Thinking about the present and future....
What are the devices and trends in computing and where are they headed?
Three broad technology trends are making computing continuous. The first, as noted earlier, is easy, inexpensive Internet access. The second is the spread of inexpensive, wireless computing devices. Above all, this means wireless laptops. Only a computer capable of running a full-blown Web browser allows access to the full range of Web-based software applications, which are, as we'll see in a moment, the third major source of technologies making computing more social. But laptops can't be carried everywhere, and smaller devices such as digital cameras, video recorders, voice recorders, portable CD and DVD players, MP3 players, PDAs, pagers, GPS receivers, and wearable gear like Microsoft's wireless SPOT (for 'Smart Personal Object Technology') watches have the important function of maintaining the information field when there isn't a computer at hand. Then, of course, there's the smart phone--in essence, a miniature computer juggling tasks that formerly required half a dozen separate devices. Separate devices: PalmOne's Treo 650, for example, is styled like a phone but also acts as a still and video camera, an e-mail and instant-messaging platform, an MP3 player, a game player, a personal organizer, a Web-browsing device, an e-book reader, and a short-range communicator (using the Bluetooth wireless standard). The smart phone is 'an ideal system for pervasive, supportive social computing,' writes Russell Beale, director of the Advanced Interaction Group in the computer science department at the University of Birmingham, England. It's 'a two-way device, creating and consuming information, is highly personal, and is almost always available... .' The third trend nudging us into a new era of computing is probably the most important and the least expected. It is the emergence of the Web as a platform for personal publishing and social software.
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