Having a distinct laptop, netbook or tablet could be a quaint affectation in 10 years' time, according to Intel, as the barriers between form factors break down and multi-purpose smart computing devices take over.
Rama Skukla, vice president of Intel's architecture group, said during his keynote address to the SEMICON West conference in San Francisco that "tablets are disappearing", and that the kind of devices we will be using a decade from now "could not be described".
"The lines between a netbook, laptop and tablet are disappearing faster than designers today realise. It's going to be very difficult to see where one device goes and the next one takes off," he said.
The very concept of the personal computer is outdated, according to Skukla, and future PCs will instead represent personal companions, synchronising around the owner in an individual cloud of information that can be shared with others or kept private.
The industry will have to address this trend on the hardware side, he said. Manufacturers will have to work hand in hand with software vendors to ensure that consumers get a seamless, secure computing environment and a solid way to manage their identity.
Intel is gearing up for this change, and the next five years will see major advances in processor technology.
Graphics performance on mobile chips wil rise by a factor of 12 by 2015, Skukla said, pointing to the advances made in the second-generation Sandy Bridge processors as an example of what could be achieved by merging CPU and graphics onto a single chip die.
Intel explained at this year's RSA Vonference how it is integrating security software from McAfee into the hardware on the motherboard to provide a system check at boot. Google is using similar technology in ChromeOS.
As the use of semiconductor technology spreads, the industry will become part of everyday life and chips will be part of almost every consumer product, as well as being embedded everywhere in the physical, and even biological, environment.