Hybrid work is forcing us to think differently about not only the way we work but also the devices we use for it. Foldable PCs, for instance, are the tech industry's answer to the challenges of remote work, bundling the capabilities of the tablet with the laptop and the traditional PC. These are work machines flexible enough for the home, the office, and anywhere else you can get a Wi-Fi signal, whether that's a coffee shop or a cupboard.
This is not the PC's final form, however – at least not according to HP, which sees a new transformation on the horizon, led by artificial intelligence (AI).
"The age of AI will create a new kind of PC," HP CEO, Enrique Lores, said on stage at his company's new Imagine event in Palo Alto. According to Lores and several other HP executives speaking at the event, AI will take the personal computer and turn it into a personal companion, creating a truly useful workplace assistant rather than replacing the average worker. The idea is both futuristic and realistic: the rise of AI coincides with the normalization of hybrid work, which has already brought change to our devices.
An example of this is the HP Move all-in-one PC; this is a product that tells us that work and life are far more intricately woven than ever before. The Move is comprised of a 23in display and a wireless keyboard that has a touchpad incorporated on the right of the keys. It's 'movable' because there is a handle on the back and there are two retractable pins at the bottom of the display that switch to little feet when the Move is placed on a desk or even the floor. There is also a kangaroo-style pouch on the back for its wireless keyboard.
It's pitched as an all-in-one PC for work purposes, but it's actually more than that. In its video presentations, HP showcased the Move's different use cases, such as a portable fitness trainer, or family entertainment center. The idea is to have a device that you take anywhere in the home and not only will it fit the space, it will have some sort of use for whoever needs it. In many ways it sums up hybrid work and what we now consider life; we do more from home and we expect our devices to be flexible enough to continue doing so.
These 'hybrid' devices are also infused with AI capabilities. In the Envy Move, for example, the sound can go up or down depending on what it's being used for. It recognizes if the user is working 2ft away or watching 6ft away. But this is merely the start; HP is looking to take that further and the company suggests that AI will make the PC far more personalized and accessible.
"Nothing has gone from early promise to mass adoption quite like AI"
As president of personal systems at HP, Alex Cho is well-positioned to talk about the PC's journey toward an AI-powered overhaul. During the first general session of HP Imagine, Cho waxed lyrical about AI's potential to make a truly personal computer.
Cho sees the coming AI revolution as a huge opportunity to fundamentally change the PC for the better. He excitedly described a world where the keyboard and mouse were left behind and replaced with the advancement of language models and sensors that recognize gestures or biometrics.
"We're a big believer that computing should help people and integrate [into] how they live and work versus people having to adapt to computing," Cho told ITPro. "It's really a mission of ours, it's a philosophy, and I think AI helps do that much more.
The form factor is simply too early to predict and visualizing it is also complicated. But voice and gesture recognition are clear areas of exploration here, as they have been AI research subjects for years, and are already a common feature of most modern devices. What's more crucial, however, is the explosion of generative AI and tools like ChatGPT.
"Nothing has gone from early promise to mass adoption quite like AI," Cho said. "It changes how we explore and live, and unleashes our creativity. It makes possible how we live our hybrid lives today. Tomorrow, everyone will experience the full potential of AI, as the PC goes from the personal computer to the personal companion."
Whatever form our work machines take, it's quite clear that AI will be a driving force of the transformation.
Get the ITPro. daily newsletter
Receive our latest news, industry updates, featured resources and more. Sign up today to receive our FREE report on AI cyber crime & security - newly updated for 2023.
Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.
Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognise him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.