Lightweight Computing

There’s been quite a bit of back and forth lately over what to call the category of devices comprised by the latest smartphones, tablets, and slightly amorphous “smart” consumer gadgets.

Many note the term “mobile” no longer fits the bill. While current trends started there with the first truly robust smartphones, it insinuates a usage (on the go) and a bandwidth (paltry at best) that often isn’t the case. A good look at the data my phone slurps down every month is all I need to know it’s a broadband life that little electronic sidekick of mine is living.

Up until the advent of workable tablets the term “small screen” almost cut it, but that too is out. It’s hard to argue that devices weighing in with screen resolutions starting in the neighborhood of 1024x768 pixels, mapped to physical sizes ideally suited to two-hand use, could ever really be thought of as “small.”

So what’s that leave us with? We need terminology clients can grasp intuitively, driven home by a sensible supporting statement or two, without leading the conversation down a pedantic rabbit hole. We need a suitable shorthand that broadly encapsulates the idiom. Lately, for me, that term has been “lightweight computing.”

I make no claims to lightweight computing being the perfect moniker. But as audience-friendly marketing shorthand goes, I think it fits the bill nicely. In addition to being something folks outside our industry can grasp without reams of explanation, it implicitly accounts for a style of interaction without making claims to context, data rate, or whether the device in question is the user’s primary computing experience (something that will become increasingly important down the road). The ever-changing device landscape may make this term obsolete in a matter of moments, but for now I know what I’m writing in my briefs.