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The Night Owl Will Switch to Note-books — In Five Years!

As you know, Apple sells far more note-books than desktops these days. That’s just the trend in the industry, accelerated on the PC side by the rise of netbooks. Certainly, this transition makes a lot of sense, since you don’t have to fret over synchronizing two computers. You can do everything with just one — you can also save lots of money, and that may be the biggest advantage of all!

I have one client, a graphic designer, who uses his Mac note-book for most everything. Whether at home or at the office, he attaches it to a large display and external input devices and he is content. For him, there appears to be no compromise whatsoever.

This is a trend that I have resisted so far, because I require the performance of my Mac Pro, something that my 17-inch MacBook Pro cannot quite approach, at least not yet. While the note-book’s Core 2 Duo processor is certainly well equipped for a variety of tasks, it would be absurd to think it comes close to the Mac Pro in all performance parameters.

That disparity will probably increase when Snow Leopard arrives, since it provides superior multithreading, which means that those four-core processors will finally stop sitting idle most of the time and will be better deployed when the need arises. The twin four-core Xeons on my Mac Pro will really make the difference; I can’t wait.

Now I realize most Mac users probably don’t need all the extra performance, but for those who do, today’s Mac note-books aren’t quite there yet. The slower hard drives one finds in a portable computer can also compromise many functions that require constant access to the data on the drive, and it makes everything proceed slower than you’d otherwise prefer.

In addition to Snow Leopard, several developments are converging that will, one day, make it possible to go all portable and not sacrifice one whit of performance. That may mean that the Mac Pro will become an endangered species, except for the small number of users who require its stellar expansion capabilities. Then again, perhaps a pair of ExpressCard slots on a MacBook Pro would address many of those needs.

When it comes to processors, lower power quad cores are coming for Intel’s mobile platform in the next few months. They will demand no more juice than today’s dual cores and, assuming their costs are reasonable, it’s likely your next MacBook or MacBook Pro may have them, at least in some configurations. Indeed, the future calls for eight cores and more, meaning that you might be able to equip a Mac portable with the same processor power as the Mac Pro on a single chip.

Today’s MacBook Pro can be equipped with up to 8GB of RAM, which may seem like an awful lot, until you consider that the MacPro’s memory slots will contain four times that amount. As higher-density chips arrive and become available for sane prices, having 32GB and more in a portable computer will no longer seem a pipedream.

As to hard drives, well the future is already here, if you can afford it, in the form of SSDs, short for solid state drives. They are extremely fast in most respects, but  they remain costly. For example, the 256GB SSD option for a MacBook Pro is still $750 extra as I write this article. It will take several years and a lot of engineering savvy to be able to deliver pricing that’s more in line with a traditional mechanical hard drive. When that day arrives, however, it will mean far greater resiliency and longevity for note-books subjected to a near-abusive lifestyle.

All these developments will converge over the next few years. My five-year estimate might, in fact, be a little pessimistic. As more and more Mac and PC owners go portable, companies will invest additional money in developing the components needed to make them sing and dance as well as a desktop.

Understand that I work in a home office. I cherish large screen displays, but the MacBook Pro in my future will be simply replace the desktop and connect to the same accessories I’m using now (or their successors). At night, it will accompany me to the bedroom and be stored in a robust laptop case for travel.

Then again, that future also means that the iPhone of 2014 will be powerful enough that it will certainly replace larger computers for most routine chores. Then the pundits might be eagerly touting the eventual demise of the traditional Mac portable, to be replaced by the iPhone Pro.

It would take us one step closer to the legendary Star Trek Tricorder, I suppose.

But for now, that is my five year plan. What’s yours?