Two Ways Mobile Will Change Personal Computing

It looks to me like the Smartphone market is going to spear-head of a lot of improvements to personal computing.

Surely location-based services are going to make our lives a lot easier in many ways, and of course, these technologies are probably going to completely change the face of advertising. But the ubiquity of GPS, and in turn, the development of new location-based services is only one of the more obvious ways Mobile will likely evolve personal computing as we know it.  

Here are two areas where I think the powerful mobile devices of the near future are going to be major game-changers. 

1. The Race for Affordability and SPEED in Mobile Data Connections – It seems like the mobile phone carriers haven’t been doing much to grow or improve their coverage.  It’s like there was an initial land-grab and for the past several years, whichever carriers are dominant in a given area have been left alone by the other carriers.  For years now, in the tech news I consume, I’ve been hearing about small, experimental rollouts of WiMAX and other alleged 4G technologies, but as far as  can tell, connectivity is just as crappy and overpriced as ever.

Smartphones are a real incentive for carriers to improve their networks.  The days of dumb-phones are coming to an end.  It wont be long before we all have , in our pockets, devices capable of streaming video in either direction. We will all be using ‘cloud’ services from our phones.  The devices are going to be practically free, so if the current major carriers don’t make better and more affordable connectivity available, some one else will. 


2. The Homogenization of Operating Systems – Linux is on the rise and JavaScript+HTML+CSS is proving to be an adequate way to build UIs (Thanks, Web2.0 Boom!).  You don’t need to look far to see evidence that the languages the Web is built on may be most of what we need.  One case in point is Palm’s “Web OS”, a mobile OS, the UI of which is totally done in JavaScript with HTML and CSS (and the backbone of the phone is all Linux) …Or how about Android? Again, Linux-based.  I don’t see non-linux OS’s continuing to rule the Mobile OS space for long.  It’s got to be just too tempting for Developers to write applications that will work on many devices rather than just one, especially when those Apps will be very easy to port to Browser-Based UI’s… What Smartphone 3 years from now will come without a browser?  

So you see, the browser is a leak into the cloud. And devices/OSs that allow cloud Apps to run natively rather than through a browser window are appealing for users and developers.  I just don’t see any way I could be wrong about this.  Instead of your phone having a browser, imagine that your phone will be a browser.  Right? You see?  For instance, the settings pages on your phone are just little web pages hosted by a tiny server you keep in your pocket.  Palm is on to something.

So the iPhone may stick around for a while, but I see a major uphill battle for for Apple or any other device manufacturer who wants to maintain complete control of what apps and services consumers can use.

I believe that the desktop computer and the desktop OS are going to move aside when it comes to what is really important to most people.  Connectivity.  Anytime, anywhere for anything.  And rich Applications to go along with it.  That’s what’s important.  Your Mac OS or Windows can be virtualised.  



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Conference Calls Kill Productivity for Virtual Companies?

Here‘s a really cool Interview from the IT Conversations Podcast.  This is part of Jon Udell‘s awesome series, Interviews with Innovators.

The guest Andy Singleton talks about ‘distributed’ software development teams and some of the common ways they get it wrong.

[Excerpted from IT Conversations:]

Andy Singleton is an entrepreneur who has long studied and practiced the art of distributed software development. Influenced by the open source and agile movements, he has arrived at some startling conclusions about how to manage commercial projects…

A few of the surprising Conclusions Singleton has made [excerpted from Jon Udell’s Blog]:

Don’t interview. Just pay people to join a project, pull a task from the queue, and find out what they can do.

Don’t divide work geographically. You’re not making best use of your distributed team if you impose that artificial constraint.

Don’t do phone conference calls. “I’ve never had someone tell me: ‘I worked on a project with lots of conference calls, and it worked great, so your thesis is disproved.’”

Don’t estimate. It’s just extra work. If you know your tasks and priorities, go after them in order. Estimation won’t help, and will cost 10% of your time.

Pile on developers early. It enables people to self-sort, and yields a stronger and more flexible team at the two-week mark.

[Excerpted from IT Conversations:]

In this conversation [Andy Singleton] explains why not to do these things, and what to do instead.

Semantic Web is Taking Forever, Right?

