What I want from All The Tech Companies Q4-2016. The fall of the Computer | Tablet-Phone wall.

First let me start off by saying I’m a tech geek… and therefore I most likely do not want what you want, and that’s okay. Most people just want a phone that works to do phone stuff and gives off lots of clear warnings when it is about to not work. I want a phone that works okay as a phone but does a billion other things and I’m okay with needing a battery pack and a screwdriver in my huge gramma-purse because the battery died when I was trying to do something dumb but still need to text Eric. I want the technological equivalent of a Federation Starship: Something just crammed full of technology so bleeding edge that it plods through space-time with the engineering staff faking that they know what’s going-on… while the Klingons and Romulans and Vulcans admire/hate the fact that the Hyoo-mons seem to science-bullshit their way into winning every fight because the fact that it’s a really bad idea to hook the warp core to the deflector dish that way doesn’t stop ’em.

Right now what I want is the wall between “Computers” and “Phones” to fall. Right now there is a very deliberately articulated border between smartphones and computers: Computers are desktops and laptops and have mice and trackpads and keyboards and occasionally touchscreens and fully customizable Operating systems like MacOS and Windows 10 and Linux and you can download programs from the internet and install them on your computer and develop for the very computer you are working-on. Phones (and tablets) have touchscreens and cellular modems and occasionally keyboards and run energy-conscious, barely multitasking, incoming-call-defeats-and-pauses-everything Operating Systems that will only install things from a store where apps have been coded Just So and submitted Just So and Approved… and if you ever want to change that you have to go deep into the settings if not completely routing the operating system. It was a wall that made a lot of sense in 2007 because phones were rather addlepated… but frankly I don’t think it needs to be there anymore.

Apple and Google have Released Their Things right on schedule and they are pretty and fancy and totally not what I want. The iPhone 7 is a perfunctory evolution that adds speed and battery life and a long-overdue base-capacity increase while removing the standard 3.5mm headphone jack it has deemed “old and size-consuming and annoying”. Meanwhile the rest of the savvy tech folks also noted “the 3.5mm headphone jack, while ubiquitous, was not invented by us so it won’t make us licensing money”. This upsets and saddens me. If we’re going to tell all the companies that make device-to-noise things (speakers, headphones, car audio systems), and tell all the people who buy device-to-noise things that the bit on the end has to change, the logical upgrade is USB-C: it’s tiny, easy to waterproof, impossible to plug in ‘backwards’, and comes with a buttload of protocols for video, audio, serial, charging, and I’m pretty sure detection of gravitational waves with a firmware upgrade. It’s also an international standard that was worked-on by several companies, _including Apple_. So for Apple to make a device that requires a special dongle or for device-to-noise things Just for iPhone 7’s is… shitty.

Google has released the Pixel which means they are no longer ‘suggesting’ how other companies should build an Android phone, but are instead building an Android phone as close to their Socratic ideal as tech will allow… and that Android phone is basically an iPhone 7… and iPhone 7 that keeps the headphone jack with incrementally better battery life and camera and Assistant which shall put Siri to shame (especially once it gets way better App integration). They also carrier locked the Pixel to Verizon and Google Fi which means I’ll have the same reaction to it that I had with the first wave of iPhones being AT&T and later Verizon for so long: I’ll go “that’s nice, but not nice enough for me to give up my $200 a year savings by staying with Sprint”… so I’ll likely just get Some Other Android Phone while I wait for what I really want.

The last hope I have at this point, and it’s as desperate and as much of a long shot as Obi-Wan, is Microsoft. They’ve been hinting at a “Surface Phone” for a while now. A phone that runs Windows 10. Not Windows phone 10. But regular Windows 10… or at least a future version of it that can re-orient itself into super-battery-save mode and interrupt itself when the cell-modem detects a call. This is what I dream of. Something that can sit in my pocket most of the day, but when I get home I USB-C it into a dock with a Monitor (or two), Bigass Hard Drive, Ethernet Cable, Keyboard/Mouse and Power Supply attached and it becomes “My Desktop”.

“But what about video performance!?” there can be external video cards between the monitor and the hub (hell, just strap it to the back of the monitor). USB-C is the connector/bus for Thunderbolt 3 and there are already booster GPUs as A Thing out there. “But what if I don’t want to interrupt WOW if the parents call?” That’s just a software trick based on knowing whether the phone is hubbed or not (and Windows 10 is already pretty good at that). I mean, there are probably bunches of things that I am not thinking-of, but I feel like “Phone hardware isn’t strong enough to run desktop-style apps” is no longer one of them and that was the biggest reason for the wall in the first place.

Heck, once that wall falls people who don’t mind carrying a bag all the time can forgo getting a phone altogether and instead just use a Bluetooth headset with a Cell-Modemed Surface or similar tablet to make calls. Or their watch like Dick Tracy.

Microsoft’s Event is near Halloween. I hope they do something like this. You know, so that Apple and Alphabet can rip it off in two years and act like they invented it.

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