It could be argued that User Interface is one area that really enabled a massive uptake of computing. Not that long ago a lot of companies had a secretarial pool and hand written business would be retyped by the pool. Once user friendly computers where introduced there was a real shift to word processing and shared documents. Likewise with IOS and gesture based input the tablet market exploded. I'm excited to see the advances in the "minority-report" style interfaces, tactile feedback, and hope that more is done with mind machine interfaces.
Another angle driving change is technology and materials sciences like with bendable glass, larger screens, faster processors, smaller higher capacity memory, and better batteries. With the advent of powerful smart phones and tablets a lot of computing shifted from the desktop. I for one now use my tablet/phone more than my desktop PC at home. With everyone scrambling to make "smart watches" and new device form factors this area of wearable technology is a growth segment.
Finally software that combines the best features of OS and hardware along with improving the way we communicate, work, or play is integral to advancements in computing. Sometimes this might be a new way of doing something we are already doing (like Microsoft's ribbon in Office) or a completely new way of leveraging the crowd, take social networking and marketing as examples.
It appears to me that it is a combination of technologies coming together that produce step changes in how computing is used. For example a great interface without the processing power may be unresponsive and stop user adoption. Or connected devices without useful software may limit uptake.
So stepping back to try to understand where mobile computing is going I figure a good starting point is to consider the high level use cases. I've come up with some categories:
- Communicating (phone calls, basic emails, facebook, twitter, texting)
- Alerting (push, pop-ups, pager style events)
- Searching (research, location based, historical, previous interests, or other meta data)
- Capturing (photos, video, text, voice)
- Working (work flows, checklists, order taking, approving, timesheeting)
- Entertaining (gaming, watching content)
- Creating (editing spreadsheets, video, design, complex email creation)
Of course your use of computing could be slightly different and you can argue around each of the classifications for individual users (for example a power user may find that they can only search effectively on a desktop) but my thoughts are:
- A mobile device / phone fits in the pocket, is easy to quickly access enabling better alerting, communicating, and capturing.
- A desktop has the best CPU, security, screen real estate, memory, and input mechanism but is not portable, takes time to start up, and I cannot be in front of it all the time.
- A tablet is basically a phone with a slightly bigger screen (and arguably a better CPU, ram, storage).
So mobile computing is not for every task (yet) and I believe a combination of improvements to interface, hardware, materials science, and software will continue to bring mobile computing closer to just being computing. My longer term vision of the future: 'google glasses' style contact lenses with mind machine interface, augmented reality, and swarm/cluster style processing, data storage, and device integration. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this exciting area of technology.