As a hardcore Linked-Data/Semantic Web Enthusiast for some time now, say since pre-2007 (back then, I didn’t know what to call it but I understood that it was possible), I can’t help but feel sometimes like it’s never going to happen.  Sometimes a non-silo Web seems like a idealistic fantasy.  Sometimes it seems like nothing is happening.  During the first half of 2007, the amount of excitement in the Sem-Web Category of my feed-reader was high.  Since then, however, the excitement level seems to have diminished quite a bit.  Am I right?

I want to offer a few condolences and some evidence that the Semantic Web is not dead. In fact, I believe it’s still going to “happen.”

  1.  Tim Berners-Lee spoke at TED this year, apparently urging people to unlock their data, according to GigaOm (TED, please publish this video soon, OK?). TED has a quickly growing  amount of influence in the mainstream from what I can tell.  This is good outreach. 
  2. JavaScript support for querying more than one URL/Site/Database at a time is coming to a browser near you very soon, according to John Resig via this talk at Google. We’ve seen a lot of new APIs allowing programmers to access certain data from certain places, but more promising to me than these limited and proprietary APIs that have been sprouting up is how HTML itself is increasingly becoming more ‘semantic,’ if for no other reason, because it allows coders to do more interesting and elegant things with CSS and JavaScript… Where this is heading, I think, is toward a future where pages are basically designed to be scraped, a sort of Microformat revolution (albeit totally rag-tag). Once the cat is out of the bag, I really believe embedded HTML semantics will become more and more standardised because of the incremental benefits resulting for the publishers of the content.  What I’m talking about here is mainly Classes and ID’s in HTML.  Give it some time. Those things are basically Microformats waiting to happen.  Right? 
  3. Last but not least, remember that the emergence of “Linked Data” will probably seem to explode at a certain point, even though the buzz seems to have slowed down in the echo chamber.  There’s a great little analogy I came across where data are compared to buttons being threaded together from one to the next, randomly and one connection at a time.  How many random single connections need to be made before picking up one button will bring all the others along?  The results are reassuring. Check it out over at the Data Evolution Blog, the newest feed in my Feed-Reader.

    The Future of Message Boards and ChatRooms

    If you haven’t played around with EtherPad, and you have a few friends you can get to screw around with you on this thing, do yourself a favor and try it out.

    At first, it’s very simple:

    EtherPad is a Collaborative Text-Editing environment. It’s real-time though, so it’s not as much like Google Docs (remember Writely?) as it is like IM.  Yes, it’s like Instant Messaging only more instant.  Every character typed or removed by anyone working on the text is seen in real-time by everyone else editing the document.  The page never has to reload or anything!  Ah, the beauty of Javascript.

    Be warned though, this means that the people you’re working with can see how slow you type!  And as of yet, there’s no spellcheck, so you’re basically letting it all hang out. 

    I heard about this from the Technometria Podcast, and it’s clear to me that, as they discussed in the show, for students taking notes during a lecture, nothing I’ve ever seen in my life could ever be as valuable as this technology is, even in its youngest form, that is, as long as the students in question have computers and friends.

    Before I go any further, I should mention that my techie friends are all telling me about JQuery… I’m not a programmer, so that doesn’t mean anything to me (yet)… Also, EtherPad is only one of several spotlight applications running on a new platform called AppJet, which I guess is a Javascript-based development platform that’s really visual/browser-oriented.  Maybe even a sort of WordPress for Ajax?  

    Well whatever. I’m not a dev so I’m not qualified to criticise that stuff, but the mention of JQuery seems timely given what I’ve been hearing, all-hype though, as far as I’m qualified to say, as a non-programmer.  The use of Javascript in general,  is not all-hype, my instincts tell me… We better move on because I don’t know shit about Javascript. But I do think it’s the future, if you’re asking my nose.

    I would like to see EtherPad with TinyMCE because at the very least, UL’s and OL’s (un-ordered and ordered lists), Bold and Italics, Links Etc, would make the collaboration so much more useful! 

    Beyond that, I’d love to see an app that can be installed anywhere that allows people to run controlled instances of ET, while controlling certain parameters like the maximum number of characters or lines per document… Etc…

    I have a lot of ideas about the possibilities of this kind of real-time text-editing.  Big ideas.

    Hey AppJet! Wanna talk?