Part 2 Table of Contents:
- The Cables
- The Desktop Web
- Copy and Paste
- Instant Messaging
- Banana Noose
Some friends of mine and I are experimenting with what it’s like to use a mobile device (in this case, a Galaxy Nexus) as a desktop computer. With the addition of a bluetooth keyboard, multi-touch trackpad, and a monitor, I found that the experience is surprisingly good.
I don’t demo all that many applications in the video for fear of inadvertently showing sensitive data, but I think I show enough that you can get an idea for how close we already are to this type of computing model. In fact, I think if you were to set up a workspace like this for someone who didn’t have “professional” needs (such as writing code or video editing), and/or someone who didn’t have a lot of preconceptions about how a computer should work, they would be perfectly happy with the experience. I was able to do all of the following with relative ease:
- Browse the internet.
- Read news.
- Manage my calendar, tasks, contacts, etc.
- Read and write email almost as easily as I can on my desktop.
- Listen to music and podcasts.
- Chat on IM.
- Edit documents.
- Do some light photo editing (in the default gallery application).
- Participate in social networks (Google+, Twitter, and Facebook).
- Watch videos on YouTube and Netflix.
In other words, I was able to do most of what many people do with desktop computers on a daily basis. Of course, there were a few key things I wasn’t able to do such as:
- Write code. I’m sure it’s possible, but definitely not practical, and probably not something I would enjoy.
- Advanced editing of things like photos and video.
- Advanced file management. With this kind of computing model, you definitely want to keep as much data in the cloud as possible since the file system is generally de-emphasized on mobile devices.
Keep in mind that I’m using a stock Android device with whatever capabilities are already in the OS. If you’re willing to go as far as installing Linux on your phone, you can do far more than this. Additionally, operating systems will likely have much better support for this kind of model in the future — in particular, Windows 8 with Metro.
I’m really curious about whether this kind of interaction represents the future of computing. Are we moving toward a model where we use multiple computers and mobile devices with all our data in the cloud, or in five to ten years, are we all just going to use our phones for most of our computing needs? I’m guessing it’s going to be somewhere in the middle (as these things tend to be), but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Update: I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the cables I used to make this work. Here’s all you need to know:
- For the display, I used a Samsung MHL to HDMI adapter (along with an HDMI cable, obviously). If you want to do audio through your monitor, make sure your HDMI cable supports audio.
- For a USB keyboard and mouse, you’ll need a micro USB host mode OTG cable, and a powered USB hub. (I used a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, so this isn’t in the video.)
- For audio (if you don’t have speakers in your monitor), I just used a standard 3.5mm audio cable from the phone to my computer speakers.
Thanks to Matt Pandina for helping to get this working.