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Old 08-22-2005, 09:56 PM   #1
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Enderle predicts handhelds, not laptops, the future of personal computing

Technology pundit Rob Enderle has written an opinion piece for Technology News World in which he predicts that the laptop's days are numbered and we are moving towards mobile computing devices that are evolving from PDAs, smartphones, and Blackberry devices.

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The laptop will probably last through this decade, but we are exploring different alternatives and as such it is likely that conclusions on this subject will be different in 2011. The market desperately needs to move to a more appliance-like device that is much more portable and much less power-hungry.
If you look at the concepts behind Palm's LifeDrive and IBM's SoulPad, you can see a common theme in which your handheld device becomes your portable computing environment and primary repository for all of your personal data and media files. According to this recent article at c|Net, companies are starting to replace laptops with handhelds due to lower costs, increased acceptance, and the appeal of having the most commonly used business communication tools (web, voice, email, and Powerpoint presentations) in such a small package.

Are desktops and laptops becoming less relevant as our handheld devices become our primary communications and computing devices?

[via jkOnTheRun]

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Old 08-22-2005, 10:30 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ballistic
Are desktops and laptops becoming less relevant as our handheld devices become our primary communications and computing devices?
Nope, in fact they're all evolving the same direction.

I've said many times, many years ago, that the computers of "today" (circa early to mid-90's) WILL go away, and the OS you normally run will just be run over the network, or you'll run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same hardware, etc. Computers are nothing more than "data terminals", with a bit more brains. That's all they should be. Just let me get to my data.

If I'm asking for my data on a handheld, display it appropriately. If I'm asking for it on a desktop with a large screen and more input methods (keyboard, mouse, voice), give me more capabilities.

The Internet is your network, the network is your OS, and your device is simply a "window" to that environment. Nothing more need be included.

Also, this migration to "handhelds" is sure to backfire on the industry in a very real and financially-painful way. There are hundreds upon hundreds of companies who WILL NOT adopt handhelds because of the enormous liability issues associated with them. Government, pharmaceutical, healthcare are the three big ones that immediately come to mind. How do you secure and track your assets? What about retention? How do you stop someone from "cloning" your handheld while its at home?

The solution, clearly, is to make the handheld nothing more than a "terminal" to the information stored elsewhere. Think Bladerunner here, and you'll get the idea. Priviledged information is stored remotely, non-priviledged is stored (or "cached", if you will) locally (mirrored remotely as well).

And guess what? You won't know (or care) where the information is stored, as long as you have immediate access to it when you need it. If your network (the Internet) is fast enough, and access to your data through that interface is just as fast and responsive as if it was local, what do you care?

This is where the future is going. Devices will begin to be "repurposable" upon demand. You'll see devices that connect together (literally) to add capabilities. A PDA connecting to a docking station is one example of this (though not a long-term solution, of course).

Being able to decouple a smartphone's phone component and switch in a GPS component or a thumbboard component instead of a touchscreen, will be key to the device's survival. If you're watching the industry closely, you'll see that convergence is dying and device "personality" is gaining in popularity. Click your "tablet" into a keyboard and now you've got a laptop.

This is the future. Who cares about "The Device". Its the data that matters. The device is simply a way to get to that data. Let it become whatever you need it to become, for the purposes of manipulating that data.
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Old 08-22-2005, 11:07 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hacker
Nope, in fact they're all evolving the same direction.

I've said many times, many years ago, that the computers of "today" (circa early to mid-90's) WILL go away, and the OS you normally run will just be run over the network, or you'll run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same hardware, etc. Computers are nothing more than "data terminals", with a bit more brains. That's all they should be. Just let me get to my data.

If I'm asking for my data on a handheld, display it appropriately. If I'm asking for it on a desktop with a large screen and more input methods (keyboard, mouse, voice), give me more capabilities.

The Internet is your network, the network is your OS, and your device is simply a "window" to that environment. Nothing more need be included.

Also, this migration to "handhelds" is sure to backfire on the industry in a very real and financially-painful way. There are hundreds upon hundreds of companies who WILL NOT adopt handhelds because of the enormous liability issues associated with them. Government, pharmaceutical, healthcare are the three big ones that immediately come to mind. How do you secure and track your assets? What about retention? How do you stop someone from "cloning" your handheld while its at home?

The solution, clearly, is to make the handheld nothing more than a "terminal" to the information stored elsewhere. Think Bladerunner here, and you'll get the idea. Priviledged information is stored remotely, non-priviledged is stored (or "cached", if you will) locally (mirrored remotely as well).

And guess what? You won't know (or care) where the information is stored, as long as you have immediate access to it when you need it. If your network (the Internet) is fast enough, and access to your data through that interface is just as fast and responsive as if it was local, what do you care?

This is where the future is going. Devices will begin to be "repurposable" upon demand. You'll see devices that connect together (literally) to add capabilities. A PDA connecting to a docking station is one example of this (though not a long-term solution, of course).

