Thursday, December 11, 2008

The world in your pocket?

The future looks mobile.
At TechRoadmaps this week, Stafford Masie of Google claimed that there are 3 billion mobile phones on the planet, while only 1 billion people are online. He says there are more mobile phones than TVs, PCs and cars put together. nFold's software research has shown that most local CIOs rate Mobility as one of the top 3 trends to act on in the next few years. And my own experience confirms the importance of this trend, as our office has become virtual and our workers increasingly mobile. There are few technology barriers left, only psychological ones. People resist change.

Communication is the killer application, so far.
Most people in SA seem to use their mobile phones for entertainment and communication, rather than for work processes or transactions - me included. Yet most software vendors whose roadmaps I have seen, have realised that their applications must work on any device - especially mobile phones. And the availability of GPS maps and directions, and niche industry applications by companies such as Adcheck Mobile, are changing the local landscape rapidly. The battle between Apple and Google for mobile application penetration is raging full steam ahead.

A day in the life of a mobile worker.
When I renewed my cell phone contract recently, I was amazed to discover that my bandwidth usage now exceeds my voice costs. I enabled email on my cell phone a few months ago and also use my phone as a modem to get my laptop onto the Internet when I'm on the road. Most of our office systems are web based or accessible over an Internet virtual private network - but not yet on my mobile phone. Mainly because my phone's screen is too small to be useful. Email communication and calendar synchronization to my cell phone have transformed my life, but not in the way I expected. Rather than chaining me to my desk, I seem to have more time and less stress now than before. And I have at last conquered the email beast.

The world in your pocket.
Apparently your typical iPod now has the capacity to store several years' worth of music or video content. And in future, one may literally be able to download the entire contents of the Internet onto a pocket device. Stafford Masie thinks this will change the world. He reckons there will be less need to be online. I'm not convinced. As storage capacity grows, so the content available to be stored seems to multiply. Humans have a fundamental need to be connected. The bigger the network grows, the bigger the need to be part of it. And the benefits of connecting, exponentially outweigh the cost. Mobility has made it cheaper and easier to stay hooked.