The Convergence Of The Phone And Laptop

The Gotham Gal wanted to get a new laptop. Her late 2015 Macbook has started to fade on her.

So yesterday we made a visit to the local Apple Store and checked out the options. We looked at the Macbooks, the Macbook Airs, and we also looked at the iPad Pros. We debated the choice and she ended up deciding to go for the iPad Pro. We work with a few people who have iPad Pros and love them. And she noticed how much I am using and enjoying my Pixel Slate.

One of the most interesting things about these hybrid tablet/laptop devices is that they run operating systems that are designed for the tablet or phone. They are touch devices like our phones vs mouse devices like our laptops.

A good example of this is how I do email on my Pixel Slate. I could run Gmail in the browser on my Pixel Slate. But I have found it much more pleasing to do email in the Gmail Android App on my Pixel Slate. I swipe emails away like I do on my phone. But I also have the keyboard when I want to write a long response. It is literally the best of both worlds.

I am writing this post on my Pixel Slate (in the WordPress web app in Chrome). When I want to go back up to the start of the post and re-read/edit it, I just swipe up. No messing around with the touchpad, up button, or down button. It is so much more natural, although it took me a while to get used to it.

I am helping the Gotham Gal set up her iPad Pro this morning and we are downloading all of the mobile apps she likes to use on her iPhone. I think that is how she will want to use her new “laptop”.

So if this is the future we are heading into, where the user interfaces and applications our computing devices and our phones use start to converge, it suggests that there is a bit of an opening for new applications that are designed from the ground up to work in this way.

#mobile#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    I went through that transition 6 months ago, and looked really hard between the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro. It was a very close call, but opted for the Surface Pro mainly because of its file system.It really depends from what direction you look at it. The iPad is a tablet-first experience, whereas the Surface Pro is a better laptop replacement that is also a very good tablet. Maybe the Pixel has an in-between personality, but it wasn’t available when I was looking.It’s interesting that at the hardware level, the Pixel, iPad and Surface are almost a wash. It is at the software usage level that they differ.

    1. fredwilson

      Yupppppp. I can’t use Microsoft products. I have been boycotting them for almost fifteen years now. I feel the same about Apple but I love the airpods

      1. JamesHRH

        Good Lord, boycott?I had to send a founder my documents in some printer format…..in1999!

      2. someone

        boycott Microsoft why? its antitrust bad behavior is ancient history at this point. Google might deserve your spite, but MS?

    2. Brandon G. Donnelly

      I went with the iPad Pro. Use it for blogging on the road and editing photos. The pencil is great for marking up documents. Should probably get the keyboard as well.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yes, get the keyboard.

  2. panterosa,

    I made the jump to an iPad Pro almost 3 years ago, and I LOVE the touch aspect and adore pencil. Since I draw and mark up visuals a lot as a creative, it has been freeing to leave the keyboard for most tasks like swiping, pinch zoom and more, and freeing to leave the “desk” and sit anywhere. I work with my hands so my hands have the ability to express better. Once a week maybe I still use an old MacAir for InDesign and heavy spreadsheet work.Bonus points it fits in my 80’s coach handbag, so can go everywhere. Enjoy.

    1. fredwilson

      What are the best apps for Pencil?

      1. Dave Hyndman

        Goodnotes is really nice. And one called Concepts.

      2. William Mougayar

        I use mine to mark up screenshots. That’s it.

      3. Elia Freedman

        Goodnotes for not taking. Hands down.

      4. pguinnessy

        Notability for journalists because it records while you’re typing. Then when you play it back later, jumps to the text of the audio you’re playing back.There’s also a Mac OS version so you can sync easily between the two.

