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With iPhone, and later Android, the world began to see a new direction for personal computing, the mobile device. First it was the enhanced phone, then the smartphone, now the tablet. The future of desktop, laptop, and netbook computers looked bleak. Certainly the young netbook market has suffered more than any other market with the arrival of the iPad and the mountain of Android tablets being produced overseas. Perhaps as the novelty of tablets wears off, netbooks will find a way to survive, but its doubtful.
Desktop, and later laptops, were facing similar losses to the mobile onslaught. But just when you thought it was all over for traditional computing, an unlikely savior appears (well actually about four of them). I’m referring to the major mobile carriers in the U.S.–Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Just as the world is ready to fully adopt mobile computing, we are hit with the sobering reality that these carriers have over promoted and under produced a network capable of sustaining the same level of computing we have gotten use to with our traditional computers.
To make up for this over saturated wireless infrastructure, the carriers in their typical colluding fashion, are one by one dropping their unlimited data access and opting for tiered data plans. The idea of using your phone, or your tablet, for all the same things you used your traditional computer for are slipping away. We are left with an over-priced, crippled experience because the carriers sold us the moon and are now running out of fuel to get us there.
Enter that long forgotten friend, the PC.
Unlike wireless networks, traditional network infrastructure doesn’t have the limitations of available spectrum. What ever can be pushed from router to router across the pipe is what you get, and believe me that can be an enormous amount of data. It’s all part of the global network we call the Internet, and your PC is part of it.
Thanks to the wireless carriers, you’re limited to just how much you can send and receive on your mobile device. Thanks to your PC, you can sync your phone to your computer, or join a wireless network, and enjoy the benefits of unfettered data again on your phone or tablet. With that in mind, providing a way to sync your device via wifi or sync cable will be critical to being able to push and pull data to your device and conserve precious wireless bandwidth. Apple is in the best position with iTunes. DVD John created doubletwist, and is sitting in a good position as well with platforms left with no other options. Google, Microsoft, RIM, Nokia, HP, and various open source companies like Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical, specializing in desktop distros, should really think hard about something similar and soon. This brings me to my point.
If we were to truly go mobile, the technology, and infrastructure behind it, needs to be robust enough to allow us to do everything we do with our traditional computing now. It just isn’t there, and most likely will never be. Though the carriers still promise the moon, and the world really wants a standalone mobile platform they can rely on at all times, the fact remains that smartphones, tablets, and any other mobile data device are merely extensions of our old trusty desktop or laptop computers. Without them, our mobile experience will soon be an expensive trip to nowhere.