Mobile Computing

Mobile is not a new technology, but it is a technology that has gone through such dramatic improvements that it has the effects of a new technology. Mobile really started with remote and evolved to mobile as devices evolved. I remember working on the IBM 5100, 5110, and 5120, the first Intel based desktop computers with a bisynchronous communication module. This impressive computer was around long before the PC and was focused specifically on remote computing. When I launched my first mobile startup in 1993, MobileWare Corporation, we were doing some of the same things people do today: email, web browsing, database access, and remote applications, but the limitations in bandwidth over analog cellular networks were enough to prevent mobile from going mainstream. Add to this bandwidth limitation of the early 90’s, the limitations of the early mobile phone in the areas of CPU, memory, storage, and battery life, and you definitely found mobile computing too restricted to support a paradigm shift from connected to mobile. However, now with a modern smartphone having a thousand times more processing power than the original PC, storage moving from 4Mb to 64Gb, cellular networks moving from snail speed analog to 4G, and battery life extended from four hours to more than a day, the limitations of the past are gone. The fact that the mobile computing device now fits in your pocket and performs all the work and entertainment tasks a user needs to shift from connected to mobile computing makes it clear the paradigm shift has already occurred.

Tablets are now outselling notebooks, and smartphones are outselling tablets. The world is moving to an always ON lifestyle. We now use our phones not just for phone calls, texting, email and web browsing, but we run real-time enterprise applications for health care, banking, engineering, and more. We also use our phones to control and monitor the air conditioning in our home, the radar detector in our cars, the video camera in the baby’s crib, the real-time location of our aging parents, and the speed and location of our teenager’s car.

The smartphone has not yet begun to reach any boundaries. Phones with faster processors, more storage, and better displays just keep coming out, month after month. We will soon begin to see our phones using kinetics for smarter, easier interaction while driving, playing tennis, and even improving our golf swing. Screens will move from the limitations of the physical device to glasses with built-in, heads-up, life-size displays. Voice commands will move from the sometimes helpful Siri to truly amazing, conversational interaction. Mobile may not be as new as social networking, but it is still advancing so rapidly that it is considered a transformational technology again this decade, and for good reason.

© 2013 Jack B. Blount

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