      5. panterosa,

        My favorite thing right now is a bit hodgepodge but works like a dream – Apple Notes. I can draw in the note with Pencil, bring in photos(esp fun with split screen) from my own or the web by dragging with fingers or Pencil, mark the photos with Pencil, drag in text and highlight.Also, PDFs highlighting and making notes in the margin (I do this more with academic papers, rather than read books on it). I can then drag the paper over to Notes and continue the review of the paper’s content that I need to pass to others.Probably there are some other programs which could do this, I don’t know them. Notes works well across phone and MacAir, which then determines the resolution at which viewing is optimal. And, It’s hard enough to stay loyal to one app. I moved off Evernote, since it’s now paid, and am migrating all that content to Notes, and also cleaning the digital world behind my screens – if it doesn’t spark joy, delete!There are of course lots of drawing apps, though by then I move to paper and pencil or ink.

  3. Dan G

    I use my Galaxy S7 when I’m on the go, I’m on my Chromebook Flip when I need its bigger screen. Though, not all Android apps run on my Flip- Ingress, for example

  4. Sean Saulsbury

    I’m looking forward to the day when I can just dock my phone into a dumb screen/keyboard terminal and get full desktop functionality. Why MacOS doesn’t support touchscreen is beyond me, even my kids touch my MacBook’s screen and get frustrated.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a cool idea. One instance of your workspace that can be optimized for the mode you are in. Is anyone executing on that vision?

      1. Matt Zagaja

        Nintendo using its Switch hardware which is a tablet/portable gaming device and then turns into a full television console. It works uncannily well.

      2. Sean Saulsbury

        hasn’t Android or Samsung started to do some version of this? I’m in the Apple work so am not really sure about the details….

        1. obarthelemy

          Samsung and Huawei, see my reply above.

      3. obarthelemy

        Samsung with DeX on its high-end even some midrange phones and tablets.…Huawei at least on the flagship Mate and P series.…No others I’m aware of.There used to be a standard generic solution called MHL, but it seems to have died as a standard, though Huawei’s and Samsung’s solutions are the same thing barely re-packaged and additional app support.…These features are evolving rapidly and I’m not fully up to date. Key areas are:- support for any USB-C to HDMI cable w/o a proprietary dock, I think Sam has caught up with Huawei and supports that too now. A cable is nicer than a dock since you can still manhandle your phone, but some kind of hub between phone and TV is nice so the phone can charge while (docked) “cabled” ^^.- Software enhancements. I think both now keep the phone available for regular use while docked; you’ve got to choose your apps carefully as landscape and keyboard+mouse support is app-specific- They’re both working on making it wireless but it’s not there yet.

      4. panterosa,

        I want that for split screen! Heavy research usually means 2 iPads and a laptop. I want to swipe over like Ironman.

    2. Adam Sher

      Motorola tried this in the early days of smartphones. I bought the phone and screen dock and the phone’s hardware wasn’t good enough to support this dream. We’re likely at a point where phone hardware can make this happen. It was the Motorola Atrix with Lapdock

    3. Vasudev Ram

      Very roughly, in concept, like the Sun Ray (a stateless thin client) from Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) except didn’t need to dock anything. Thought it was a cool innovation.…Excerpt from the Design section of above page:[ DesignIn contrast to a thick client, the Sun Ray is only a networked display device, with applications running on a server elsewhere, and the state of the user’s session being independent of the display. This enables another feature of the Sun Ray, portable sessions: a user can go from one Sun Ray to another and continue his work without closing any programs. ]

    4. scottythebody

      It’s difficult to design an app that works for both touch and mouse. Many of the best designers in UX have been working on this for a decade or more. It’s a tough nut to crack. Somebody will probably crack it to some extent and in a satisfying way fairly soon. The Surface / Win10 platform gets a little bit close by compromising on the “modes”, but most people I know still prefer either a pure touch or a pure computer experience.

    5. Sebastian Wain

      > I’m looking forward to the day when I can just dock my phone into a dumb screen/keyboard terminal and get full desktop functionality.Are you just talking about Samsung DeX? BTW I realized my dream of just connecting a single cable (thunderbolt 3) at the office to my notebook and convert it in a desktop experience with three monitors and more USBs. I also realized that new mobile phones like the Samsung Note9 can be plugged to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse using a standard USB type C adaptor which makes (some) the same connectors you use for a notebook usable in a mobile phone.

