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Computers in the 2000s: The Decade of Mobile Innovation

Welcome friends, take a seat and get ready for a nostalgic journey back to the 2000s, an amazing decade that transformed technology and changed the world. In the span of just 10 years, computers went from bulky beige boxes tethered to our desks to sleek, portable devices in our pockets. It was a time of radical innovation – a pivot point that gave rise to the mobile age. Let‘s dive in and relive it, shall we?

Laptops Unleashed: Computing Goes Mobile

In the early 2000s, a major shift was underway in the computer world. After decades of desktop dominance, laptops finally outsold desktop PCs for the first time in 2003 (33 million laptops shipped worldwide versus 31 million desktops according to Gartner). This marked a key milestone – computing was going mobile.

What changed to make laptops so popular in the 2000s? Faster processors and beefier specs definitely helped, but key innovations in portability and usability were also game changers:

  • Wi-Fi – By the early 2000s, Wi-Fi wireless networking started spreading. No longer chained to a desk by ethernet cables, we could use our laptops from anywhere.
  • Faster Cellular Data – 1G and 2G cellular networks set the stage, then 3G arrived in 2001. This expanded the internet beyond Wi-Fi zones and fueled mobility.
  • Longer Battery Life – Early laptops eked out 1-2 hours of use, but batteries improved dramatically by the mid 2000s. The MacBook Pro could last 5 hours on a charge.
  • Better Screens – Bulky CRT displays transitioned to sleek LCDs and crisp active matrix technology. Easy viewing while traveling became possible.

With these advances, the laptop experience improved tremendously. Notebooks became true productivity tools you could take anywhere while still doing "real work." As technologist Kevin Werbach noted in 2001, "the laptop is no longer about where you are. It‘s about who you are."

And who were we? A mobile society that liked computing on the go. By 2010, a staggering 30% of U.S. adults owned a laptop while netbook ownership also surged according to Pew Research Center data. The mobile computing revolution had arrived.

Rise of the Smartphone Supercomputer

Laptops weren‘t the only mobile devices transforming technology. An equally profound shift involved smartphones extending the power of computing to our pockets.

We tend to think of smartphones as ubiquitous, but in 2000 they barely existed. That changed fast. By the late 2000s:

  • 172 million smartphones shipped annually worldwide according to IDC data, overtaking regular cell phone shipments.
  • Over 65% of Americans owned smartphones according to Nielsen surveys, up from almost 0% just a few years earlier.

So what happened? Well first, a visionary company named Apple released a device called the iPhone in 2007. Featuring a slick touchscreen interface with advanced mobile browsing and apps, it redefined what a smartphone could be.

Of course Apple didn‘t act alone. Google pivoted to launch Android in 2008 – a competitive open source mobile operating system. Combined with iOS, Android and Apple catalyzed an explosion in mobile computing.

Make no mistake, these devices were computers. The iPhone 3G boasted ~600MHz CPU and 128MB RAM – easily outperforming desktop PCs from just a decade prior. Suddenly mainframe power fit in our pockets.

The societal effects of this mobile revolution cannot be understated. Like laptops, smartphones untethered computing from the desktop. But they took it a step further, infusing computing into nearly every moment of our lives. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs remarked in 2007:

"Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything".

That product was the iPhone, and it certainly changed everything about technology and society in the mobile 2000s.

Faster Chips Fuel the Future

Of course, cramming desktop power into mobile devices wouldn‘t be possible without new processor innovations. The 2000s saw new chips that delivered exponentially greater speeds.

At the start of the decade, the Pentium III ruled with speeds around 1GHz. Then in November 2000, Intel unveiled the Pentium 4 capable of processing over 1.5 billion instructions per second. It ramped up to hit 3.8GHz by the end of the decade – nearly 4x faster than early 2000s chips!

Intel had fierce competition too. AMD launched its Athlon and Phenom processor lines in the 2000s, winning significant market share for its high-performance designs. In fact by 2006, over 25% of PCs shipped with AMD processors according to Mercury Research.

Faster meant more than just speed – it enabled new experiences. Advanced games, HD video editing, and multitasking that felt effortless were now possible. And mobile devices took advantage of these leaps. The first iPhone‘s 620 MHz ARM processor gave it the power Steve Jobs wanted in a pocket-sized device.

So in summary, new processor tech supercharged what computers could do across the board. And that strength underpinned the mobile revolution and other trends we‘ll cover next.

Broadband Powers the Modern Connected Life

Blazing fast processors may have enabled new computing experiences, but internet connectivity glued it all together. Here broadband changed the game.

Early 2000s home internet ran on sluggish dial-up. But a major broadband boom supercharged speeds:

  • 20% of Americans had broadband in 2000
  • 40% had it by 2003 based on Pew Research
  • Over 55% of homes were broadband connected by 2006!

This 100x speed boost transformed digital life. Music downloads, video streaming, multiplayer gaming, video calls – broadband enabled it all.

And critically, broadband untethered the internet experience from desks and bulky PCs. With fast mobile data from WiFi and 3G networks, activities once confined to dial-up desktops could now be done anytime, anywhere. The world moved online.

