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Is the Future of Mobility a Disappearing Act?

October 2, 2013 - 6 Comments

As a mobile expert and thought leader, I’m frequently asked about what the next big thing in mobility will be, and my answer often surprises inquirers – mobile’s future is a disappearing act.

When most people think about the future of mobility, they think of larger, possibly flexible mobile screens, thinner and lighter designs, and the incorporation of new, currently unavailable technologies, but the reality isn’t so black-and-white.

Mobile Device

In past posts, I’ve explained why mobile devices gained ubiquity – in sum, they’re submissive to us (they’re easy for us to handle and manipulate), and the future of mobility is no exception. Think about it – what could be easier to handle than nothing at all? In time, we’ll begin to see technologies that virtually disappear until we need them, at which point we’ll see them front-and-center, or discretely in our periphery, depending on the optimal viewing location and utility offered. In the interim, mobile devices (both their hardware and software) will hybridize in an effort to complete the transition to virtual disappearance.

To that end, there are a few pieces of hardware and software that are currently paving the way in this transition like Google Glass which allows you to take pictures, read text messages and navigate (with your mobile phone) without ever actually picking it up. Other examples are Apple’s Passbook and Reminders applications, as well as Google’s Now application, which have the ability to present relevant information based on time, location (using a geofence) and usage habits, saving you from having to actively seek the information presented to you.

With this impressive transition underway equally impressive cloud computing and connected services will be required to support this massive paradigm shift, and companies like Cisco are working tirelessly to develop the infrastructure needed to power these connections.

As recently as three years ago we were using only a small fraction of the (data) bandwidth we require today, and our need for additional bandwidth is only going to increase as every sound, movement and bit of light is analyzed to ensure relevant information is available and presented to us when it’s needed.

Have you noticed technology’s disappearing act taking shape? Which specific piece of software/hardware is most noticeably moving in this direction?

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  1. @Mark DeFilippis – I like your electricity analogy and find it helps make your argument very compelling. That said, there will always be a hardware element in this equation (in any iteration that I can think of, unless we, as humans, evolve to include some kind of ESP 🙂 ), and with that, hardware manufacturers will always struggle to differentiate themselves in a capitalistic society.

    While it’s certainly possible the differentiating factors will be tied exclusively to the form factor (the hardware’s ease of installation, etc.), I still believe it’s possible for the hardware’s OS to remain one of the differentiating factors. Have I persuaded your opinion at all?

  2. I agree they are disappearing which is one reason I find the iOS/Android debate so amusing. Increasingly the identity of the user will be the important factor and whatever device is nearby will simply be a conduit for the user. The advantage of the smart phone was that you could take the Internet with you. With the IoE you never leave the Internet, so why do you need a smartphone?

    • Great point, John, and while I believe devices will be reduced to conduits for users to connect with the web, I also believe each OS will maintain its own flavor of thoughtfulness as it relates to disappearance and utility. Think of it this way – even if information is being presented to you when its relevant, different OS’s will present that information in different ways, and (both free and paid) apps, as they are known today, may still exist in some form as they’ll continue to provide their added utility.

      In your mind’s eye, do you see the OS battle becoming entirely irrelevant?

      • I actually see the OS debate becoming moot across all consumer devices–eventually. From a consumer point of view, what’s wanted and needed is a service to consume. That service may be a web page, or a video game, or a spreadsheet, but it most definitely is not an OS. Most end-users have no particular attachment to any OS other than familiarity and often manipulated brand loyalty.

        • You make some valid arguments, Teren, and I completely agree that consumers are not “married” to OS’s, but rather to the investments they’ve made in the OS they primarily use (and also feel an affinity to OS’s based on the influence exerted over them by marketing’s manipulative grip). With that said, even if our mobile devices are reduced to embeddable microchips that function subcutaneously or as a part of contact lenses, I still believe that hardware manufacturers will differentiate how their devices will function, and in that way I can see the OS battle living on.

          Does my argument change your mind at all, or do you still feel just as convinced the OS battle will not continue for long?

          • I do believe that the OS will be irrelevant to the consumer, as well as applications. It is really about “presenting relevant content in each context” in a manner that enhances quality of life.
            That quality of life would be “productivity at work”, “value add to various contexts we go through every day” so it is personalized to each users life patterns. As a strategic iT architect, we are seeing the ubiquity of the network just being like “electricity” that is just there and this will continue to evolve. I believe companies that can provide that “experience” will prevail. I want it presented as I need it, want it, find it useful. Don’t force how it is presented to me with your OS. Wouldn’t that be nice? @defilm