Handhelds, mobiles to outstrip PCs in computing explosion: futurists

The catchcry for forecasters predicting technical trends in the next decade is "pervasive or ubiquitous computing" which will dramatically change the way everyone connects and communicates.

Electrical appliances will have software and everything consumers use will be connected from the office to the home and enhanced by proximity networking allowing each device to have a relationship and anticipate consumer needs 24 hours a day.

According to Technology Forecast 2000, a report compiled annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the clear winner in this trend is the mobile handheld computing device.

The report predicts a billion people will own a mobile phone within the next decade and a further three billion will have handsets with an annual churn rate of 30 per cent.

As the chief scientist at Sun Microsystems, Bill Joy, so succinctly pointed out in the report: "When you consider the number of pockets there are out in the world, the PC market looks puny."

This will all occur in a wireless networked environment with high bandwidth support and predictable Quality of Service from the telecommunications industry ensuring optimum convergence of data, voice and other applications.

By then, Internet pioneer and University of Pennsylvania Professor, David Farber, who was one of many innovators interviewed for the report, believes he won't even have a telephone.

"Instead, I might have a little earpiece that implements Bluetooth wireless technology; if I'm a heavy user, I'll just keep it in my ear all the time and it will transmit my voice to a server some place," Farber explains in the report.

And driving this future landscape will be computing devices based on non-semiconductor technologies including optical, DNA and quantum computing.

Computer interaction will also change with users supplying information through eye tracking and gesture recognition with wearable computing such as eyeglasses which will be combined with the increased use of virtual reality.

In the ‘new world', computers disappear from the desktop and computing capabilities are embedded in the environment, while in virtual reality users disappear into the computer.

These predictions are post-2010 and as the strategic services director at PricewaterhouseCoopers' Technology Centre in California, Terry Retter, explained when launching the report: "Predictions about technology tend to overestimate the amount of change in the short term but underestimate it in the long term."

Retter said many aspects of pervasive computing in the short term are not so much about new computing architectures, which occur gradually, but tremendous advances in software. (pwcglobal.com)

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