What will computer hardware look like in the next five years? With everything we know today, we can certainly suss some of this out now. It’s always fun to put on a cape and pull out a crystal ball, and having covered PCs for 17.5 years, I’d hope I could do justice to a topic like this one. But in this case, I’m going to cheat just a little bit when I make my prognostications.
On the surface, it’s easy to make one prediction: For the most part, the hardware inside computers five years from now won’t be much different than the hardware inside of them now. In fact, the computer you’re using in five years may be the computer you’re using now. Products like Optane are a big deal, but Intel isn’t putting a huge push behind them in consumer spaces yet. We might finally see 10GigE ethernet and we’ll definitely have faster Wi-Fi in five years as 5G rolls out. It’ll be much more common to own a 5G-enabled laptop, though the technology won’t have the same appeal if you still compute from a desktop. If you bought a new high-end system in 2017 or 2018, you’ll probably still be using it in 2023 if you follow a traditional upgrade curve — apart from the graphics card, which you’ll probably have upgraded.
At first glance, that’s not very exciting. What I’m predicting, in essence, is that computing in 2023 will look like 2018, only in higher resolution and with a bit more eye candy. But the real change that’ll be underway five years from now won’t be fundamentally new approaches to what’s in your computer, but the kinds of devices we call computers in the first place.
For all that we poke fun at smart toasters, smart condoms, and smart locks, the IoT is advancing by leaps and bounds. The number of devices with computers in them is exploding, and while some of these products are hacky nonsense, plenty of them aren’t. From medical devices for the elderly to smart bulbs, plugs, and appliances, the smart home is coming — and soon, we won’t be calling them “smart lights.” It’ll just be “lights.”