  5. Michael B. Aronson

    went through this a year ago with my wife who has an air, chose the ipad pro. Unfortunately other than annotating PDFs with pencil she still goes back to her old air and is considering a new laptop. Seems like too many things eg Offfice 365 dont work with pencil. Would love someone to suggest the optimal stuff to use to totally switch over from laptop (i might also follow)

    1. pguinnessy

      The biggest problem with Office 365 documents on an iPad is that when you click on a graph you don’t get the tabulated data underneath (which you would do on Windows or a Mac). Its a huge issue when you’re writing reports.

  6. jason wright

    I wonder when Google’s Fuchsia will debut?What size did GG go for?Did you get one of the more powerful Slates? I keep reading poor reviews, about judder and stutter, and general dissatisfaction with the apps experience. I put much of it down to crappy low end specs…? I still like a real keyboard for productivity.I’ve just about stopped using gmail. spyware.The Macbook 12 works for me. Sub 1kg is my first tick box.

  7. Richard

    The adoption of the tablet in the retail and maket seems mature enough for somebody to take on companies like NCR – it has also solved the customer / employee relationship of service workers who now seem to give it 110% – knowing that they can earn an harvest 10% of the total sale in gratuities (another reason why minimum wage may be – outdated – not be needed in the long run).

  8. awaldstein

    Super useful.I have a high school graduation/pre college present that I need to buy.

  9. Matt Zagaja

    I use my 9.7” iPad Pro as my primary computing device and I love it. However it is clear that in the mind of most designers/developers and web developers it is a second class citizen. For example Disqus regularly fails to stay logged in using Safari on iOS and the Disqus UI for upvoting doesn’t have a good affordance for seeing who upvoted a post.Gmail app on iOS/iPad does not follow the same keyboard shortcuts as the web application on desktop. It is painful and clear they just did the minimum to let the phone app become an iPad app.When apps are designed for iPad it is very clear and they often shine relative to their counterparts on the platform. In general, at least on web, the percentage of tablet users is usually much lower than mobile phone and desktop. This makes justifying the development time on it harder.

  10. Bruce Krulwich

    In a sense the app vs browser is going around in circles. 15 years ago we installed applications on our computers for everything. Then browser based took over and beat out app installs because of the headache of app installs. But now mobile apps have gotten so easy to install and so much easier to use than browser based, and so well designed around the hardware they run on, that our world has spun back to apps. What’ll be next?

  11. Rick Robinson

    Bluetooth to mouse, keyboard and monitor from iPhone … I mean where are we on this? https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. scottythebody

      The problem is that a mouse/keyboard is a fundamentally different interaction design than touch/keyboard. People have tried this and never to a satisfying result. Microsoft has been trying to “marry” the tablet/laptop experience for more than decade now and it’s still far from okay. Apps sort of need to pick a path and the most successful ones play to the strength of their respective platform.

      1. Rick Robinson

        i guess i was imagining Mojave running on the phone as an alternate, so when broadcasting to a monitor (and in use with a mouse and keyboard) the experience would be like a Mac Mini … just turns the phone into a hard drive projecting the desktop operating system

  12. Daniel Kimerling

    Weirdly, the only thing I still use my laptop for is to scan documents. My beloved scanner does not have the proper software to work with an iPad. There may be a time when I push the paper flow in my home and office to go all digital because of this, but we’re not there yet.

  13. sportsadsmedia

    100% agree with the sentiments of your post. In terms of what is next, I believe the integration of voice features will become more native to the experience on these devices. As a business user of these devices, I believe my productivity could be enhanced significantly for certain tasks with vocal interfaces.

  14. JamesHRH

    It’s an analogy for the future – you take the best aspect of something and use it anywhere.It’s like Everyone wanting IKEA when they are 23 and starting out.