Being able to decouple a smartphone's phone component and switch in a GPS component or a thumbboard component instead of a touchscreen, will be key to the device's survival. If you're watching the industry closely, you'll see that convergence is dying and device "personality" is gaining in popularity. Click your "tablet" into a keyboard and now you've got a laptop.

This is the future. Who cares about "The Device". Its the data that matters. The device is simply a way to get to that data. Let it become whatever you need it to become, for the purposes of manipulating that data.
Hacker,

While I agree with you that in the future that "thin clients" and network computing will play a major role, I think there are a couple of important points that you're overlooking:

1. "Smartphones" and handhelds are and will become the primary computing, communications, and web access device for a vast majority of the world's population for a number of reasons, especially in developing countries. Handhelds and smartphones will be a driving force to bridge the "digital divide". See these articles:

http://www.economist.com/opinion/dis...ory_id=3742817

http://cbdd.typepad.com/global/2004/...mpact_in_.html

2. Until ultra-high speed broadband is widely available in most homes and 3G + wireless broadband can reach a majority of mobile users, most information will be stored locally. As the price/GB for magnetic and flash memory storage continues to decline and capacities continue to grow which allow handheld devices to store tens of GBs of data, it's more cost effective and quicker to store as much data as possible locally.

3. A lot of people will be hesitant to store very sensitive and personal data online and don't trust the web. Just look at the spread of online identity theft, hacking into sites to obtain your financial and personal data, and companies failing to adequately protect your personal data (unencrypted tapes "falling off" trucks on the way to data store centers) and I think it's pretty clear that it will take a significant amount of time and improvements in internet security before the vast majority of people are comfortable keeping all of their data online.

4. I don't agree with your argument that "hundreds upon hundreds" of companies will not deploy handhelds for the reasons you provide. If you watch the SoulPad demo, it's an encrypted system that requires both password and hardware key authentication. Add biometrics like a fingerprint scanner to your portable device and programs like mSafe, and I think these security issues could be easily overcome.

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Old 08-23-2005, 12:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ballistic
1. "Smartphones" and handhelds are and will become the primary computing, communications, and web access device for a vast majority of the world's population for a number of reasons, especially in developing countries. Handhelds and smartphones will be a driving force to bridge the "digital divide".
Perhaps in developing countries. I'd like to think that the US and Europe aren't in that category at this point in our evolution. Well, some parts of our government seem to still be stuck in the Dark Ages, but thats a different thread.

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2. Until ultra-high speed broadband is widely available in most homes and 3G + wireless broadband can reach a majority of mobile users, most information will be stored locally.
You must be joking, or you don't live in the US. Data over cellular networks in the US is ridiculously expensive, as is broadband. People pay for it, because there literally is no other option for most carriers and service providers.

I'll give you an example: In the Northeast US (where I live), you can get "Home" DSL (1.5/128k) for about $20.00/month. If you want that same DSL without any ports blocked, you'll pay $130/month for that same exact speed using the same exact DSL modem (yes, that's 6x more for the same exact service). Want to up that 128k to something useful like 384k? You're now paying $179.00/month for it.

Providers are raping people like crazy, because they know they can. They also know cable providers are moving in and providing voice over cable lines, which means the traditional DSL provider + telco is going to have to come up with other ways to make money. They're grabbing every non-subscriber they can, so they can get them in at low rates and raise them later on, before the cable companies snatch them all up.

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As the price/GB for magnetic and flash memory storage continues to decline and capacities continue to grow which allow handheld devices to store tens of GBs of data, it's more cost effective and quicker to store as much data as possible locally.
They'll exponentially increase the risk of losing that data. Consumer-level magnetic storage (and including CDR/DVDR media) is nowhere near the same quality as business or commercial grade storage media.

The companies who produce the "crap" people accept as "quality" today know this, and they know these same customers (I'm sorry... "consumers", we "consume" products, apparently, like a virus consumes a host) will come back time after time to replace their $500 device a year later, or replace their CDR with Blueray in a year, and throw away all of their electronics to walk like a stupid lemming to the store to buy the latest, unnecessary gadget because the vendors pandied to their soft side to get them to open their wallet to complete the purchase.

I, for one will not accept "crap" from a company who I am paying lots of my own hard-earned cash to obtain. Then again, I've been told time and time again, I'm not in that lower 95% of people who apparently see no problem with this.

I don't like having to re-burn all of my CDR backups every 2 years because the vendor decided to "skip" that extra protective layer of plastic on the disc so they could sell more of them at lower price to more customers. If they made discs that lasted 15 years or more, why would you go back and buy more from that same vendor? Once every household has 1,000 blank CDR discs that last 15 years, there's no more to be sold. So they decide to skip that "extra" layer of plastic, and now the discs last 2-3 years, max. They know people will come back every few years to buy more blanks and reburn their entire collection of music or backups or Linux ISOs or whatever. Nice way to secure profits.

I don't think $500 devices are "expendible" a year after the original purchase, and I don't think technologies that we invest in year after year should be tied to a device so intimately that the device is useless when the vendor goes away (like those Rocket eBook tablets for example, or my Ministrel CDPD modem for my Palm Vx, or any number of expensive devices piling up in a drawer of gadgets here).

