Battery power, wireless spectrum hold back mobile computing

Mobile executives anticipate major advancements and innovation in wireless technology, but caution the outlook for mobile computing is not entirely rosy

Innovations in mobile computing will continue apace in coming years, but battery power and wireless spectrum could become critical obstacles, according to mobile executives speaking Tuesday evening at a gathering in Silicon Valley.

Users of handheld devices can expect to see new capabilities, such as digital wallets and mobile phones that can translate signs in other countries into the user's native language, according to executives from Hewlett-Packard and Qualcomm speaking at an event sponsored by the Churchill Club, entitled "Wireless is the Biggest Tech Platform in History. Now What?" 

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But the outlook for mobile computing is not entirely rosy. "Getting access to [wireless] spectrum is clearly the thing that could take a long time to do," said Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm chairman and CEO.

"The real issue is battery technology has not progressed at the same rate as other things," such as display technology, said HP Senior Vice President Jon Rubinstein, who is a former CEO of Palm as well as a former CEO in Apple's iPod division. Jacobs concurred, saying "obviously, people are trying to work hard on battery technologies."

Users can, however, look forward to more power and more functionality in their mobile devices. "The power of these devices is going to grow astronomically over the next five to 10 years, and the power of the cloud also is growing astronomically," said Rubinstein. With HP's WebOS systems, acquired when the company bought Palm, users can connect to their own personal cloud housing their own data.

The mobile device market will not be dominated by one system, like in the PC market, predicted Rubinstein, who cited Apple's iPhone and Google Android as the current dominant platforms and expressed hope that the WebOS platform could become as big a player.

The executives cited milestones in the mobile market, such as the merger of PDA and phone, and stressed the magnitude of today's changing environment. "We're going through a major change right now from personal computing to mobile devices and we're just at the beginning," Rubinstein said.

Mobile devices will take a page from Star Trek and its multifunctional tricorder. "Tricorders are going to happen," Jacobs said. A sensor device akin to a tricorder will be used in health care by a first-level person, who will then be able to relay vital statistics back to a doctor. This scenario will likely happen first in developing markets, where devices are not encumbered by regulatory burdens that can limit their allowed usage, he added.

Phones also will be able to discover services, Jacobs predicted. And advancements are likely in radio technology and mobile textbooks, as well as security and privacy management, he said.

This article, "Battery power, wireless spectrum hold back mobile computing," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

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