Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hello Digital Paper!

I've seen a lot of chatter about digital paper. And I'm excited. I'm easily excited about newfangled technologies.

But people are really freakin' dumb. They're talking about how nice it will be to hang it on the wall instead of having a TV, which is just the least appropriate use ever. Slightly more valid, they talk about how nice it will be that laptops will be so much lighter...

Um, yeah, it would be a perfectly valid use to make laptops lighter. If there were going to be any laptops.

But, sorry folks, digital paper actually kills the laptop. There will be no laptops once digital paper is perfected.

There are only two reasons to have a laptop instead of a PDA. 1) better hardware. 2) better IO (bigger monitor/keyboard).

GGGGggggguess what?

Digital paper solves the second one flat out. When you can roll (or even better, fold) your screen into arbitrarily smaller sizes, the idea that you'll carry it around in a laptop-sized case is stupid. You'll carry it around in an ipod-sized case. More likely, you'll carry it around as a bracelet/watch which has basic functionality when on your wrist and is a full touch-sensitive screen when it is unfolded to its full square foot of glory. (That should be read in a Strongbad voice. "UNFOLDED TO ITS FULL SQUARE FOOT OF GLORY!")

Digital paper doesn't have any computation built into it, at least not in the forseeable future, but that doesn't mean that you'll want a laptop-shaped device to provide for serious hardware. There are many other shapes that are at least as good, including the idea of several small, wearable devices that contain specialized computation and network. Any way you run it, "laptop" isn't going to be there for you. We'll probably come up with a new name for it, like "black boxes" or "minicomputers" or something. "Weenies", if you buy the Nintendo version. They won't have screens, they won't have keyboards, they won't have speakers.

Laptops are going to be killed, but don't worry: nobody will miss them. Just unfold your watch, prop it up with the microframe, and get to work.


Ellipsis said...

Gotta love any post that includes the phrase "Strongbad voice".

Also, yeah, digital paper sounds fun.

Isaac said...

I'm still kind of attached to a keyboard, but I don't really care about the screen. Perfected digital paper with a decent input is close to my dream computer-like device.

Touchscreen digital paper?

Craig Perko said...

I don't see why not, but even if not, there are alternatives besides a full-size laptop! Something new will come out in the wash, it's just a detail.

Olick said...

There are already keyboards you can roll up.. If we're in a world where we already have a bracelet that can roll into a screen, I'm sure a keyboard can similarly be stored.

I don't like laptops really. Mostly its since I dislike the keyboards, and the replacements for mice. Until the day comes that I need a portable computer, I am happy with desktops.

Craig Perko said...

Yeah, but those roll-out keyboards don't have very good tactile feel. There's something about actually having keys that go down, you know?

But maybe that's just a preference that will fade over time.

Olick said...

This is true. But I think someone might acclimate to a touch screen style keyboard, if there were good feedback. I always preferred keys that clicked a little. Or a lot. But a lot gets on the nerves of cohabitants.

Adam said...

The usability all depends on the actual use case. For the text input, you will be always faster typing on the keyboard. For making simple drawings (such as "the shop is on this corner and the subway station is here"), pen and paper is the best. For reading a document on the subway, obviously a print-out is the best.

I guess that the paradigm changes when most of the use cases that people are requested to deal with can be sufficiently be handled by the next technology. It's always a process of interaction of the commonly accepted work habits and evolving technology.

Craig Perko said...

Oh, I agree. But I don't think that our current work habits are going to keep us from transitioning to some shape other than a laptop.