But broadband impact went beyond just speed. Always-on connections meant the internet was continuously available to enrich life. We didn‘t just "go online" anymore – we carried the online world with us.

In the words of author Nicholas Carr writing in 2008:

"Broadband is turning the Internet into a suspension of people, places, things, activities. Everything dissolves into the ever-present now of virtual reality".

That suspension flowed across all aspects of society and fueled the mobile digital transformation.

The OS Cage Match: Windows, Mac, Linux

Powering the hardware driving the mobile revolution were some legendary operating system battles. Windows dominated the desktop PC world beginning in the 90s. But the 2000s saw renewed competition.

Windows Stayed Strong

Microsoft remained firmly entrenched on consumer PCs with over 90% market share. Versions like XP (2001) and Vista (2007) brought fresh UI design and security tools. And Windows 7, launched in 2009, proved so stable it retained loyal fans years after release.

Apple‘s OS X Resurgence

Meanwhile Apple was fading through the 90s, but in 2001 it launched a revolutionary OS. Based on Unix, OS X introduced protected memory, preemptive multitasking and other robust features from workstations. Combined with Apple‘s design brilliance, OS X propelled a massive Apple comeback.

Linux Went Mainstream

Linux, the open source Unix-like OS, quietly gained traction through the decade. Refined distributions like Ubuntu, Mint and Fedora brought Linux to casual users beyond just techies. Its flexibility made it the OS of choice for web servers, supercomputers and embedded systems.

So Windows stayed dominant on consumer desktops, but competition from Apple and open source Linux created options. The stage was set for even more OS innovation to come.

Gaming Evolution: Connected Consoles and Online Worlds

At the crossroads of design, connectivity and raw computing power sat the videogame industry. The 2000s saw monumental leaps in how we gamed.

Sony led the charge early by launching the PlayStation 2 in 2000. With a "Computer Entertainment Processor" and DVD storage, it really was a computer designed for next-gen gaming. Amazingly, over 155 million PS2 consoles were sold by the end of the decade!

Microsoft brought connected gaming to the masses with Xbox Live in 2002. For the first time, friends could face off in Halo from their living rooms across the country. The service exploded to 65 million users by 2010.

The Nintendo Wii then crashed the party in 2006 with motion control interactivity. Selling over 100 million units, it introduced gaming to new demographics beyond traditional hardcore fans.

Equally importantly, online networking allowed massive multiplayer experiences on PCs. World of Warcraft attracted over 12 million subscribers by 2010 with its immersive fantasy world.

So from lightning fast graphics to online social play, console and computer gaming came a long way through the 2000s. Like other tech sectors, connectivity was key to creating life-like shared worlds.

Digital Media and The Decline of Physical Formats

CDs and DVDs certainly remained popular through the 2000s for music, movies and games. But digitally distributed media slowly gathered steam, foreshadowing more radical change on the horizon.

Apple‘s iPod and iTunes store propelled the trend in 2001. iTunes let you search, purchase and download songs over the internet in minutes – no trips to a store required. The iPod made these digital tracks portable. By 2010 Apple was selling 12,000 songs per minute online and counted over 280 million iPods sold.

Video also went digital. Netflix launched its subscription streaming service in 2007, with other platforms like Hulu right behind. And YouTube took user-created streaming mainstream after its 2005 launch.

Overall global digital music revenues nearly doubled from 2004 to 2008 based on IFPI data, while physical music sales dropped. The message was clear – digital distribution was the future. The 2000s set the stage for the streaming services that dominate media today.

Cloud Computing Lifts Off

Finally, one futuristic concept from the 2000s that became big in the 2010s – cloud computing. Though the ideas originated decades earlier, services like Amazon Web Services (launched 2006) made the cloud accessible for businesses and consumers.

The impact was simple but profound. With network connectivity and remote servers, data and apps could be accessed anywhere while processing and storage happened in the cloud. As Kim Polese of cloud pioneer SpikeSource predicted in 2007:

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers…our future depends on the cloud."

While not entirely accurate, she recognized this shift would mean less computing power required locally. That freed users to fully embrace the mobile revolution and untether from traditional PCs. Cloud truly was a catalyst for the future.

Closing Thoughts: A Pivotal Decade

When you step back and take it all in, the 2000s marked a pivotal turning point for computing and society. As this retrospective showed, the key themes driving change were:

Mobility – Laptops, smartphones and wireless broadband untethered computing from desks and made technology portable.

Connectivity – Online networks connected people and devices together like never before.

Power – New processors delivered exponential speed increases to drive rich experiences.

Accessibility – Improved interfaces opened high-tech experiences to everyone.

These interwoven trends transformed technology from isolated systems to an immersive fabric touching all aspects of life. Computers evolved from appliances used sporadically to a continuous companion accessible anywhere, anytime.

So as we journeyed back through the 2000s, I hope you gained appreciation for just how revolutionary this decade was. The mobile computing future we live in today had its seeds planted right here. It was an amazing time to experience the high-tech world, and the momentum of innovation only continues to accelerate. Buckle up, because if the 2000s were this transformative, the next decade promises to be an even wilder ride. Thanks for reading!