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80,259 News Articles

The future of the PC revealed

How advanced technologies will shape tomorrow's PCs

The future of computing is constantly changing but as what can we look forward to at home, at work or on the road? PC Advisor investigates.

Print from anywhere

Forget about running home to print out your photos or ordering prints online. The next generation of mobile devices will come with their own built-in printers.

Zink 'zero ink¡' Imaging (click here for zink.com) is a spin-off from Polaroid that has been working on a new way of making photo paper. Zink paper has a crystal substrate sandwiched between its layers that colourises as it passes through a slim-profile printer. The printers themselves are so small that you can slip one in your pocket. They can easily be built into cameras, laptops or other devices.

In 2008, Zink plans to partner with a major camera vendor to release the first pocket-sized digital camera with a built-in printer. This early model will produce 2x3in photos. At the same time, the company will begin selling a handheld printer (costing in the region of £50) for cameraphones; it'll print adhesive-backed photos that may well grace many schoolchildren's folders and pencil cases. Two or three years after that, the technology may be integrated into laptops and other mobile devices.

Zero Ink prints your snaps on paper directly from a mobile phone or digital camera

Great graphics inside

'Integrated graphics' has long been synonymous with 'sluggish graphics¡'. Soon the phrase will have a whole new meaning, thanks to new computers with powerful graphics hardware built in.

AMD's (click here for AMD.com) acquisition of ATI brought the company's rivalry with Intel (Intel.com) - which already made its own basic graphics chips - to a new level. Since then, the two competitors have each worked to bridge the gap between central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs).

Building graphics-processing functionality directly into a CPU eliminates the delay you'd otherwise experience as data passes between the CPU and GPU across the system bus. Such combined CPU/GPUs will feature DirectX 10.0 support and acceleration for Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, while consuming substantially less power, requiring less space on the motherboard and performing significantly better than most of today's discrete graphics cards.

Intel plans to put its graphics-integrated Nehalem processors into production in 2008, beginning with a line of server chips. AMD intends to release its integrated Puma laptop platform around the same time. In 2009, Intel will bring its graphics-integrated chips to desktops and notebooks, while AMD's Puma should reach desktops in 2010.

Flexible screens

flexible screens can be bent into any shape and used anywhere

The smaller and more powerful devices become, the harder they are to use. Tiny screens just don't cut it when you want to do real work. But if your phone or PDA came with a large rollout display, you could work in comfort without sacrificing portability. That's where flexible polymers come in.

Display manufacturers make traditional LCD screens by sandwiching liquid crystals between layers of glass and then zapping them with electricity. Replacing that glass with plastic makes things more malleable.

Initially developed by E Ink (eink.com, click here) and Philips (philips.com), electronic paper compresses organic light-emitting diode (or Oled) crystals between very thin layers of polymer, allowing for tremendous flexibility.

Unlike conventional LCD screens, such ultra-thin displays are completely shatterproof, and can even be rolled up into tight spools. The result is a widescreen monitor that you can carry in your pocket and use anywhere. Better still, such screens will be cheaper and easier to manufacture than today's flat panels - they'll simply be printed directly on to sheets of plastic.

The first flexible displays are already here - they're just not that flexible yet. E Ink's electronic paper can be found in such non-flexible products as the Sony Reader (Sony.co.uk) and the Motorola Motofone F3 (motorola.co.uk).

The first rollable displays, created in the labs at Philips spin-off Polymer Vision (polymervision.com), will reach the market in 2008 - a mobile phone from Telecom Italia will carry the world's first Polymer Vision roll-up display. Currently under wraps, the phone is expected to offer a 5in, 320x40 pixel, monochrome rollable display. By 2010, Polymer Vision expects to market larger colour displays with much higher resolution.

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