  15. Elia Freedman

    A lot of rumors this year that OS13 will be an iPad release. There is a lot to be done with the iPad interface that improves it significantly. I love my iPad since it launched, was messing around with Windows Tablet in the early 2000s so have long believed in the form factor. Can’t quite use it solely for work but iPad has only gotten better over the years.

    1. pguinnessy

      I’m really curious about this too.

  16. someone

    it was fun to see Apple (and to a lesser extent, Google) mock the Surface though in the end they copied it (cf. Cook’s “houseboat” comment). and yes, Surface RT was bad but it has been solid ever since v3…nearly five years.

  17. Semil Shah

    I thought of the iPad Pro differently. For me, it wasn’t a “laptop replacement” but slightly different — I mostly keep my Macbook at home, it’s the desktop computer. I don’t take it with me to meetings unless it’s a heavy email day. The iPad Pro is what I take with me on a heavy-meeting day, but often the iPhone works fine, too. (I don’t recommend taking notes with the Pencil and iPad — nothing beats actual pen + paper.)

  18. obarthelemy

    We used to be able to have the best of both worlds with dual-booting Android + Windows tablets back when Intel was subsidizing Atoms.That was a licensing bug though, and MS made sure to fix it. Plus Intel has stopped subsidizing Atoms.I have a couple of those, use them on Android 99.99% of the time. Nice to know you can just carry an 8″ $80 device and be ready for any work emergency though. The bulkiest thing in the setup is the keyboard (and mouse If i expect to be working a lot, otherwise touch+trackpad suffice). Don’t go too far from a power source, this is cheap Chinese stuff with iffy Wifi and battery 🙁

  19. Pointsandfigures

    How do you cut and paste on them? There is some functional things I can do on a computer that I have not figured out how to do on an iPad. Also would like a better keyboard for the new ones which will come

  20. Jack Byrne

    I like my Dell version of the Surface, with its touch screen. But some emails are much faster on my phone Why? – because there’s only an inch or two between the SmartKey app keyboard and screen, plus there’s a row of clickable suggested words in between. Often when I’m on a normal desk keyboard, I wish it had a tiny screen above the function keys that could do the same suggested words. (-:

  21. Susan Rubinsky

    I have been lugging around a big old heavy Toshiba laptop (it’s seven years old) waiting for the emergence of a tablet that has all the laptop features I need plus intuitive new features that make a tablet the natural replacement.I agree about the email. Every morning, I go through the email on my Droid while drinking my coffee so I can easily swipe out the box of the ones I don’t want (or ones I get just to see the headline) then I switch over to my computer to attend to the emails I want a keyboard for.Another thing I switch back and forth on is the pen tool. I’ve been a Samsung Note user since the first gen. I think there’s still a long way to go on a more natural integration of the writing feature in apps. I also have been waiting to replace my really old Wacom tablet because why have a desktop, a Wacom tablet, a Note, and a Tablet device?I want an all-in-one tablet but without degradation of powerful business tools. So many apps “simplify” the experience by removing features on the apps that are really important to working people. I then have to get off the app and go over to my laptop to use a feature that’s not available in the app. Totally annoying if you’re a busy professional or if you’re on the road.I want apps that give more power to the pen tool. I don’t care about voice because I’m a visual and writing thinker, not a voice thinker, but I know that voice features are really powerful for some people. My Droid keeps driving me crazy, sending me reminders to use Google Assistant so I always ask it, “When are you going to have more powerful apps for the pen tool?”I’m fairly close to making the leap to a Samsung tablet from my laptop because of some new drawing tools that are available. I can now sketch on my Droid and there’s an Adobe app that pulls it into Adobe Illustrator and turns it into vector artwork for me. This one tool has inspired me to make the leap because the tool isn’t just an app workaround, it’s a game changer that makes the act of illustration faster and easier on the tablet or phone than on the desktop.

  22. jason wright


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