Think back to the laptop you had in 2008. It probably doesn't look too different from what you're using today. Sure, your current notebook is lighter than the brick you lugged around five years ago, and it's running Mountain Lion or Windows 8 rather than Vista or Leopard, but it's still a clamshell laptop with the same basic functionality. Fast-forward to 2018, and your computing experience will be radically different — but familiar, too.
Here's what to expect from your laptop in 2018.
Form Factors: From clamshells to detachables
A study from Gartner in April predicted that tablet sales would surpass laptop purchases by 2015. Despite this unpromising outlook, experts agree that the traditional keyboard and hinged display form factor won't disappear anytime soon.
Gesture control goes mainstream
When Windows 8 made its debut in 2012, touch-screen displays quickly became standard for premium notebooks. According to IHS, nearly a quarter of all laptops will have touch screens by 2016, thanks to falling prices.
But touch-enabled displays are only the beginning when it comes to new methods of interacting with computers. By 2018, using your eyes to play games on your PC or waving your hand to navigate the desktop will be mainstream ways to interact.
Perceptual computing is likely to heavily influence your future laptop, but that doesn't stop at gesture control. In five years, you'll be able to breeze through your laptop's interface by simply looking where you would typically point your mouse cursor.
Tobii's Rex peripheral, which has been available for $995 for developers since January and will see limited consumer availability this fall, lets users navigate the Windows 8 OS and interact with certain applications by simply looking around the screen. But the camera does more than let you move the cursor.
The mouse disappears; touchpads stay
Between touch screens, touchpads and the occasional stylus, today's devices come with enough modalities to diminish the need for a mouse. As these technologies and perceptual computing continue to evolve, the mouse will become less relevant.
"I do believe the mouse is going to be displaced, and potentially fairly rapidly," Korobkin said. "But that will take some time. It depends on what applications are available, but I do think that the mouse is reaching the end of its run."
Manufacturers are beginning to see the effects of these emerging technologies as well. Earlier this year, Logitech, the world's largest mouse maker, suffered a massive net loss of $195 million. Touch-screen usage is only expected to increase over the next five years, although these panels are still considered relatively expensive.
"OEMs [original equipment manufacturers ] and ODMs [original design manufacturers] will follow these standards when manufacturing notebooks," Peter Lin, senior analyst for compute platforms at IHS, said, referring to the prominence of touch screens in hybrids and laptops. "However, the touch panel is in shortage, and it takes time to expand the capacity and increase the yield rate. It's not easy to get touch panels — and the price is still high — but IHS considers it will be solved in about one to two years."
All-day battery life
Just about every day, we use our smartphones to surf the Web, send text messages and play games — only to plug them in again before we go to bed (or maybe charge it twice per day, if you use it a lot). Unfortunately, the reality is quite different for laptops, with many models in our tests lasting less than 5 hours on a charge. But all-day battery life could become a reality by 2018.
Looking toward the future
The PC landscape is changing rapidly, but that doesn't mean the laptop as we know it will become obsolete. Five years down the road, your typical notebook is likely to come with an advanced touch screen with more precision than those found in today's notebooks.
You'll be able to play games and interact with certain applications by simply looking at them. Your PC will rely on sensors to perceive your gestures and determine your location, and all-day battery life will be the new standard. And the advent of wearable technology and perceptual computing will influence the way we interact with computers as a whole.