Mobile computing advances on reality

By Steve Jefferson, InfoWorld |  Hardware

THE CONCEPT OF mobile computing first began with the idealism spurred after World War II. In the aftermath of the war, technology was thought to be the cure-all that would solve all of our problems -- including creating food from garbage and providing cars that floated like airplanes. By 1962, the concept of a mobile world was so pervasive it showed up in the popular cartoon The Jetsons.

Yet only within the past year or two have we seen evidence of devices and technologies that promise the panacea of mobile computing George and his family demonstrated. Simply put, that panacea is the ability to transfer, manipu-late, and communicate information from anywhere at any time with a single handheld device.

The promise for business, of course, is equipping your employees with exactly the right amount of hardware they need to do their jobs from any locale at a minimum of expense. Until recently, that required giving them one device for each of the three essential tasks: transferring, manipulating, and communicating information.

The notebook, becoming more powerful and less hefty, previously enjoyed leadership in the race to true mobility. But a surprising number of devices and services may be much closer to claiming the title of front-runner.

In the future, the ideal mobile device will be a single product suited with standard network access and services to handle tasks that extend the use of the device beyond its hardware-based limitations.

Mobile devices of the future

In this issue's Visualize IT we look at four devices that are bridging the gap to the future. Instead of being good at one task, such as communication or manipulation, these devices include technologies that are bringing closer the dream of a single mobile computing device

For example, the Palm VIIx is not just the most popular handheld computer, it also includes access to the Web and e-mail via The Fujitsu Stylistic 3400 pen tablet and the Sierra Wireless AirCard 300 offer a versatilely designed compact laptop and can also allow the user to connect to the LAN from wherever they are. The KyoceraWireless pdQ smart phone combines the ubiquitous Palm with a true wireless connection to the Internet for browsing and e-mail. Lastly, the GlobalStar satellite phone service coupled with the Qualcomm GSP1600 Tri-Mode phone give you both voice and data connectivity.

These devices are a good start, but mobile computing will truly come of age with the advancements of communication protocols and standards, common operating system platforms, networks, and mobile-specific devices and services.

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