside these computers.

You explain to your new friend that Robert at the office always wins, but you don't want an Apple computer, because all your work is held captive inside Windows software.

Stan, the man with the plan and the expensive glasses, knows exactly what you need. He suggests you want another 4 weeks, until all the new next-generation computers are released, featuring powerful new Intel and AMD processors, Nvidia and Radeon graphics, butterlyflex keyboards, precision trackpads, USB-C ports, and impossibly-thin metal enclosures. He recommends you choose between a new Zbook or a Surface, but if you're concerned by the budget, go for a convertible PC similar to a Surface, from a different manufacturer.

Right, you've got all the information you need, but you're still none-the-wiser about what to buy.

Zbook. Surface. Convertible. Something.

TV has the answer.

Over the next four weeks, you're bombarded by advertising. Someone somewhere knows you visited that computer store. Every waking moment, you're faced with 20% off an old PC or asked to wait for a new PC.

While supervising the children as they watch The Simpsons, your attention is dragged back to the TV every time an ad for a laptop comes on, amid endless insurance advertising - health insurance, funeral insurance, life insurance...

Carefully watching the laptop adverts over the next four weeks, you decide you like the look and the price of Stan's recommended HP Zbook.

Every weekend, you visit the computer store, striking up an intelligent conversation with your new friend Stan, asking whether you'll ever actually use VR for your AR and MR presentation at the real estate office, and whether you need to convince your boss to buy an Oculus Rift or a HTC Vive.

Somewhere in between abbreviations, contractions, and mis-pronounciations, you find out from Stan that your shiny new laptop will be in-store at the end of the month, with an attractive new finance plan to make it so easy to buy.

The day as come

At last, the day has come, and you're armed and ready. You've got your ID and your finance information, and you're ready to buy that new Zbook. You enter the store and Stan sees you walking straight for him. Suddenly panicked, Stan tries to remain calm. He hasn't actually sold anything to anyone for a long time. People usually take his advice then buy from the other salespeople.

You buy your new laptop, take it home, and sit down, with a pair of scissors, wondering where to start.

Gently unwrapping your new laptop, taking it out of the box, and setting it on the table, you plug in the power cord, and turn it on. A gently 'ding' reminds you of Robert's iPhone. You know you've made the right choice.

Unpacking your shiny new mouse, plugging it in to charge the internal rechargeable battery, you realise that you can stop buying batteries at the Two Dollar Shop now.

On the bright new display, the manufacturer's logo shines, then is replaced by the Windows logo. A lovely lady called Cortana speaks to you from your PC, and guides you through setting up your new laptop, and connecting to the internet. You download and install Office, and any other software you need for work. Windows finds your printer and installs its drivers, all by itself. You plug in your Android phone, and discover that Microsoft now loves Android phones, and replaces all the harsh dongs and bongs with gentle new Apple-esque tings.

After a coffee, you realise everythings has adequate battery power now, and you unplug it and put it on your side table in front of the TV. Windows finds your Samsung TV, and asks if you want to extend your desktop. Yes, why not. Suddenly, with a gentle chime, everything on your computer screen is now on your big screen TV. You can finally bash Robert over the head at your next sales meeting.

Striding confidently in to work on Monday, you set about creating the perfect PowerPoint presentation. Everything works just fine. Nothing crashed. You're impressed.

Entering the sales meeting, everyone wonders why the Z on your Zbook stands for.

Emily opens the meeting, then Glenn goes over your targets for the month. Everything slowly dies. Someone calls the IT guy to reset everything. The chocolate cookies disappear. Suddenly it's your turn. You place your new laptop on the lecturn, open the lid, and everything magically connects - the projector, speakers, internet, and more; and you note that you've got hours and hours of battery life in reserve. Your presentation works perfectly. Even Robert is impressed.

Gliding through the month ahead, you easily meet your targets. Your customers are happy. Your boss is happy. Robert is not quite jealous yet, but still thinks he is better than you, because his laptop is an Apple.

By the end of the second month, your targets are in the rear-view mirror, and your extra commission has paid for your new laptop. All is good. You decide to go to the car park and get that Valet guy to wash your car.

Glamourous new Windows laptops

Expect an onslaught of new Windows laptops with the following features:

  • Long battery life

  • New Intel or AMD processors

  • New Nvidia or Radeon integrated dedicated graphics processors

  • Minimum of 16 GB of RAM

  • No USB-A ports

  • Two to four USB-C ports

  • One to four Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C ports

  • A slim power pack that charges your laptop over a USB-C connection

  • Webcam, microphone, far field microphones, precision trackpads, good speakers

  • New generation keyboards with all kinds of fancy buzz-words attached

  • Wireless Display options for connecting to monitors, TVs and projectors

  • Bluetooth Version 5, for connecting to mice, phones, tablets, external speakers, and accessories

  • Wifi with 802.11ac or 802.11ad; and Wake-on-LAN features that actually work as advertised

  • Thin, light, durable, metallic enclosures, for laptops and convertibles

  • Mysterious included software that works brilliantly with your Android phone and Android tablet

Exciting new Windows Hubs and Monitors

OK, well, they're exciting to the IT guy in your office.

By the end of 2018, expect one of two things:

  • a Thunderbolt Dock on your desk, or

  • a Thunderbolt Dock built in to the back of your new large-screen monitor.

A Thunderbolt Dock is an accessory that sits on your desk, that has all the ports that are now missing from your laptop. It connects to your laptop over Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C, and lets your plug in all your USB-A-drven devices, like external hard drives, phones, tablets, mic, gaming accessories, printers, etc. It will also let you plug in your existing HDMI or DisplayPort enabled monitor, speakers, headphones, and so on.

Alternatively, you'll be encouraged or required to buy a new monitor with an integrated Thunderbolt dock, which has all those ports built in to the rear of the monitor.

Everything else in your computing-life will plug in to the dock or the monitor, with one cable connecting to your new laptop. When you leave your desk, unplug one cable, and take your laptop with you.

Updated Everything-Else

Expect all the other things on or around your laptop to start coming with USB-C ports and USB-C cables.

All Android phones and tablets, all printers, headphones, hard drives, backup hard drives, speakers, VoIP phones, VoIP headsets, scanners, photo printers, label makers, keyboards, mice, smart assistant speakers, and everything that doesn't have an Apple logo on it, will migrate to USB-C.

Everything that does have an Apple logo on it, will have a Lightning port, such as your iPhone, iPad, keyboard, mouse, trackpad, iPod, Siri speaker, HomeKit gadgets, and more. The opposite end of those Lightning cables will be USB-C. Apple-branded monitors will be released with USB-C Thunderbolt ports on the rear. Next-revision iMacs will drop the USB-A ports. iMacs and stand-alone Apple monitors will integrate Qi wireless charging stations in the base stands to recharge your iPhone and mouse. Apple will finally stop selling dongles and adapters in 2019.

Brave new world

Mid-2019 onwards is a brave new world.

Step out of your boring cubicle, and displace Robert in the corner office.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas

XYZtech

XYZ Media Group

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