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Analysis: The future of laptops revealed

How will your laptop look in 2011?

Even today, many techies feel that too many laptops have batteries that conk out in the middle of a job, weigh too much, or fail to keep critical information secure. Yet as 2008 dawns, laptop users have some reason for optimism.

Manufacturers are prioritising improvements to design, storage, and displays that could make the laptops of 2011 quite different than the workhorses of today. "Notebooks are rapidly evolving and improving," says Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group consultancy. Does a three-pound laptop that runs some 8 hours sound good to you? Then you may like the machines of 2011.

Your Laptop in 2011

What might laptops look like in three years? Here's the vision from Kevin Wrenn, senior vice president of PC business operations for Fujitsu Computer Systems: "The ideal notebook in three years will weigh three pounds, offer a 14in screen [and] deliver eight hours of battery life," he says.

That may sound like a pretty bold prediction, even for thin and light notebooks. But analysts like Jack Gold, president and principal analyst of J Gold Associates, a technology strategy consulting firm, concur. "You will see thin and light machines-three pounds or less-with battery life of 8-plus hours for road warriors," Gold says.

Integrated support for wide area wireless technologies, such as WiMax or another type of Wireless wide area network (WWAN), will also be standard, Wrenn says. "Integrated WWAN will be a must," he says. "Fees and costs will begin to go down and WWAN will become the industry norm."

On the storage front, Wrenn believes that hard drive capacity will soar beyond 300GB and solid state drives will surpass 100GB. "Once ubiquitous wireless is achieved, online storage will gain in popularity," he predicts.

Laptop operating times will be extended through enhanced resource management combined with slightly higher capacity battery cells. "By doing this effectively, we are able to turn off devices when not needed, thus saving power and reducing heat," Wrenn notes. "Expect this trend to continue, but in addition we will see battery capacity creep up in ratings."

Wrenn believes that the transition from square to rectangular 'widescreen' displays will be all but completed by 2009. But flexible OLED displays are at least four years away for large displays in laptops, predicts Wrenn.

And what will such a dream machine cost? "When have you ever known [laptop] prices to increase?" is Wrenn's response. "Initially, pricing will be high for some of these items," he predicts. "But, as always, they will reduce [in cost] and find their way into the mainstream."


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