In fact, THERE'S an even more intriguing line of speculation: what percentage of phone (PDA/slab/whatever) interaction will move to voice command? Nowadays I find it easier to say "Siri set an alarm for 8am" then to fiddle with the clock UI, and sometimes it's nice to dictate a text (though I have to double check -- the text to speech is still pretty dumb and bad at sussing from context) The movie "Her" -- not even talking about the title character, but some of the lesser helpers-- had assistants who could make intelligent decisions about your mail and schedule and what not.
I wonder how far we are from that? In any event, the most interesting moves in the near-medium future will probably be software, not hardware. (And not just reskins of existing UI paradigms ;-)
I'm very much of the same school of thought as you: that telephony is a function, not a form, and that the slab-device I use today is a computer with a telephony function. Telephony can be built into almost anything these days, and so to define something which has telephony functionality as a phone wold end up defining cars, servers and many other things as "phones".
I agree that phone is a function, not a form factor, but for me one of the two biggest changes technology has made for society in the past two decades- rivaled only by the emergence of the internet itself - is that the phone function is now traveling with us, like Captain Kirk's communicator when he beams down to a planet.
That is a MASSIVE change in day to day life, plans can be made and changed on the fly. People can be contacted in real time via voice or text as people, not as "someone who might be at a specific residence at a certain time".
Some of your tricks to get phone like service at your desktop or what not are clever, but not the world changers that ubiquitous cell coverage was.
(And of course smartphones are the convergence of those two biggest changers: phones with us always, PLUS internet)
So, slablike device or no... I say probably yes, just because the electronics kit (antenna, battery, chip) is gonna have some bulk and 2D screens are cheap and useful.
Absolutely! But what you value, it seems, is the ubiquity of communication, and the location-independent nature of it. This is exactly what I mean when I say that telephony is an issue of function.
Is it currently the case that most devices implementing this function are slabs? Yes. Need it be that way? No — and so I think that defining a "phone" as being a slab is the wrong way of looking at it.
Yeah, but like I mentioned, the slab has a lot of things going for it... room for a generous battery, antenna that doesn't need to be too near bodily bits, a generous screen... that so many of the alternatives just don't have. And it fits in a pocket. (Maybe one way of thinking about the formfactor is how wallet like it is.) So while it's the function that we're talking here, physical reality indicates it will take some real cleverness to separate the two. (But I guess the slab was enough like the flip-phone/candybar in shape that it got called a "phone"-- a bracelet that did the same things would be called a watch or a bracelet "that can act as a phone")
Lost In Mobile may not have the biggest readership in the world, although the numbers are healthy, but I have always been proud of the level of conversation the site generates. The above is just one example from last week (thanks Kirk and Neil) and highlights that it is often worth looking at what is being said behind each of the articles, and you will always be treated with respect.