The personal computer (PC) is expected to advance in both intelligence and form factor over the next 10 years, evolving into a merger of computing devices and peripherals that can help carry out "the higher cognitive tasks of what people do to get their jobs done," says Intel research director Andrew Chien. The laptop form factor is expected to transition from the current book-like configuration to more diverse paradigms dictated by function, says Dan Siewiorek with Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. BT Group executive Wen Xiao forecasts that smallness and ubiquity will be key characteristics of tomorrow's PC, while access control and communications, rather than computing, will be its primary applications. He says the push toward greater PC mobility will be hastened by virtualization and cloud computing.
Xiao predicts that "the computing [and] data-storage functions will all be virtualized — device-independent, location-independent data and applications stored somewhere in the cloud, and on-demand software applications." He also envisions users becoming responsible for supplying their own computing devices while the corporate information technology department would establish a secure enterprise cloud and oversee the access and authentication of individual users.
Physical flexibility is another PC advance that experts are anticipating, with innovations that include foldable, rollable, stretchy screens, and material programmed to change shape according to user needs. Xiao believes physical keyboards, mice, and monitors may be phased out in favor of projected controls and displays, perhaps even holograms. Among the technologies expected to replace wires in the PC is magnetic-induction charging. Xiao says the need of data input will be significantly reduced thanks to advancements in Semantic Web and artificial intelligence.
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