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3. A lot of people will be hesitant to store very sensitive and personal data online and don't trust the web. Just look at the spread of online identity theft, hacking into sites to obtain your financial and personal data, and companies failing to adequately protect your personal data (unencrypted tapes "falling off" trucks on the way to data store centers) and I think it's pretty clear that it will take a significant amount of time and improvements in internet security before the vast majority of people are comfortable keeping all of their data online.
Don't blame an inferior software product and insufficient security measures on the technology.

Also, I'm not talking about the Web, I'm talking about the Internet. They're very different things. Securing the data pathway across the Internet (including in some cases, web traffic) is very simple. Securing servers is very simple. Keeping them secure is very simple.

Convincing people to do their jobs of securing their servers, data and infrastructure and to stop being ignorant, is another matter entirely. Err on the side of paranoia and you'll be fine in most cases. Laziness is what causes security breaches, not technology. Security is a process, not a program. There are no "two-clicks" to securing your environment, and Windows plays no part in that process. That much has been shown thousands of times before, and continues to be shown every day.

But I agree, the sheep that have been misinformed by the masses, the media, the lies spread by their vendors, will not trust technology no matter how much you prove its security of viability. They just want a one-button-click solution to everything, and I'm sorry but they're going to have to actually do some work to make sure their data remains secure.

As with most things, Natural Selection will weed out those who take the path of laziness in this society.

You learn and work, you grow. You sit around, you get grown over.

Quote:
4. I don't agree with your argument that "hundreds upon hundreds" of companies will not deploy handhelds for the reasons you provide. If you watch the SoulPad demo, it's an encrypted system that requires both password and hardware key authentication. Add biometrics like a fingerprint scanner to your portable device and programs like mSafe, and I think these security issues could be easily overcome.
You might not agree with it, but thats reality. The FDA (specifically related to pharmaceutical industries, which I have a great deal of experience with) will not let these technologies pass, not without passing all 3 levels of CFR-21:11 and a very strict level of data retention (ranging from 90 days to 99 years in most cases). No data can reside on the device, no cameras, no recording devices, etc. This is the law in those industries.

Just walking into most pharma companies with a cellphone will get you escorted offsite, immediately (and in one pharma I used to work for; the biggest one in the world currently, you'll get a 3-year ban from ever coming on site on any of that pharma's facilities). There is a zero-tolerance policy at many of them (and at least the big three). You bring a cellphone onsite or use it, you're done. They don't care if you have 20 years at the company or not anymore. You can be replaced, anybody can.

Go ahead and try it at one of the big three. You think they're going to allow employees to take their data home, on a "SoulPad", regardless of how strong the encryption on the device is? Not going to happen, not without a lot of hardware and software changes being put into place to comply with the FDA's regulations and a very anal set of security policies.
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Old 08-23-2005, 02:23 AM   #5
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I am not sure on which side I am, but one thing that strikes me plausible is hacker's argument against the small screen of PDAs. Seriously, could you imagine working full-time on a 3-4" screen? Your eye doctor would love you for it. I think notebooks will hold the key for future personal computing. So I agree there is a trend towards minimization, but I think it ends at the size of a notebook. On the other hand, I think Brian's example of future handheld use is perfectly valid as well. Why do laptops and handhelds have to compete with each other if they could so perfectly complement each other? For instance, IBM's SoulPad demo shows that you could use your PDA as something as a "personalized, secure" harddisk that enables workers and students to share one notebook and yet have their customized environment by plugging in their PDA. THIS is how I would envision near future. Doesn't it sound great?
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Old 08-23-2005, 03:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hacker
I'll give you an example: In the Northeast US (where I live), you can get "Home" DSL (1.5/128k) for about $20.00/month. If you want that same DSL without any ports blocked, you'll pay $130/month for that same exact speed using the same exact DSL modem (yes, that's 6x more for the same exact service). Want to up that 128k to something useful like 384k? You're now paying $179.00/month for it.
Wow, that's actually really insane.

Up here, in Canada (west coast), we get 512kbit up, and 5mbit down (although it tends to only reach up to 3mbit down most of the time - the upload speed is often the full speed, however) cable for about $40 a month (Canadian, of course - apparently around $33 US). And there are no blocked ports. I can run a web server, an IRC server, an FTP server, probably a mail server (never tried), a SSH server, among other things, with no problems.

According to the TOS, they do 'reserve the right' to either restrict bandwidth usage and/or charge you if you heavily overuse the bandwidth, but they haven't said/sent/charged anything to me yet (I've used up to, maybe, 30-40gb of combined up/down bandwidth in one month, on some months where I've been using Bittorrent a lot).

I guess things are quite different in the US, from the point of pricing and ISPs...
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Old 08-23-2005, 04:11 AM   #7
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In Germany I pay for a flat rate of 6mbit up and 576 kbit down 24,99€ + 6.99€ = 31,98€ (dsl basis + isp) without any port restrictions. That is around $40 USD. Like Chaos mentioned for Canada, not all areas are equipped for 6mbit yet (usually 3mbit is the standard).
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