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what is "the desktop": laptops now

Published Aug 19 2014 via RSS

I recently purchased a new laptop because my old one gave up. I harvested the hard disk with rest going to be recycled, and started looking for a suitable replacement. In the process of doing so it became very evident that there is a significant shift underway.

A few years back "transformable" laptops with touch screens that swiveled around to become a rather brick-like "tablet" first hit the market. I hated the hinge design and the screens were horrible, but there they were and some people bought them. Fast forward to today and Microsoft is mandating touch screens in laptops as part of their new-style Windows UI push. More and more laptops are coming with touch screens not as an exotic add-on, but as a matter-of-course feature.

The laptops that convert into tablets today are now extremely sleek little things. Some are hefty tablets with a detachable keyboard; definitely more towards tablet than laptop, but certainly still a laptop. Some are more traditional clamshell laptops with a screen that flips all the way back, which turns off the attached keyboard, and you have a rather large-screen tablet that is not much thicker than an "actual" tablet. Of course, for a couple years now bluetooth keyboards built into tablet carrying cases have been a small rage, allowing people to turn their tablet into something more like a laptop.

The trend is clear: laptops are not-so-slowly picking up the features we traditionally associate with mobile devices. Touch screens, all solid state components, lightweight .. even pretty. The difference between a tablet and a laptop is growing slimmer with each product cycle.

KDE should pause and think deeply about this. Since the laptop was adopted over a decade ago as a target platform for KDE software in addition to the traditional desktop tower, the laptop is morphing and pulling the tablet form factor into focus.

In fact, many early adopters are using tablets as their laptops. I remember a blog series on this by Henri Bergius last year (or was it early this year?).

As for me and my touchscreen laptop, I actually find myself using the touchscreen a lot more than I thought I would. Scrolling maps is far more comfortable with a finger, for instance. But you know what? It is still a laptop. That thing KDE has done so well in targeting all these years.

Building on this, along with the last two blog entries, I will offer my answer to the question, "What is the desktop?" in the next blog entry.

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