Seven Questions That Will Decide Mobile’s Future-Part Two

2/25/11Follow @wroush

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those coordinates are in a movie theatre, and that there’s a movie playing, and that it should automatically set its ringer to vibrate.

Of course, I could be all wrong. In any case, we’ll have some great people on hand at Mobile Madness to debate the point in a “location smackdown” session, including Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan, Where CEO Walt Doyle, SCVNGR senior vice president Chris Mahl, Going.com director of business planning Roy Rodenstein, and Locately chief technology officer Drew Volpe. The inimitable John Landry will referee.

7. What comes next? What’s beyond mobile?

I won’t waste too many words trying to answer that question—if I knew, I wouldn’t be working as a lowly journalist. But I think my colleague Greg Huang was basically right when he wrote yesterday that “mobile is becoming redundant: in technology, everything is mobile…Every company and every tech entrepreneur is touched by this revolution.” Pretty soon, we won’t need to talk about mobile phones or mobile commerce or the mobile Web, because all phones will be mobile, and all commerce will be mobile-friendly, and regular Web pages will look just fine on mobile devices.

If you look back at the last four or five waves of innovation in information technology—mainframes, minicomputers, PCs, the desktop Internet, and the mobile Internet—there’s a cycle time of roughly 10 years. We’re already a few years into the mobile wave, so it’s reasonable to expect that by 2025 at the latest, we’ll be moving on to the next big thing. What will that be? My own guess is that something a little bit paradoxical will happen.

Just at the moment when it finally seems that all computation is mobile, computers will disappear altogether. They’ll sink into our desks, walls, and dashboards, and maybe our corneas and eardrums. Our homes, offices, and vehicles will all be able to talk with us, and we’ll have implants that project digital data across our entire perceptual field, giving real meaning to the phrase “augmented reality.” We’ll probably all have personal AIs—the descendants of Jeopardy! champion Watson—that supplement our memories, manage our schedules, answer our questions, and keep us safe. Eventually, we’ll look back and think it was funny that we ever had to funnel all of our interactions with the global computing cloud through the little chocolate-bar-sized computers in our hands. Science fiction? Right now, yes. But back in 1996, who would have believed that something like the iPad was possible?

It’s all far more than we can address at Mobile Madness. Which is why we’re already working on another Xconomy event, to be held in Silicon Valley later this spring, looking at the future of computing after mobile. Watch this space for the details.

Click here for a convenient full-text version of Parts 1 and 2 of this column.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://kerskine.tumblr.com Keith Erskine

    Hi Wade – This is a comment on Question #5

    While personal cell phones and iPads are the norm in startups, I think there’s a reluctance for employees to use them in larger organizations. The bigger the company, the more likely they are to restrict access to sites like Twitter and Facebook. The personal cell phone then becomes the means to route around the company firewall allow the employee to keep in touch with family and friends.

    As to turning business processes into mobile apps; that will be driven by the general (and sometimes brutal) restructuring of businesses. There might be advantages to having someone do something important with 3 clicks on an iPhone, but if a process can be simplified to that level, why can’t it be 1) eliminated, or 2) done by one less person.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/wroush/ Wade Roush

    @Keith — Thanks for your comment. Yeah, I’m sure many companies still feel that employee social media activity is incompatible with “work” and that the only way to curb it is to control the hardware in the office. But it’s not like employees aren’t Tweeting and checking Facebook from their mobile devices anyway. Seems like the cost benefits of letting your employees bring in their own hardware might start to change some minds eventually.

    To your second point: Not sure I agree with your bleak, bordering-on-cynical assessment. Doesn’t software-driven business process improvement account for huge productivity gains over time? Seems like there are plenty of work-related tasks that could be made much more efficient if they were overhauled by mobile developers with an iPhone mindset. Efficiency gains can lead to downsizing, yes, but they can also enable small companies to achieve outsize results.

  • http://mobile-web-developer.com/ mobile web developers

    The availability of new mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, has made it easy for end users to connect to each other, from anywhere in the world, at any time. However, while mobile technology has improved social connectivity for consumers, and increased the flexibility and productivity of business people, it has also introduced a new set of dilemmas for IT managers who need to protect the confidential business data stored on these devices.