The recent release of the Macbook Air has a many technophiles ogling. Myself included. My current 12 inch Powerbook G4 is six and a half years old. My laptop has survived over six years, and chances are I will resell it and someone else will use it for a few years. This is not terribly surprising considering the most complicated programs I have ever run on my computer are Matlab, a Halo demo, remotely accessing a server, and video encoding. Now there are remote desktop applications, such as iTeleport, for iPhone and iPad so non-phone-based applications can be used. You can use your computer from your phone. There is also a sweeping range of applications for mobile platforms that enable creation of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, gaming, video editing, mathematical computing, reading books, and location (GPS) based services. That is to say, I do not need to have a mobile computer.
What does the future hold? Smaller, lighter, better battery life, and probably flexible or at least foldable. Imagine something the size of a magazine, just a flexible and heavy, with the capability of your current computer. Or something the size of your phone that folds to the size of a magazine, or even a laptop and is as capable as your computer.
Some are touting the Macbook Air as a possible computer for light-duty users. That is somewhat of a farce or 90% of computer users can be considered light-duty users. My six year old computer was strong enough to do 95% of what I wanted it to do the last five and a half years as an engineering student. For most of the people that use computers a fast processor, huge amounts of hard drive storage and a whole bunch of gigs of RAM is more than they need. I have 768 megabytes of RAM in my current computer and I have used my computer more than most.
Now programs do become more unwieldy over time. I have a program called TextEdit on my computer, which makes very basic documents, like 1992 era word processing. It is much smaller and takes less processing power than Microsoft Word, but it doesn't do nearly as much. So over time programs will require more memory and faster processors. That being said for 90% of users the ability to use the Internet, Microsoft Office, listen to music, watch videos, edit photos and video, and play a few games are all they want or need. I feel that buying a top-of-the-line or very capable laptop now that will last the next five years may be the last laptop many people will ever own.