This is how you design the computer of the future

Will the computer of the future be stored in a pocket? Will it no longer have a physical keyboard? Computer manufacturers work tirelessly to answer these and many other unknowns. Anticipating what users will demand by up to five years is the formula so that their products don't become obsolete. While some brands already experiment with folding laptops, the IDC consultancy expects an increase in sales of convertible devices. There are also those who work on voice-controlled or 5G-compatible laptops and bet on different computer accessories: from augmented reality glasses to mice with all kinds of designs.

Lenovo was the world leader in the industry in the last quarter, followed by its regular competitors, HP and Dell. THE COUNTRY has visited the company's campus in Beijing, where more than 10,000 employees work. It is located to the northwest of the city, in a technological center called Zhong Guan Cun. This area, popularly known as China's Silicon Valley, is home to major technology companies such as Baidu, Netease, Sina or Tencent.

There, Lenovo has a design lab. A team of 70 workers experiments with different materials, textures and colors. In your hands it is deciding what the computer of the future will look like and analyze what trends will prevail and how it will change the way users interact with these devices. "We anticipate what the relationship between customers and their devices will be like in five years to keep us obsolete. As more technology enters our lives and depersonalizes things, the more people crave real human interaction and authenticity," explains Andreas Schupp, director of Lenovo's design lab in Beijing, who started his career at the company in 2009 and previously worked for a decade at a global design agency.

We anticipate what the relationship between customers and their devices will be like in five years' time so that we don't become obsolete

Even though the products that come to market have limited colors, in the laboratory they experiment with all kinds of shades and finishes. Ashley Xu, Lenovo's CMF CEO of design, explains. "We tried different combinations. With the same color along with different textures, very different results are achieved," he says in a design lab room filled with prototypes of laptops and different products in all kinds of colors and textures. When choosing a computer, every detail is important: from colors to materials. Glass, aluminum or leather are some of those used today. When in the laboratory they consider a color to be pleasant and a material has an interesting touch, they contact suppliers to create different samples and see what the final result would be.

Convertible computers

For Schupp, design is a strategic problem solution that drives innovation. He sets an example for the Yoga family. These devices are a midway hybrid between a laptop and a large tablet. Its versatility is due to the ability to rotate its screen 360 degrees. "The inspiration for Yoga was to understand how the body moves. People use computers in many different ways. Not just sitting at a table, sometimes on a couch or in other poses," he explains

Such convertible computers and detachable tablets will be increasingly in demand, as predicted by IDC. Instead, the consultancy expects a decline in sales of traditional PCs and tablets. Like Lenovo, other companies such as Acer, Asus, HP or Dell have released small convertible computers, touchscreens, and sometimes the ability to disassemble the keyboard from the screen.

Ashley Xu, Senior Director of CMF Design at Lenovo, shows off the case of a laptop. I.R.

Taking the crystal ball to determine what users are going to demand is a tricky challenge: "What if in five years some of the current devices are no longer used, for example, the PC? Why could it be replaced?" In this context of uncertainty, companies test new concepts. Among them, folding devices. While multiple smartphones manufacturers such as Samsung, Huawei or Motorola have already featured terminals that fold, some computer brands don't want to be left behind. Lenovo this year unveiled the first foldable laptop. "The productivity of Notebooks and smartphones," says Yang Yuanqing, CEO of Lenovo as he folds the device to dozens of Lenovo Tech World attendees, an event in November in Beijing to which THE COUNTRY has been invited by the company.

Fully open, the device can be used as a tablet to watch videos. When folded, it can become a kind of book and a computer with virtual keyboard on the screen itself. New computer models are likely to lack mechanical keys in the future and take advantage of the keyboard surface to introduce an additional, fully configurable display. In fact, at the Asian trade fair Computex, manufacturers like Asus or Intel showed an interest in dual-screen laptops.

companies try new concepts. Among them, folding devices

Schupp, in relation to folding computers and these new laptops, notes that "any technology placed in a product can succeed or quite the opposite". "The industry is trying to figure out what the next big breakthrough is going to be," he says. The company has also presented this year the world's first computer with 5G, but the director of the design lab sees a long way to go: "The 5G is there, but it's not ready yet. Right now this technology is also very expensive, it needs the service and the devices." In fact, for him, the main limitation when it comes to creating better designs is cost. The biggest challenge, he argues, is to ensure a good price while a good user experience.

User experience

In fact, by 2020 the customer experience will surpass price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to Gartner. Dilip Bhatia, Lenovo's customer experience manager, says only manufacturers that focus on the experience will survive. Companies periodically conduct surveys and reports to understand the opinion of their users. They also analyze posts on social networks and different websites. For example, Lenovo takes into account the feedback of market users in nine different languages. Audio, battery and performance are some of your priorities,

But not all users demand the same: "What millennials expect is very different than what people from previous generations expect." In addition, Generation Z, those users born between 1996 and 2010, will be 40% of customers by 2020, according to Bhatia. They look for devices with different forms and deep and immersive experiences. Video is becoming "a big business." 73% of executives agree that the video significantly improves the quality of the conversation, according to the expert. In addition, by 2020 almost one in three interactions on the web will be done through voice, according to Gartner. Manufacturers have been working on natural language processing technology for years and developing computers that can be controlled with voice.

Platforms that allow the user to interact between the mobile and the computer

While some computers are compatible with the main voice assistants on the market, some companies go further. Microsoft has registered a patent that allows you to dispense with peripheral devices such as keyboard and mouse and use neurological data to change the state of an application, according to CBInsights.

Between the different innovations, platforms are also explored that allow the user to interact between the mobile and the computer. Lenovo One is a system to link a smartphone and a PC and exchange files between them, mirror the mobile screen on the computer or use different applications on Windows while doing other things on mobile.

In this continuous attempt to improve the user experience, HP has created a Youtube channel with hundreds of videos of laptop and computer repairs so that the user can fix them on their own. In this way, it is possible to choose to solve a problem without having to go to specialized technical services.

Meanwhile, other companies focus their efforts on sustainability and developing different accessories for computers. Some use recycled materials in their devices. For example, HP recently unveiled Elite Dragonfly, the first laptop built from plastics from the ocean floor. Among the newest accessories are augmented reality glasses presented by Lenovo that allow PC users to view multiple screens at once or mice with unconventional designs. Logitech has launched MX Vertical, designed to support your hand in a natural position to avoid the usual hassle of spending many hours using your computer, and Asus has created VivoMouse WT710, which replaces traditional buttons with a circular panel that integrates the functionalities of a touchpad, remote control and optical mouse.