PNL08: Computing on the Beach: Visions of Mobility (A general overview)
This last panel, on the last day of PDC was definitely one of the most interesting sessions that attended. It was interesting not so much because of any specific content, (Although there was definitely some great content!) but rather because the panel did not agree. Unlike the other panels (that I attended) that included experts with slightly different interests and views that were pretty much already heading in the same direction, these folks were all headed in different directions.
I think that this lack of agreement was very representative of the current mobile device market. There was a lot of discussion about what the ideal combination of functionality, form factor, and price should be to expand the market. Each panel member seemed to have an interesting view on which were the major devices and which were simply “Tweeners”, or devices that were between device A and device B. While nobody came right and said it, the event appeared give a really good unscripted look into some of the competing arguments that take place between the different product development groups trying to win support for their ideas and concepts.
If you didn’t know better you would never have thought everybody on stage was from a totally different company. While I can certainly see this looked upon poorly by the marketing folks, I think it was excellent for the developers forum. There was a lot of two-way conversation between the audience and the panel with some questions submitted through PDC Bloggers thrown it. There were many great comments and if definitely shows that this is a rapidly evolving market that is definitely being influenced by not only those that develop the OS and hardware, but those that write and make use of applications as well.
Otto Berkes, Senior Platform Strategist, Microsoft Research talked a lot about small form factor devices with full computing power. His “goody bag” included a small industrial prototype design of a small screen device with that featured a split design allowing for a thumb keyboard to slide forward. He also had a Sony Vaio U101 sub-notebook.
Arif Maskatia, Chief Technology Officer with Acer America Corporation shared the manufacturer’s viewpoint about the Tablet PC market. It sounds like there are some very good things in the works as companies understand that a Tablet PC is not simply a notebook with a special screen. The next generations of devices will really be the first designed to be Tablets and not simply modifications to laptop designs. Discussions also included display and battery life issues and solutions in the works. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the things (including biometrics) he hinted at possibly coming to market in 1Q 2004.
Donald Thompson, Software Architect, Smart Personal Object Technology, Microsoft, gave some very interesting viewpoints about trying to engineer the extremely low power, low cost, small footprint (Fingerprint?) size devices that are being used in Microsoft’s Smart Personal Objects Technology. These devices initially are initially starting as watches that can receive content specific data broadcast over the airwaves.
David Groom, Lead Program Manager (Hardware), Mobile Devices Product Group Microsoft shared how Microsoft is working with the OEM hardware manufacturers to bring the best possible products to market to take advantage of the Microsoft platforms. Microsoft has a small number of hardware people that design next generation prototypes to show where they feel the market is heading.
Some of the mot interesting points brought up from the audience were:
Why can’t we have tablets with smaller screens (say 4x6) to reduce the power consumption, reduce the cost, and reduce the processing?
Will we be able to buy devices and displays separately?
Durability was another major issue that received a lot of discussion.
For being the last session slot of the conference it was a surprisingly active and energetic session that I wish could have gone on even longer. A big thanks to all of those involved.
The full BIOS of all the speakers are available here.
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