I'm an IT consultant. As a result, I spend the vast majority of my time at work doing one of the following
- Reading or Composing Email
- Reading or writing Word Documents
- Editing our corporate Wiki
- Researching stuff (or skiving off) on the Web
- Looking at Microsoft Project plans
- Very occasionally coding... very occasionally
To perform these tasks, I lug around a quite heavy laptop. Its not a particularly special laptop, but it does the job. I would like to exchange it for something lighter and easier to work with in order to save my back, especially when I ride to work. I originally thought about getting a netbook. They seem to fit the bill nicely, except for a couple of annoying things:
- The screen is a tad small to be using all day long
- The keyboard could be considered small to be using all day long.
- They don't really have enough grunt to do coding
The first two problems can easily be solved by using an external keyboard, mouse, and screen. I always work in offices, so it generally isn't hard to find something that I can appropriate for the purposes of working while there. The third problem is a little more tricky. One way I've thought about solving this problem is using remote desktop to a server. Given that I generally need a server to code on anyway (I do enterprise SOA work), this seems to make sense. I simply log into the server (either via ssh or VNC/RDP) and I can do anything I would have originally wanted to do on my laptop, albeit with a little more lag. A RDP server would also allow me to get to those windows only tasks that I occasionally need to do without needing to bloat my netbook with software
This sounds great, and I might just do it, but why should I carry a wee little laptop around if I'm never going to use it as a laptop. I'll use my iPhone when I'm on the road, and plug the netbook into a KVM when I'm in an office. Why not just use the iPhone? I love my iPhone, and I carry it with me everywhere. It can do most of what I need to do just as well as a netbook, but it suffers from the smallness problems even worse than a netbook does. Why couldn't Apple make a docking station for the iPhone which allows it to work with an external keyboard, mouse and screen? That way, I can carry my phone around with me, get to work, plug it into the docking station, and work directly on my phone.
I think the docking station would need the following features to be successful:
- Be relatively small, so that it can be transported if necessary
- Provide charge to the iPhone while operating
- Have the following connectors:
- 1x Power - I would prefer an integrated transformer, but a wall wart would work too
- 3x USB - one for keyboard, one for mouse, one spare for something else...
- 1x DisplayPort, or DVI, or whatever to connect up a monitor
- 1x Ethernet port
- 2x Speakers
- Audio jacks for external speakers and mic
- RCA/Composite video out, so that it can do everything a current iPod dock does
- IR receiver for those cute little remotes.
- Possibly a phone handset to allow it to be used as a phone while docked. Perhaps just a jack to allow a handset (or hands free kit) to be plugged in
- Provide at least 1920x1200 resolution screen - this would probably involve improving the graphics card of the iPhone
- Be capable of receiving calls while in the dock. If the user removes the phone from the dock to receive a call, the user's session should be saved so that he can pick up where he left off when it is re-docked. Likewise, if I pull it out of the dock in the evening, take it home, and dock it again, my session should pop straight back up
- Be capable of running faster (at a higher clock speed) when plugged into power. iPhones are deliberately left running at a low clock speed to conserve battery power, but when plugged in they could easily ramp up.
I realise that iPhone apps, as they currently stand, would not be suitable for use on a large screen, but they could be adapted. Alternatively, the phone side and the desktop side could be kept largely separate, and there could be dedicated desktop applications (just a port of the normal os x version) along side the mobile versions. They would still need to synchronise app data (bookmarks for example), but that wouldn't be difficult to achieve.
I don't think this is an especially original idea. I know that other people have thought about doing it for ages. I just wish we could convince Apple to produce it as a product. Here's how I think we do it: tie ins to .mac. .mac is a good service, but most people don't want to fork out for what they can get for free elsewhere. If the iPhone plus had better integration with .mac it would make it a much more compelling offering. iDisk is a perfect example. Devices with limited storage need online storage. voilla!
Ahh apple, I doubt you will ever read this, but if you do, please make this device! I'll buy two. Lots of people I know will buy them. It'll be awesome.