Mobile hardware outpaces software, user capabilities

In a few short years, many consumers may never even use a PC

Mobile hardware is outpacing software capabilities and the mobile user experience, according to a group of mobile phone technologists speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among those speaking was Rich Miner, group manager of mobile platforms at Google, who said open operating systems -- like the one launched on Google's the long-awaited G1 Android phone -- will drive future innovation, but much of it may be lost on the user in the short term.

"The easiest way to see this is ... about 80 percent of mobile phones have cameras in them today, yet if you were to ask how many people actually use those cameras -- know how to get photos off of the phone -- it's probably literally 10 percent to 15 percent," Miner said during a panel discussion on the future of mobile communications at Technology Review's Emerging Technologies Conference here.

Miner spoke only a day after the debut of the G1 Android phone, a combination of technology from T-Mobile, Google and HTC. Much like Apple's iPhone, with a touch-pad screen and GPS, the G1 Android adds a physical keyboard.

These phones "have the capabilities in terms of hardware and processing power and network connectivity that desktop computers had a few years ago. These devices clearly have desktop mobile computing capabilities but yet we're not using them this way," Miner said.

Elizabeth Altman, vice president of strategy and business development at Motorola Mobile Devices, said having more open OSes on phones and lower prices for those phones will enable greater use of more sophisticated applications and make it more interesting for developers to create more Android-style OSes for mid-tier mobile phones, but she added, "for good chunks of the world, in 3 to 5 years, Android probably won't be the operating system of choice because it just doesn't make sense economically."

Among the issues dissuading users from employing all the capabilities of their mobile devices is the complexity involved in operating them. Another obstacle is the traditional programming environments for mobile phones, which have been controlled by resellers and mobile phone carriers, and "neither of those groups are known for building brilliant software," Miner said.

But with the entrance of companies such as Microsoft and Google into the mobile platform market, a shift is coming -- one so dramatic that in a few years, a large contingent of consumers may not even use a PC, but instead perform all their Internet and communications applications on mobile devices, according to panelist Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer of the Experience and Technology Group at Adobe Systems.

Lynch said many developers are also betting on Webkit, an open source application framework, as the method for creating a foundation on which web services can be delivered across platforms, be it Windows, Linux or Mac. Miner also said larger and faster touch screens, better designed keyboards along with the use of conventional wireless networks and high speed networks with contemporary web browsers will give users an experience very much like that of a desktop PC, Miner said. "Not that that experience is the exact same one as you'd have on your desktop, but the browsers are becoming every bit as capable on mobile phones as the ones on your desktops," he said.

"All of these things are going to be important factors in realizing the mobile Internet which has eluded us," he added.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobile phones

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucas Mearian

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?