The Smartphone of the Future May Not Have a Screen at All.

This article got me started thinking about the future of the mobile device. It was really this quote:

"When services actually work seamlessly across all these screens that are available, you’re going to be like, oh my god, obviously."

I think there's something to that. In fact, I think if you take it to its logical conclusion, we end up in a pretty cool place where the primary role of the 'phone' is as a powerful, extensible and portable combination of CPU and networking device.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

If you think about it, pretty much all of the tasks we carry out in the digital world require three basic things: computational power (the CPU part), connectivity (the networking part), and a user interface. Sure, some small amount of memory is a nice thing to have, but for the most part our core storage needs have moved to the cloud.

Right now, the my iPhone provides these functions, but so does my iPad and my computer and my smart TV and my car's enterainment system. But we're quickly approaching a world in which this duplication of core functions (CPU, networking, interface) across devices is not only redundant but actually detracts from the utility they provide as a whole, because I end up with multiple different systems that work in slightly different ways, have different strengths and weaknesses, and may have vastly more or less capable interfaces.

Instead, imagine a future where these functions are unbundled, with the phone taking ownership of the CPU and networking pieces, and everything else is only in charge of the interface piece. Instead of a my desktop computer at work, I have a large monitor and keyboard that instantly connect to my device when I fire them up. My wifi connection, my applications, and the rendering of my interface? All handled by the device in my pocket.

And when I'm sitting on the couch? The interface might be a combination of a TV screen along with gesture and voice recognition. But the CPU and networking piece? Again, handled by the device in my pocket.

When I'm riding my bike? My sweet-ass smart glasses as interface, same device as CPU/network. In the car? Heads-up display plus voice recognition as interface, same device as CPU/network. And maybe, when I'm really on the move or all of my other interfaces are out of juice, I'll choose to fire up the display on my trusty device - if it still has one at all.