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With smaller devices becoming more and more powerful, could larger laptops become obsolete for all but power users?

In recent years, the power of small mobile devices has clearly increased at an incredible rate. While devices such as the iPhone, netbooks, and other mobile internet devices (MIDs) certainly aren't extreme multitasking machines, they get the job done and do it well.

There's no doubt that these devices are gaining great popularity; sources suggest that the iPhone has 10.8% of the smartphone market, while other reports suggest that netbook sales may rise to 22 million units this year.

All of this begs a question: why lug around a full size notebook computer when all of the tasks (or the vast majority of them) that you need to do may be possible using a much smaller device. Sure, you might not get a large screen or crystal-clear sound, but is all of that really necessary? Clearly many are saying "no, it's not."

Some might point to the rise and fall of similar devices in the past. Ultraportable devices always seemed to be more of an item for a limited audience, and many turned out to be flops (for example, see Apple's MessagePad series of PDAs and their eMate 300, which resembles a small netbook). However, I would argue that those devices were ahead of their time and the technology simply was not ready. Now, with the increasing use of wireless internet and the increasing power of these portable devices (to the extent that a number of netbooks can handle HD movie playback), the gap between what users want (and need) and the world of portable gadgets is closing rapidly. In addition, these devices don't come with a ridiculous price tag, as products of these sizes used to.

In addition, one other problem that used to exist with portable devices is in the process of being overcome: the inability of many devices to take advantage of the full breadth of the internet. This was clearly one of Apple's biggest concerns with the iPhone. Now, the news comes that Flash Player, on which a great deal of online content such of videos is based, will be coming to many smartphones.

Modern mobile devices are clearly quite capable of handling both entertainment and business tasks. While most are not as open of a platform as a standard computer, and "freeware" might be harder to come by, mobile apps do have their advantages. They tend to stick to one thing and therefore try to do that one thing right, as where PC apps can sometimes overdo or overcomplicate tasks.

All of this said, there should be no doubt that standard laptops aren't going to disappear (at least not overnight). Having a decent amount of power on the go is still important to many users. It is simply a matter of what tool will fit the job best.


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