TVs are facing competition from portable touchscreen PCs that let users do everything from stream movies and music to surf the internet or play games anywhere around the home.
For roughly 60 years, the television has anchored the living room. From black-and-white news reports to American Idol, the world watched as TV history sped up — color came into the picture, then graphics, cable and gaming. Screens blossomed from antennae-laden shoeboxes to wall-sized murals.
Today, the centerpiece of family culture is changing again, this time with the advent of portable all-in-one computers.
“Ours sits in the kitchen and is used every single day,” said Pamela Tenorio, a marketing strategist at Intel, describing her all-in-one.
“I can check email, listen to music or catch up on digital chores while I’m cooking dinner. The kids use it for homework, watching videos. We can update our finances from anywhere in the house, without being socked away in the office.”
Tenorio says the fact you can pick it up and bring it anywhere, like you would a tablet or laptop, makes it like a portable PC or TV, without clunky cords.
Unlike traditional tower and monitor desktop computers, all-in-ones contain everything — speakers, microphones, camera, computer processor and the hard drive — built into the flat screen. While some come fixed to a stand, many models come with a battery, making them like giant touchscreen tablets, but with a whole lot more computing capability.
They are sleekly designed and need just a single power cord. And the portable models get hours of battery life.
“The picture is simply gorgeous and has made it ideal for watching videos on Netflix and YouTube,” said Beeb Ashcroft, writer and social media manager for the popular site MOMstart.com.
“Because its wireless keyboard and mouse are optional, it can easily stand on its own and be operated using the touchscreen, making it almost like a smart TV.”
In the same way innovation drove the evolution of the TV and the PC, design innovation and new capabilities are driving the evolution of the all-in-one.
Several apps built for use on all-in-ones enable playing of favorite board games like Risk, Scrabble, Yahtze and checkers. Other apps are educational tools for preschoolers or help teens with homework. Others enable photo editing and manipulation. The possibilities are endless and advancing as more people turn to all-in-ones.
Justin Germino of Dragon Blogger likes the implications for using all-in-ones for gaming. “For those who really want the benefit of a laptop in the form factor of a much larger tablet, all-in-ones offer a really good value at being able to accomplish this.”
He said the Intel WiDi lets users beam their screen to compatible Intel WiDi displays and display adapters, which means the all-in-one can beam to your primary television too.
“These are versatile PCs, and playing Hearthstone on an 18-inch touch screen tablet is quite fun,” he said.
One major advantage of all-in-one PCs is their computing power.
“The beautiful thing about the all-in-one is that you get what you love about your old tower desktop without the mountain of wires. You get all the goodness — high performance, a huge screen and full-size keyboard — with none of the bad.”
“All-in-ones are considered desktop computers, and desktops are the highest performing computer a consumer can buy,” said Miles Kingston, who is the director of the all-in-one segment at Intel.
Kingston said all-in-ones take the solo experience of a laptop or tablet and, thanks to the larger screen and portability, turn it into a shared experience.
Currently, all-in-ones top out at 27 inches, and although Kingston says that is likely to change, he doesn’t foresee giant unmanageable all-in-ones completely replacing the big-screen TV. He said as TVs get smarter and all-in-ones get bigger, the categories will start to blur.
Currently, there are more than 70 different all-in-one models now in both the stationary and portable variety. Current models have ultra-thin LCD displays ranging in size from 18 to 27 inches. Some displays adjust for different viewing angles and can lay all the way flat. New models have smartphone-like touchscreens plus gesture and voice recognition. There are even a few with Intel RealSense 3D Cameras built in.
Helena Stone, editor-in-chief of Chip Chick, said consumers now have many choices when it comes to buying all-in-one PCs. “It’s all about customization and personalization,” she said. “Many people are dumping cable, some don’t even own TVs. The all-in-one has become their home media center.”
She said prices are coming down as more manufacturers get in the game, and that portability is becoming increasingly key, whether the all-in-one goes to the couch or to Grandma’s house. “You become less tethered,” she said. “It will become the norm and that’s going to really reshape how we use our PC.”
While family members could certainly use portable all-in-ones at a desk for prime productivity, the beautiful thing is, they don’t have to. Portability and flexibility is what it’s all about. Whether kids use it to do homework on the bunk bed, parents use it to plug in family finances, or the entire family watches a movie on it under the stars, the all-in-one is changing the way the world works.