Mobile tech under Obama

During the next four years, mobile technology will undergo change you can believe in

We've just elected a new president. Barack Obama starts a four-year term starting January 20. There's no way to know how America and the world will change during this time. But we can see how mobile technology will change.

Think of what has happened in mobile technology during the last administration. When George W. Bush was re-elected four years ago, the world had never seen the iPhone, the netbook, 3G, Blu-Ray, the Amazon Kindle or Twitter. Back then, Facebook was for college students, Treo was the best smart phone (and couldn't run on Windows Mobile).

Of course, the president has little to do with all this innovation. Still, it's a meaningful way to mark time and take stock of how our culture is being changed by the most personal of personal technologies.

Because the rate of technological innovation always accelerates, we can expect gadget transformations during the next four years to advance even further than during the last. Here's what you can look forward to during Obama's first term.

Everything gets smaller, and everything smaller gets better. Laptops have already surpassed desktops in sales. Within four years, desktop sales will slow to a crawl while mobile computing sales will soar. Netbooks will go totally mainstream and offer an experience that approximates current high-end, full-size laptops. People will use netbooks like laptops and mobile phones like netbooks. Mobile phones will both capture and display high-definition video.

Mobile social networking will be baked right in to everything. Your mobile phone will use multiple technologies, such as GPS, tower triangulation and Wi-Fi network identification to constantly pinpoint your location. Social networking tools will always tell you when friends are near and always give you location-relevant search results, weather reports and real-time data.

Netbooks will be free. Tiny laptops will be given away as incentives to get people to buy other things. Banks will give them away instead of toasters. Wireless carriers will give them to you as part of your wireless plan.

Everything will have mobile broadband. By 2012, 3G will be the slow mobile broadband technology, and the better phones and wireless plans will be running at 4G speeds, which will approximate home DSL.

Mobile broadband über alles. The ubiquity and performance of mobile broadband will push Wi-Fi to non-mobile uses, such as for businesses and home networks. For mobile computing, everyone will have very fast connectivity through their mobile phone carrier's data network. And everything will use it. Your in-car GPS -- and your car itself -- digital cameras, outdoor security cameras, your wristwatch -- all these things and more will communicate with the world via mobile phone data networks.

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Mike Elgan

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