Asus tried making a phone-tablet convertible way back with their Transformer series, Windows Phone had a feature where you could plug into a dock and use it as a full-Windows workstation (kind of), and in 2018, Razer showed off their concept for a phone-laptop convertible. As far as I know, Asus gave up due to poor reception and poor sales, Windows Phone went the way of… Windows Phone, and Razer never made a mass market device from their venture. Even now, Pine64’s PinePhone has an upgraded convergence edition, continuing the concept of a universal Linux distro for phones, tablets, and desktops that Ubuntu started.

There are a lot of benefits to this, one is that assuming you had a phone, laptop and desktop as separate devices, this can save a lot of hardware, especially since in most cases, you’re only using one device at a time. Lots of people already use their laptops as desktop replacements, so if a phone-laptop convertible can match that, then it can easily become someone’s only device. There’s an environmental benefit too, phones are much more power efficient per unit computation power, and since you don’t need to upgrade the laptop chassis or your desktop peripherals nearly as often as the active compute hardware, you’d be producing less e-waste. I personally also really like the idea of having one computing device to rule them all.

Do you think this concept is straight up dead in the water, or, as phones become more powerful (especially since laptop chips like the Qualcomm SQ1, Apple M1, and the upcoming Intel Lakefield can already be passively cooled and still be quite powerful), operating systems improve to support seamless transition between device modes (Some Linux distros are working hard on this, and Google’s Fuschia OS is planned to replace both Chrome OS and Android in the future), and with the USB C and Thunderbolt standards offering fast I/O, it will actually gain the mass adoption in the future that it isn’t able to achieve right now?

@uthredii
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31Y

I personally really like the idea, like imagine having a linux phone that can work with something like the nextdock.

I guess the main reason convertible devices would be bought is to save the cost of the cpu.

If all the cpu’s in our devices get cheap enough then this saving could end up being negligible.

There does seam to be a trend where more and more processing is done on servers and not on devices, so maybe this could mean device cpu’s end up being cheap?

Or maybe there are cases where heavy processing needs to be done on the device for the sake of the experiece (e.g. pc gaming)?

@AgreeableLandscape
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I mean, I think for many applications, you’ll always need a powerful processor somewhere, but you could easily have a single PC in your house that does extra computation when needed, and you could even jump into a remote session and work on it from your phone-laptop. In a world where the iPad is considered enough computer for many people, I can see this becoming a thing for the ultra-mobile or minimalist crowd.

I personally don’t see CPUs becoming cheaper to the point where three isn’t much more expensive than one though. We’re at the dawn of complex chip manufacturing processes like 3D stacking, ASICs, and exotic materials to make them ever smaller and more powerful for the same amount of heat produced.

Dessalines
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31Y

Just for shits, I recently bought a $20 portable bluetooth keyboard, so I can ssh from my phone to my home computer, and have a portable coding device with a huge battery life.

This can work until either convertibles, or arm processor computers go mainstream.

@uthredii
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21Y

I personally don’t see CPUs becoming cheaper to the point where three isn’t much more expensive than one though. We’re at the dawn of complex chip manufacturing processes like 3D stacking, ASICs, and exotic materials to make them ever smaller and more powerful for the same amount of heat produced.

I was thinking the power of cpu’s in phones would stay similar to what they are now/constant. If thats the case over time I would expect them to get really cheap. The more advanced chips would be used in server farms or in the powerful pc you keep at home.

@AgreeableLandscape
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Maybe we’re hitting a CPU plateau, but I think that’s unlikely. Quamcomm, Apple, and even Huawei are still working hard to push the limits of phone compute power, and we’re seeing advanced cooling solutions like ultra thin vapour chambers and graphite.

@jimipb
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31Y

Silicon based chips are definitely about to hit a plateau. New materials like graphene (and other 2D materials) and topological insulators (insulating bulk with conducting surface states) will pick up, where silicon fails.

@uthredii
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21Y

I suppose we are sort of discussing if we will run desktop process directly on a phone or if we will run some mobile process remotely on a desktop. Maybe both will happen.

@uthredii
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It’s more that maybe the demand for more powerful mobile cpu’s might fade. But I as far as I know there has always been a demand for more powerful mobile cpu’s so it would be unprecedent.

poVoq
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11Y

This is purely a software problem. There is just too much legacy software like Windows and its apps and Android is just a very poor desktop (and mobile) experience. The iOS ecosystem is also a total mess.

I have been using convergence with Ubuntu Touch for a while (not much though to be honest, as the slimport on my Nexus5 doesn’t work very well) and for someone used to the GNU/Linux experience it really is not a big step.

Maybe with FuschiaOS is will see some adoption as Chromebook type devices, who knows…

@AgreeableLandscape
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21Y

Are you using the UBports version of Unity by any chance?

As for software, I’m cautiously optimistic on Linux mobile being the breakthrough we need, at least in the libre software space. Linux phones already run full desktop applications, for example. Maybe Fuchsia will be this concept’s entry into the popular market, but I feel that once that happens, it won’t be long until Linux catches up, or at least the Fuschia code gets forked by a more libre friendly organization.

poVoq
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21Y

Yeah, although the dev channel version broke the convergence feature a few times and my main phone with UT (OnePlus3) doesn’t have a video out, so basically it doesn’t work for me specifically right now ;)

Looking at the PinePhone and Phosh, I seriously doubt that running old desktop first software (like GIMP) will ever really be a thing. Sure it is nice to be able to fire it up if you can in desktop mode, but for the majority of apps the reverse seems more promising, e.g. writing a mobile app with convergence in mind like KDE Plasma does.

@AgreeableLandscape
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21Y

I feel like there will always be professional apps that require you to go into desktop mode. GIMP or professional photo editing is one example, IDEs for programming is another. But as long as the processor in the phone can handle them (we’re seriously getting there or already there depending on the application), most professionals would have no problems with only running them in laptop or desktop mode, since good luck editing photos or programming in any sort of professional context from a 6-inch touchscreen with no keyboard or cursor.

poVoq
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21Y

Hmm, I guess beefy workstations for video editing etc. will still have their place, but photo-editing and painting is actually better on a Wacom like device with a larger screen and a stylus.

A bit outside the convergence idea, but related: the idea of plug in VR headsets that connect to your phone is really starting to take off in current prototypes it seems. These together with hand-tracking can be actually used quite well for virtual desktop like stuff, including programming and other things traditionally reserved to desktop PCs.

@AgreeableLandscape
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21Y

photo-editing and painting is actually better on a Wacom like device with a larger screen and a stylus.

Or a tablet convertible powered by your phone wink wink

@moddedBear
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@AgreeableLandscape
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But I kinda doubt they’d be the ones to pioneer that for multiple reasons.

I mean, they still haven’t built a touchscreen Mac despite having tons of software and hardware experience from the iPad.

@moddedBear
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@AgreeableLandscape
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