A while ago I wrote a piece for Geek Insider about the (unsuccessful) Indiegogo campaign for the Ubuntu Edge—The Ubuntu Edge is the Real Start of the Post-PC Era—where I made the case that the Ubuntu Edge would be the real start of the post-PC era. A hand-held device that would would switch to a “desktop mode” when connected to an external display. I even when so far as to envision an iOS-OS X hybrid device that would switch between my two favorite computing platforms. Turns out, I might not have been so far off with that conjecture. With the path that Apple is on with the iPhone 5S and a 64 bit chip (and an unspecified, but probably substantial about of RAM) we might not be too far away from a portable device that becomes your desktop device…from Apple.
Mark Hachman of PCWorld gets close to this in his article—Why did Apple go 64-bit? One iOS, to rule them all | PCWorld—but he suggests that Apple make the same mistake that Microsoft did with the surface: one OS to rule them all. [pullquote]The more clever strategy are fraternal twin OSes that share similar genetics, but are completely different and independent entities.[/pullquote] Apple has tuned iOS and OS X to work for the environments they are designed for. On a mobile device the iOS touch interface is great (maybe not perfect, but great), for the desktop, I love OS X. When I use Windows do more swearing than anything else. So why would Apple try to make a hybrid iOS X? It wouldn’t (well at least I hope it wouldn’t). The right model is what Canonical hoped to do with the Ubuntu Edge, make a device that could switch between the two worlds seamlessly.
The iPhone 5S (I doubt I’ll pick one up this go round unless a tech sugar daddy emerges) is the first step towards the “iPhone Edge”. Next is getting enough on-board storage to hold iOS and OS X and a way to manage apps. I think there would be iOS apps, OS X apps, and hybrid apps in a dream “iPhone Edge” device. This means there will need to be a way to manage the iOS and hybrid apps on the device itself and maybe have OS X apps (except for a few core ones) stored on external media. I don’t think that a handheld device will be able to have enough storage (in the near future) to hold iOS, OS X, apps, and documents on board. I think the device will need to be able to tap into smart storage (I’d say the cloud and media for documents, external media for apps) to make up the difference.
Pipe dream? I don’t think so. Next year? Probably not, but I think by 2015 carrying your “desktop environment” in your pocket could be a reality. Let’s certainly hope so.