Form factors of change

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | Updated: Jun 3 2014, 10:30am hrs
The way we are using desktop computers is changing like never before. These days they are entertainment systems, charging ports for our other devices for which they also act as control centres and the data dump of the entire household. But soon even these use cases might become old-fashioned, thanks to the new form factors ushered in by Windows 8.

If you thought these new form factors are limited to Ultrabooks, convertibles and hybrids then you are mistaken. Just adding touch screen to desktops has changed the game so much. So, you can well imagine what it will be when you add the ability to change the form of the computer to this mix. For me, a perfect example of what this can do is the Lenovo A730 all-in-one desktop. To start with this device can fold back flat and be a 27-inch touchscreen computer (or tablet, if you prefer that). Just that makes it the largest interactive gaming board you can bring home to spend a fun weekend with the kids. Plus, the screen can stop at multiple angles on the way to becoming flat, becoming a touchscreen piano or just settling itself as a high-end POS device. And just to make things interesting, it can become a HD television if needed. The possibilities are endless.

Shailendra Katyal, director (HSB) of Lenovo India, says what we are witnessing is a gradual evolution of the desktop into an all-in-one with a touchscreen. Technology, at one point of time, was dividing people, but now it is bringing them together, he says, explaining how the new form factors were, for instance, prompting a lot of parents to spend more time with their children.

It helps that children are taking to technology more easily, especially with the advent of touch. There are no longer learning barriers that prevent them from using computers at a young age. With touch, even a one-year-old can start using the PC to play a game or start learning the alphabets, without ever knowing to use a keyboard.

In fact, touch is also opening up computers to people who would otherwise never go near one. An ideal example is of old parents who use laptops and tablets to engage in Skype chats with their children and grandchildren in other locations. On a touchscreen device, this becomes a one-touch operation. In fact, HP launched such a device over a couple of year back with 10-point touch and hardly any local storage. Everything worked on the cloud and the OS comprised of large, easy to navigate buttons. However, that device was not much of a success.

This revolution of sorts owes it success, to a large extent, to Android, which has democratised technology. We might not see all-in-ones like the A730 become common right away; their price points will ensure that. But where touchscreens push up the price, an open source OS like Android can bring it down. We already have Android powered PCs entering the market at price points as low as R20,000. This could be the first PCs a lot of Indian households will see. They might not ever use Windows or learn keyboard commands. But they will all be able to use these desktops with the same OS as the one on their budget smartphones. It could also be these devices which, along with tablets, help push PC penetration in India beyond the 11% at which it has been stuck for long.

The author is editor, New Media, The Indian Express Group