On a very geeky note, I have been following a number of rather cool new trends in laptop, phone, PMP and PDA design in the last year or so: tiny laptops, cheap laptops, highly sophisticated smartphones, crazy UMPC/PDA crossovers, the relentless rise of increasingly huge Solid-State-Disks, and, of course, the whole iPhone thing.
Just this morning it struck me that there’s a relatively simple way in which one could combine all of these things!
If your modern laptop is going to have a touchpad, a solid-state-disk and a comprehensive set of radio comms gear (wifi/mobile broadband/bluetooth) and so is your uber-phone-PDA, why would you need more than one of each of these things? They’re all relatively expensive bits of electronic kit, you can only use one at a time, and there’s a bunch of very strong reasons why the data in particular should be shared: keeping your music, your calendar, email, etc. in sync between your PC and your PDA is a pain, so why not just have one copy?
Briefly, the idea is to plug your iPhone-like PDA into a hole in front of the keyboard in your otherwise hard-drive-less, radio-less laptop.
When unplugged, your PDA runs some dinky little PDA OS on the same disk you run your laptop from, using the same organizer database, email storage, web-browser cache, contacts database, etc. When you plug it in, the PDA becomes a rather nifty touchscreen with built-in second display. The disk hooks up and boots into your real OS, or restores it from a sleep-state, or whatever. It runs and recharges off the great big battery in your laptop, provides all the wireless comms functions for your laptop, and so on.
- There is some serious software development to be done for an idea like this, but the hardware is patently already with us, but for a little matter of chassis-fabrication and one hell of a docking-plug-connector.
- The release which disconnects the PDA from the laptop chassis is going to need some manner of software-controlled lock, to ensure that the ‘big’ OS can suspend or shut down before handing over to the PDA. Likewise, the PDA OS will have to have control after it’s plugged in, to get itself packed away before the ‘big’ OS takes over.
- Only paying for one SSD means you can afford to have a much larger chunk of storage in the first place. I like the idea of my cameraphone having a fast 120GB+ disk in it.
- Your PDA can plug into more than one chassis! You can plug it into your laptop at work, into a PDA-slot on your desktop PC at home, your friend’s PC at their place, and so on. You carry the canonical copy of all of your data with you wherever you go, and access it at full fast-disk speed.
- You only need one account/ID with all your various communications providers. One 3G data account for your PC, your PDA and your phone. One wifi-MAC address for your laptop and PDA. One bluetooth device ID to bond your headset to.
- Your laptop gains a snazzy new UI device, a big (multi-touch?) touchscreen.
I would so buy such a device!
disclaimer: I lay absolutely no claim to this idea whatsoever. If you like it, I wholeheartedly assign all rights to you, go nuts, patent it, call it yours, whatever, I don’t care.
You can get most of this if your PDA can do USB Host. Just have a keyboard/screen/CD-ROM plus a USB hub in a “laptop” format, then plug the PDA in when you get tired of working with the little screen.
The only difference being that here the PDA continues to be the CPU even in laptop mode.