The tech world is obsessed with disruption.
The smartphone killed the MP3 player and GPS. Streaming TV boxes like Roku and Apple TV killed the DVD player. And so on.
But 2015 was the year major tech companies tried — and failed — to kill the laptop.
Here’s a brief recap:
Microsoft surprised people at first with the introduction of the Surface Book, a laptop with a screen that detaches and works as a tablet. The initial reviews were pretty good, but once customers actually got their hands on the device, they found it was plagued with bugs like a faulty trackpad and screen flickers.
Microsoft also released the Surface Pro 4, which like its predecessors, has an awkward form factor that doesn’t make it a suitable laptop alternative.
Google released the Pixel C, an Android tablet with a clever magnetic keyboard cover. While the hardware was impressive, reviewers blasted the software. Most Android apps are still designed for smartphones and look awkward on tablet-sized screens, making the Pixel C a poor replacement for a regular laptop.
Finally, there was the iPad Pro, a device even Apple’s CEO Tim Cook claimed would replace your laptop. But the consensus was pretty much unanimous: The iPad Pro may be powerful, but its keyboard cover and software were full of too many compromises to truly replace your laptop. It’s just a big iPad.
Replacing the laptop was the big obsession with tech companies in search of The Next Big Thing in 2015. How can they take something so essential to our productivity and reinvent it for the era of mobile computing?
The answer? They can’t.
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith And the truth is, they shouldn’t replace the laptop until they can make something that isn’t a half-baked attempt to fulfill the lofty promise of creating One Gadget To Rule Them All.
The Pixel C, iPad Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Pro 4 didn’t cut it this year, and their successors won’t next year, either. Apple, Google, and Microsoft announced these products and juiced expectations with a lot of hype, only to disappoint when they actually delivered.
After trying all these devices this year, I’m convinced there’s no reason to try and replace the laptop. Laptops might not appear as sexy or draw as many headlines as some sort of computer/tablet hybrid device, but the reality is today’s laptops are amazing and they’re only getting better. They’re powerful. They look good. They have excellent keyboards, trackpads, battery life, and they’re guaranteed to run any app you need.
You can’t say that about iPad Pro or the Surface Pro.
Apple My primary machine is a 13-inch MacBook Air that lasts about 10 hours on a charge. It’s also thin, light, and slips easily into my messenger bag. It’s no more of a burden to take with me than the iPad Pro, plus it’s cheaper and simply lets me do more than the iPad.
I’ve also been testing Dell’s new XPS 15, a powerful, attractive laptop that runs Windows 10. Dell’s smaller XPS 13 is pretty good too. Then there’s Apple’s new, super-thin MacBook, which may seem limited today, but hints at the potential laptops hold in the future. And there are several great Google Chromebooks to choose from if you want something cheap and basic.
There’s never been a better time to get a laptop.
The era of mobile computing has disrupted everything from MP3 players to linear television. But no one has cracked how to disrupt the laptop. It’s a difficult, near-impossible task, but for the sake of consumers, it’s something tech companies are better off ignoring as we move into 2016.
For now, the best gadget combination is still the smartphone + laptop. And it should stay that way.