Mobile Computer and where is it heading

* Artikel ini ditulis oleh Handi Setiadi, Mahasiswa Indonesia Program Doktoral di bidang Nanoscience, Korea

What’s a Computer ?

It’s 2018 and everybody know what a computer is. Almost everybody. When asked, what is a computer most of us might instantly correlate to a laptop or a desktop PC, but for our younger demographic it might be a rather vague question as the infamous final line from Apple’s iPad commercial last November.

After biking around the city using an iPad Pro to do her homework and generally hang with friends, a teenager’s neighbor asks her what she’s “doing on her computer.”
Her response: “What’s a computer?”

I think that question is rather fascinating and provoke me to rethink, re-observe how I work on my day to day routine.
Here’s what I think about that last line is: it’s saying that the iPad Pro is so successful on winning the competition of the next generation mobile computing they actually redefined the term ‘computer’. However, it is an ad, and it was designed to be thought-provoking, and I am intrigued by it.

For the past couple of months, I have been observing my working habit and found out some key aspects that have been changed since the first time I got my first laptop computer. Here are some of them in no particular order.


More mobility

Just a little background, nowadays I’m working on my Ph.D. degree in nanoscience and engineering researching about the battery of the future.

My works revolve around doing quantum mechanics simulation on future materials, a bit of coding here and there, and most of the time, reading and writing scientific papers. Since most of my works involving me staying in front of a computer or laptop I usually stay in my cubicle all day.
However, since I bought my first iPad Pro in 2016 I tend to move more, I don’t stay in my cubicle for as long as I used to be. I realize that I no longer have the urge to bring my laptop with me since I can just use my iPad Pro for most of the stuff I usually do. Occasionally if I have to do some hardcore simulation thingy, I can just fire up TeamViewer from the coffee shop that I’m working at and open up my super high-end workstation PC that is always on in my office.

TeamViewer on iPad, source : internet


Some people might be skeptical of this, but I do think the iPad Pro is better than most of low to mid-end windows laptop and chrome books. Obviously, it has more productive app such as Microsoft Office, photo editing app, note taking app, and some coding platform, albeit still missing some key features. Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that, for me, I will still need my pc or my laptop for more tasking work but for my day to day life, my iPad Pro will be my new favorite platform to work.


Two worlds one app

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the computer my mom brought to our home. It runs on Windows 95 and I remember my favorite program is MS Paint. It is not much for today standards, but back then, it is my go-to recreational thing to enjoy after a long day of school. One thing the paint program and every other program we have is they have a ‘window’ as the main user interface. That window interface has the windows manager on Microsoft Windows or title bar button on Mac and a menu bar.

It is rather unusual for me when I have to work on my iPad with its mobile user interface. For example, even though I’m using the same Microsoft Word program, the mobile version has neither title bar nor menu bar. It doesn’t take a long time for me to readjust but for some, it is like a completely different thing altogether. It seems like the mobile app and full-blown computer app is two different things that could never be the same. However, things are about to change.

In 2012, Microsoft introduced us to the “Metro” design language that was aimed to challenge the established mobile platform, iOS, and Android. Some elements of this “Metro” design language passed on to the next generation of windows, windows 10, and was rebranded into “Fluent Design System”. While it is not 100% applied to every app on windows 10 we can see a trend where Microsoft is pushing more and more developer to built on the more modern app user interface.

Microsoft is not alone in pushing the modern program interface into their computer operating system. Apple recently announced that in the new macOS Mojave they will add their News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home apps similar to their iOS counterpart. Also, they announced they will add some key framework from the iOS UIKit to the macOS. It is a long shot from apple but it is a start of a revolution that will bring millions of apps from iOS to the macOS.

What is all of this means? Well, it seems to me that we are heading towards a future where we will have a unified experience between the mobile and desktop application albeit it will take some time to get there.


It’s all about the internet

You might be tired of hearing the phrase, the internet of things. However, this has never been more prevalent than ever before. If we try to look for the past 24 hours of our life, how many times did we connect to the internet? Whether just to scroll at our social media, watching some random stuff on YouTube, or even do some serious work on some platform such as Google Drive or Office 365 online, our life is always connected to the internet.

It is rather hard to admit, but I myself can be categorized as an Internet addict. With or without me realizing, I always try to get myself distracted by all the stuff we can do on the internet. The internet has taken over almost all of my digital life.
No longer I download movies or buy DVD, there is Netflix for that.
Want to work on the go? Just power up Google Drive and I’m good to go.


It is amazing to think that in 5 years, I have moved on from the mindset ‘internet is a complementary thing’ to ‘it is necessary’. Now it is hard to imagine how my life would be without the internet. Not because I won’t be able to live without it but I might not be as efficient or as productive as I can be.

There is this great quote from Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai,

“The thing that attracted me to Google and to [the] internet, in general, is that it’s a great equalizer. I’ve always been struck by the fact that Google search worked the same as long as you had access to a computer with connectivity, [whether] you were a rural kid anywhere or a professor at Stanford or Harvard.”

I know it is really cliche for me to say that Sundar Pichai is trying to turn every smartphone into a supercomputer but that is really what he seems to be doing. It impossible to give everyone a supercomputer in their pocket but it is possible to give us access to a supercomputer through the internet.



To sum things up, I believe we are in the middle of a revolution. A revolution that will change the way people work, communicate, and interact with each other. I believe that sooner than later, we will live in a world where our tablet is enough to fulfill our needs both
for works and fun. And when that happens, it will finally be okay to ask “what is a computer”.

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