9 Technologies Shaping The PC Of Tomorrow

The PC Of Tomorrow

You've heard it before: We live in a post-PC era. Right?

Well, consider this. In 2013, 310 million PCs were sold worldwide, according to research firm IDC.

Not only are we living in a PC era, billions of R&D dollars are being spent in aggregate by Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo and Intel on dreaming up what the PC of tomorrow will be like.

In that future, according to OEMs, we will soon be living in a super-high-definition world, gone will be those pesky wires, and our computers will run at lightning-fast speeds -- or at least the speed of photons.

Here are nine bleeding-edge technologies headed to a PC near you sometime soon.

Gesture Control

The touch interface made its debut on the PC platform when Microsoft released Windows 8. But touch-enabled PCs are just the beginning. According IHS Global Insight, gesture control -- think Microsoft's Kinect for your PC -- will be widely available as a PC option when buying new systems from major OEMs by 2018.

We already are seeing the technology creeping into systems made by HP, which began shipping systems with Leap Motion Controller technology built in. Leap Motion sells an $80 consumer device that allows users to use hand gestures for navigating a Web browser and interacting in games. It's like "Minority Report"-style gesturing.

Speedy Wi-Fi Technology

Public hot spots are notorious for slowing to a crawl when they hit capacity. The next-generation Wi-Fi standard, called 802.11ax, is designed to deliver some relief. For this iteration of the Wi-Fi standard, the focus isn't on boosting bandwidth speeds -- rather, attention is paid to increasing the capacity for individual connections and improving spectrum management to eliminate hot-spot traffic jams.

The standard is slated to be ratified by the IEEE standards body no sooner than 2019. But, as with previous iterations of 802.11, draft 802.11ax devices could hit the market in a couple of years.

Affordable 4K Ultra HD Displays

It took years for HD displays to gain traction in homes and offices because of a dearth of HD content and sky-high prices. But that's not the case with the emergence of 4K Ultra HD monitors that pack 3,840 x 2,160-pixel resolution and deliver more realistic and immersive content.

Already, Acer, Dell, Philips, Samsung, ViewSonic and Vizio are manufacturing 4K monitors. But the key to making 4K a reality and ubiquitous at workstations as well as homes is reasonable prices. While 4K content is still spotty, pricing on devices such as laptops, tablets and monitors are already competitive and relatively affordable. Look for 4K Ultra HD to make serious inroads in the PC space in the year ahead.

HP's "The Machine"

HP will try to reinvent the computer both at the hardware and software level with what it's calling "The Machine." The Machine, or at least the initiative, attempts to rethink computing using a different type of CPU based on photonics, or light particles. The concept is to make shuffling data back and forth from drive to drive obsolete by creating a suspended photonic state for data.

"This will enable us to deal with massive, massive data sets. Ingest them, store them, and manipulate them, and do this at orders of magnitude with less energy per bit or per compute," said HP CTO Martin Fink, at HP's Discover conference in Las Vegas in June.

According to HP, don't expect to see the first "Machine" until sometime around 2020.

Intel: Wireless Docking, Charging And Displays Will Drive New Partner Opportunities

Intel is tackling the holy grail of IT headaches -- the snake pit of cords that power and connect PCs and gadgets.

Intel said it will early next year release a set of technologies that will drive completely wireless computing. The chip maker said that by the end of 2015 millions of laptops, 2-in-1 devices and tablets will ship with wireless charging, docking and display technology.

Earlier this year, Intel unveiled plans to add WiDi (wireless display), WiGig (wireless Ethernet) and Rezence (wireless charging) technologies to its road map for its upcoming Skylake microprocessor platform. The trio of technologies will be available ahead of Skylake's scheduled release, slated for the second half of 2015. The aim is to make docking stations, power cords and HDMI display cables extinct in the office.

Intel Teases Its Next-Gen Mobile Chip

Intel showed off the first PC containing a next-generation chip based on the upcoming Skylake 14-nanometer architecture.

Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, demonstrated a desktop PC operating on a Skylake chip running 4K video and said the processor would deliver a significant increase in performance, battery life and power efficiency. Skylake also is expected to enable wireless charging and data streaming between PCs, Skaugen said. The chip is expected to be available to developers in the first half of 2015.

Microsoft On PCs: Bill Gates

Say what you will about Microsoft's relevance in the larger IT landscape, but when it comes to the PC it reigns supreme. That's why when the current and former CEOs weigh in on the future of PCs, there is a good chance (for better or worse) that their prediction will be found in the next version of Windows.

In February, Bill Gates was on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and discussed what he sees as the next big thing in PCs. "The thing that will change computing will be a computer's ability to see, listen, and to talk and recognize your handwriting," Gates said.

Satya Nadella On Emphasizing the ’P' In Personal Computing

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during HP's Discover conference in June that a PC experience won't be tied to one device. "So, I walk into a conference room, a big screen recognizes me and the others, it logs us all in, we use the whiteboard, and when I go back to my device, my notes have been annotated, there's speech recognition in the meeting. So, it's your ability to make sense of the data. Those are the advances, I think, that make computing more personal."

Talking To Yourself Gets Productive

Apple has Siri, Google has Google Voice, Microsoft has Cortana, and Intel has Jarvis. These digital voice assistants are each driving a new wave of applications and usability scenarios for PC users. While Siri isn't available on the Mac, Google Voice and Microsoft Cortana have made it to the PC.

Intel is still fine-tuning Jarvis, but the chip giant said it would have support of the voice recognition built into its next-generation Skylake chips. The big difference with Jarvis versus Google Voice and Siri is that all the voice recognition is performed locally on a PC. With Siri and Google Voice, a voice command is recorded and then sent via the Internet to Google or Apple's servers for processing.

Look for Microsoft to incorporate its Cortana voice recognition into its upcoming Windows 10 operating system.