The recent release of new generation devices like Apple’s iPad, which is expected to sell almost 10 million by the end of this year, has started a new kind of race among the computer manufacturers that we have not seen for a long time. Other news that captured the headlines in the past month was Apple passing Microsoft in terms of market capitalization. The Apple success story is now being copied by half a dozen computer manufacturers readying their tablet devices for the market. There is certainly a clear trend and a strong message here.
Today people want fast, easy access to information whether it is their e-mail, bank accounts, stock prices, weather information, movie schedules, Twitter accounts, or favorite online retailers. People also want to access these online functions conveniently, from anywhere at anytime. Whether they’re waiting in the doctor’s office, lying on the beach, or dining in a restaurant, being able to access their online information resources is now a non-negotiable need.
Another trend that fueled this activity is the digital media revolution. Today music, video, news, and books have already been moved to digital form which is accessible through the Web. With social networks reaching record numbers (Facebook passed half a billion subscribers) and Internet retailers reaching record revenues, the demand for mobile computing is on rapid rise.
There are a number of technologies that will make these new generation mobile devices very effective in the business context and speed the transition to the post-PC era. Obviously the first enabler is ubiquitous connectivity. Without fast, reliable, and affordable connectivity this revolution simply would not be possible. 4G networks which have already started to operate around the world can provide the same data access speed that we are used to getting in the office with a wired connection.
The second enabler is the next-generation user experience technology which is a departure from the initial approach early devices took. The assumption that these devices can run the same operating system and the data input mechanisms as the PCs quickly proved to be a wrong one. So now a completely new user interface paradigm is taking over with the help of touch enabled screens and gesture, motion, and voice-based user interfaces.
On the applications front, Web services provided us the ability to connect to select back-end functions with a simple mobile client. Cloud computing allowed us to run all the heavy duty, complex processing and storage infrastructure on a scalable Internet-enabled platform, allowing mobile devices to operate more effectively. Virtualization allowed us to decouple physical infrastructure, applications, and user interfaces so that enterprise software can be operated even on mobile devices.
Today, as a result of these converging technologies, a new generation of mobile devices has emerged that dominates our daily lives like never before. These devices, with their always-on connectivity, practical form factors, innovative user interfaces, zero booting time, and rich set of applications, signals what may lay ahead for personal computing.
Will the PC continue to be the main platform for many of the traditional computer functions we’ve come to expect from it? Or instead will some of the current PC functions shift to other devices which can do these tasks more effectively? We know for sure there are big changes afoot for IT and the business applications as these consumer devices make increasing inroads into the business world.