Whenever you get cynical, consider the laptop computer. These miracles of miniaturisation and sleekness now cost from just a few hundred pounds and yet they easily exceed the features, reliability and finish of products costing many times more just 10 years ago. Actually, make that five years – or a couple.
When I started writing about this business, most laptops were clunky, compromised and had unacceptable levels of failure. DOA systems were frequent and there was a price delta between them and desktops that only Roman Abrahamovich’s yacht could sail over.
Today’s laptops are terrific, whether they’re of the cheap and cheerful variety, the cutesy subnotebook format, or outsize, pack-in-the-features variety. (By the way, what about the latest ThinkPad with built-in digitiser?)
It seems to me that the only gating factor left for laptops is power. Batteries still don’t last long enough and it’s a royal pain in the backside when you can’t find a recharging source. (Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris had free outlets when I went through last week but most UK airports, stations, cafes etc don’t – damn you, Britain.)
So it’s interesting to hear about Dell’s promise of a 19-hour laptop . I’ll believe it when I see it, and there certainly seem to be some caveats to the device, but what the world needs now in mobile PCs is an insanely great product that blows all-comers away with a battery life that lasts the whole working day without making you turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DVD and so on.
The vendors have talked a good game for years but haven’t delivered. As I said at the top, laptops have evolved in a wonderful way – but getting enough juice is the mad woman in the R&D attic.