Torusoft thinks a lot about how the nature of technology is changing because of the Mobile Revolution. Specifically, I've been thinking about what kinds of things might be possible as the capacities and processing power of our mobile devices increase. Right now, there's both a gold rush and a war being waged to dominate mobile device markets. Whether it's manufacturers pushing the envelope of both hardware and software for mobile phones, tablets and music players -or component manufacturers coming up with the next best spec.
If millions of people adopt mobile devices like the iPad and traditional PCs and laptops begin to lose significant market share, manufacturers and developers will divert more and more R&D dollars to fuel the fire.
In the last five years, we've seen the collective power and capacity of our smart phones advance by leaps and bounds. Chips like the A5, Snapdragon and Tegra offer tremendous processing power as compared to their predecessors. Over the next year, dual core SoC chips and dual core graphics processors (GPU) are going to become standard for many phones and most tablets. Let's assume that for the next several years, the processing power available in mobile devices is going to increase in a huge way. Again, with rapid adoption comes rapid development in order to create the next best thing.
Mobile devices don't exist in a bubble, however. They're connected to networks and starting to connect to HDTVs, projectors and large displays. Software, or apps, are becoming far more complex and sophisticated -and the variety of apps available for mobile devices is rapidly expanding. For example, there's over 350,000 apps in the iOS app store as of this month.
The range of accessories available for mobile devices is also rapidly expanding. Cases, connectors, controllers, antennas, chargers, input devices, navigation tools - you name it, are making mobile devices even more useful, convenient and frankly, indispensable.
We believe that over the next several years, as mobile devices become far more powerful, communicate with large displays and accessories, mobile devices will be the only computers most people own. If the past is any indicator of the future, we can also count on new features and unforeseen new technology coming to our mobile devices. How much more can you do with an iPad vs. a palm PDA? Impact events like the introduction of the first iPhone will happen again as companies compete to not only dominate existing markets but create new ones.
Consider a future, where mobile devices are everywhere. Consider a mobile device that's your only computer. It's got horsepower and capacity in the cloud to match. It's connected to the Internet via extreme high speed networks as compared to today's 3&4G standards. It's battery lasts incredibly long and charging via induction is common place (no wires). Playing movies, powering workstations, communicating, playing games, reading, writing, taking photos, shooting video, capturing audio - everything and more than we currently use our computers for - will be done on this mobile device. The future of computing is one where mobile devices are completely ubiquitous.
Many people believe that mobile devices will never replace our PCs and laptops. They believe that general purpose computers could never be eclipsed by their mobile counterparts. But if you have faith that technology will continue to evolve and that revolutions in technology are common, you know that no technology lasts forever and that anything can be improved upon.
Swarm computing and distributed super computing is kinda crazy stuff when thinking about mobile devices today. But in the future, the average smart phone is going to be a pretty powerful gadget and like your computer, a lot of the time it won't necessarily be maxed to its processing capacity. Today, traditional computers can be banded together in a cluster, allowing CPUs to be connected and their processing cycles shared when not in use. If you're not doing any heavy lifting at your desk, free CPU cycles might be diverted to a server that renders video or models complex experiments. It's not common place in the office, but it is with industries like tv, animation, film, architecture, industrial design, engineering, aerospace, or projects like SETI or Folding@Home.
If you can imagine this mobile future, consider a workplace, school, a ship, building or institution full of people and their devices. With a fast enough network, these devices could be tapped in their spare time or when they're not under heavy load. They could create potentially massive distributed computers. I'm pretty sure that wireless charging (induction) will become common place, so being part of a big network computer won't kill your battery in this future.
I'm not predicting with any certainty that these kinds of scenarios will play out. I am suggesting, however, that with the mass adoption of mobile devices comes an even more unpredictable future. The concept of swarm computing - where someone like a video editor could use a mobile workstation powered by other nearby mobile devices, is something entirely possible as researchers, industrial designers and manufacturers turn their guns away from traditional PCs and fix them on the mobile revolution.
To quote Evan Kelly from the TED conference in 2007, we need to start believing in the impossible. The next generation or paradigm in technology is never like the ones that came before it. The Internet didn't turn out to be like TV but better - it was something nobody could really imagine until it happened. Believing in the impossible also means that if you've gone far enough to dream up something unreal, you should be prepared for the invention of other things that are equally or even more unreal.
Swam computing with mobile devices may never happen, but with massive markets, massive R&D budgets, break-neck adoption, advances in batteries, induction charging, super-fast networks and highly efficient software, it's entirely possible. Either way, the traditional PC's days are numbered and breakthroughs in mobile technology, like swarm computing, make the PCs death a certainty.