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

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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, 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.

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

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