Big Changes Coming to Notebook Design by 2015
In a more speculative vein, in seven years, we just might have 3-D displays that show the world as it really is. This will not only be great for gamers, but it can aid in representing complex data and displaying computer-aided designs.
Such displays could also revamp the way we interact with our desktops. Imagine an on-screen desktop that, rather than a flat expanse, has depth and perspective so that you can hide your list of passwords behind the icon for opening your Web browser.
More, Better Power
Most experts agree that future notebooks will be just as limited by battery life as they are now. But that doesn't mean we won't see significant advances in mobile power supplies -- such advances will be necessary to keep up with all the extra power.
While fuel cells that turn methanol into power showed promise over the past few years, batteries will continue to dominate the power scene. However, there will be a move from lithium-ion cells that have to be made in cylinders to lithium polymer cells that can be formed in a variety of shapes and sizes.
"This allows notebook designers to fill small nooks and crannies of a notebook with extra batteries," explained Trainor.
Powering up could also change with inductive charging, which is key to both the Compenion and Cario concept notebooks. Rather than plugging a cord into the notebook to charge it, you just put the notebook on a special surface that has an inductive power pad, and juice is sent wirelessly to charge the battery.
The payoff is that there's no AC power adapter to carry, but this new method of charging devices will work only if enough charging pads are available. They'd need to be at cafes, hotels and even on airliner tray tables. This technology is ready today, although it is a long way from being adopted widely enough to be useful.
"Inductive charging," said Lopez, "would allow easy access and a secure way to charge."
An innovative mobile approach to power is taken by Nikola Knezevic, a Serbian designer who has turned the clamshell format on its head with solar panels. His concept design, called, not surprisingly, the Solar Laptop Concept, has an extra hinged lid covered with solar cells that can be adjusted to get the most out of the sun.
It'll add a few tenths of an inch to the system's thickness and won't be able to fully charge the system, but when you're done, just fold it up and go.
Still, Trainor, who avidly follows developments of technologies such as solar power, cautioned against becoming too optimistic that this type of technology will make it easier to keep laptops of the future charged.
"We're still a ways away from generating enough to power the notebook," explained Trainor.
In this one way, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While mobile computers in 2015 will significantly eclipse today's notebooks in terms of usability and capabilities, we'll still need to find ways to keep the devices charged.
Brian Nadel is a freelance writer based near New York and is the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine. A 25-year veteran of technology journalism, his work has appeared in Popular Science, PC Magazine and Fortune.