Every tech company under the sun seems to be pushing new variants of the computer experience on us at CES this year. Smartbooks, Tablets, E-Readers, Smartphones, Netbooks and Notebooks, by the end of 2010 there will cease to be a segmented computing market and consumers are going to have a continuous spectrum to choose from.

Leaving aside how this will muddy the waters when it comes to purchasing decisions, I’d like to concentrate on the most established of the new computing paradigms – the ‘smartphone’. Google can call it a ‘superphone’ all they like, but if its true, then a fruit themed Cupertino company were flying over Metropolis long before they were. The company I work for, Codethink, are considering purchasing smartphones for some of their employees, which has left me wondering if it will make us any happier, healthier or more productive.

Previous size reductions of computing technology have completely shaped the way I work. Over the past two years I have done a full weeks work in: Berlin, Rochester MN, Cambridge UK, North Wales, Manchester, Brighton, and Edinburgh. This is thanks to the availability of small, powerful laptops. It has enabled a whole class of mobile web-workers andΒ I fell for it almost immediately.

I can’t say that hasn’t come without a price, its a ball and chain thats always with you. As software-engineers we tend to love our jobs, take it home with us, sometimes to bed with us, often to the detriment of our well-being. I know that open-source companies have to be pretty mindful of losing people to expectation-stress.

Until now, the smartphone that has become most embedded in business culture is the Blackberry. This has me worried. The Blackberry has so-far been a tool for extending work-hours, convincing employees to stay connected, and stay interrupted. Open-source engineers are already in a state of hyper-connectivity. The moments away from our laptops give us the peace we need for the next day, and extending the flow of information in to that time will lead to a very quick burn-out for us all.

So how will the ‘superphone’ enable me to give-up my laptop? What can I do with it during work hours that will help to streamline my day? As an organisational tool I can’t imagine it will perform better than the computer on my desk, but I may be surprised. Perhaps software for un-obtrusive note-taking will help us ditch the laptop during meetings. Codethink already has a habit of some rather long lunches, maybe this can be turned in to a more productive, but still creative and fun time of the day. Does anyone use some great software that we can’t miss out on?

I know Collabora had the mother-lode of N900’s shipped to them the other week. Collaborans – Is it working out well? πŸ™‚