Tablets for All!
Your predictions on the future of mobile gadgets.
Convergence is the way things are shaping up as far as functionality. A few years back, I had a PDA, a phone, an MP3 player, a GPS, and a laptop. Now, my smartphone does just about everything all those devices did, in one small package that fits in my pocket. I can even use spreadsheets on my phone, albeit not very well. So I don't think function (work vs. games) is a particularly useful split—I both work and play on all my devices.
Smarter devices and software will let you carry just one gadget (perhaps with a small accessory like a keyboard or headset) and use it to work or play however you want: plug it into a larger monitor or a keyboard, use the touchpad, use Swype-like text entry, use a mouse, etc. There's no reason an iPad shouldn't be able to make phone calls and text, a phone shouldn't hook up to a larger screen, or a laptop shouldn't have a touch screen. I want one device, and I want to be able to interact with it in different ways.
Not Sen. Jon Kyl:
It may not happen in the next five or 10 years, but someday voice recognition and language translation will converge to turn our phones into universal communicators. Need to speak to someone in Russian? Talk to your phone, and let the phone repeat what you just said in Russian. Same thing in reverse. A conversation with a machine translator is a little clunky but better than nothing. That is something that would change international travel for the better.
Pico projectors. Not for projecting a keyboard, but for projecting video and TV in high-def on any wall. 2015 may be a bit early, but this is a fun content-consumption feature that would make our HDTVs truly portable.
I think the size of the observable screen will be the only difference on the outside of any device. With cloud computing and voice recognition to facilitate input and processing, we'll only need to be able to see what we are doing. Projection will solve that. One mobile device will be able to do it all if what you really need is a larger or smaller screen area. Worried about privacy? Digital encoding and special eyewear will allow you to be the only one to see what your device is projecting.
I think you've hit on one of the big coming tech changes: one unifying username. Sending a voice mail to a phone number vs. an email address will not be as different in the coming years. Farhad loves his Google Voice, which attempts to connect all your various digital communication sources (email, phone, etc.), but I'm imagining true interconnectivity, where you can contact anyone from any device (ask your TV to call Mom, and you talk to her while she's on the ship headed to the moon for vacation.)
Farhad, most of the time, when I'm sending a text or email or surfing the web, I don't want the whole office or the whole train or the whole family to know exactly what it is. I have no huge secrets, just ... why should they know? That's a huge obstacle in the way of voice recognition. If I speak loudly enough for the computer to hear me, everyone else will hear me too.
Farhad Manjoo is Slate's technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker.