Pervasive computing

Pervasive computing

IDG: What do you see in five years as the standard PC?

Dave Ditzel, Transmeta founder and CTO:Very simply, that I can get my e-mail no matter where I am, as easily as I get a phone call today.

How would you define mobile computing?

I actually have two different terms. There's mobile computing, and there is something else that we see as our vision of what we want to make happen, what we call mobile Internet computing. Mobile computing might be where you have a Palm Pilot, and you look up a set of phone numbers or addresses on a little handheld device. But that's maybe about all the computing it does other than functioning as a calculator.

I think our vision is one of extending the experience that people get from their desktop PC today to the mobile realm. And I believe this not only from a technological point of view, but from a sociological point of view. People have certain habits, one of which is how they communicate and get information. So, for example, if you look back 10 years it's all telephone and newspapers. But today when you come into your office, you sit down at your desktop PC, and it's now e-mail and Web sites. But when you're mobile, you don't get that same communication you get with a mobile phone today.

Is mobile computing migrating the functionality that's now on the desktop onto something that you're carrying with you all the time?

And it's also connected to the Internet all the time, so the type of computing will change in terms of what people need. For example, very few handheld devices today can run a full Web browser. By that I mean either Netscape or Internet Explorer, because with those two desktop browsers, in order to view all the things on the Web, you need to also run the plug-ins for the Web browser - things that give you the streaming video, real audio, MP3. Those plug-ins are only written for the major browsers, but aren't available for mobile computing devices and their browsers.

So we're losing a lot of functionality right now with these kinds of mobile devices?

Try and access the Web from WAP [Wireless Application Protocol] and you're not going to get streaming video. What Transmeta is interested in doing is helping to create the technology that will enable people to build handheld devices that will deliver exactly the same experience as they get off their desktop PC.

Will there be any device of choice? Or will we see a whole slew of devices and we'll each carry a couple? Or will different people have different kinds of favourite devices?

It's going to change with time. In the short term you're going to see a wide variety of different devices. People are rushing to service the demand that's out there. But these will be in a variety of highly specialised devices. I think over time, what people are going to want is to carry fewer and fewer of them. In the longer term, three to four years from now, I think my own vision is one where you really only need to carry one kind of device. Imagine something a little larger than a Palm Pilot, but that has a screen on it that's higher resolution than screens today - sufficient to read a full screen like you would a desktop monitor. You could read e-mail or watch a video - and the device that allows the user to do all that will become the device of choice. It will be your mobile phone, but it will also be your e-mail, your pager and your PIM [personal information manager].

All of your communication needs met by one device?

Yes. The technology isn't quite there today, neither in the hardware nor the general software infrastructure. But I see no reason why the technology wouldn't go there; that's the obvious place to go. These other things in the short term are just intermediate steps. Things like WAP on your mobile phone are just intermediate bridges to that new future where we have a single pervasive communication device that also happens to be a computer.

What does this mean for companies? Does it change the strategy for a company that is on the Web and how they need to be thinking about these things?

I think the biggest change for companies is the pervasiveness of notebook computing. We have a lot of desktop computers, but the simple combination of a fairly powerful computer with long battery life coupled with, say, 802.11 wireless would be a tremendous change in culture for a company.

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