iPad

Three technologies I’d like to see in 2011

Patrick Gray talks about three technologies that he would like to see in 2011.

This year has been a good year for technology. The trend of most innovation happening in the consumer space has continued in 2010, with the year's hottest product being the consumer-focused iPad. The most innovative smartphones were also targeted at this space, and for many companies, taking advantages of these developments by adapting consumer technologies to the enterprise no longer seems like such an unsavory idea.

So, what does the near future hold? I've long ago given up on my Popular Science-inspired childhood dream of a flying car, so I will focus on three technologies where all the pieces are in place, but the product just isn't there yet; technologies we could easily see in 2011 that could have a profound effect on how we work and play.

A content creator's tablet

The iPad rekindled interest in the tablet format in a big way, creating a raft of imitators nearly overnight and dominating a market that could kindly be described as stagnant. While the iPad is a compelling device, I see it as primarily a content-consumption tool. The interface and software are exceptional for tasks like watching a movie, reading a book, or playing a game, but writing a document, leading a brainstorming session, or taking notes in a meeting are poor experiences, despite a raft of add-on keyboards and the like.

Steve Jobs is dead wrong about pen-based tablets being "dead." A pen is a far more natural way to creatively enter and modify ideas in a meeting setting than a keyboard (whether on-screen or physical). What we need is the day-long stamina, ease-of-use, and form factor of an iPad, with the drawing and handwriting capabilities of something like Windows. The biggest piece currently missing is a software layer that would make Windows faster and more iPad-like during the initial content-creation stages, yet also retain all the full capabilities of Windows productivity applications for refining penned notes and diagrams into documents and presentations that can be shared.

The "Computer on a Stick"

Virtualization is rapidly becoming the standard approach for data centers in companies big and small. The simple concept of separating a server from its physical hardware is infinitely sensible and makes IT far more responsive when provisioning a new application no longer means building a new hardware environment.

Aside from some technical niches, however, virtualization has done little on the desktop. Where it could be very compelling is to separate corporate personal computers from the hardware that they run on. Rather than issuing new laptops every few years and managing a fleet of machines with different configurations requiring different images, just deploy a USB stick with a virtual machine that meets your company's specifications. Users could bring their own preferred computer, be it a PC, Mac, or Linux, and merrily run your company's standard OS and applications.

For those who occasionally need more powerful hardware, you could deploy a few "workhorse" machines, and users could plug their "computer on a stick" into them when needed and return to an inexpensive machine for the rest of the time. Many a road warrior would likely give their IT rep a bear hug if they could carry a stick weighing a couple of grams rather than a full-size laptop around the country.

Combine this with some off-the-shelf security technologies, and you could even "self-destruct" sticks that went missing when they were next plugged in. Upgrades to software would be as simple as dispensing a new image for each worker's stick, and a company could even allow a "bring-your-own-laptop" policy and get out of the hardware distribution and maintenance business altogether.

A split-personality smartphone

Smartphones are an indispensible part of modern life. I could not tell you where I need to be two weeks hence or the phone numbers of my closest friends without consulting my phone, and I am certainly not alone in this situation. Where smartphones tend to lack intelligence is in being sensitive to what one is doing and how that drives how someone interacts with their phone. When I am at work, I want to see different information prominently featured on my phone, interact with a different e-mail account, and be notified of different things than when I'm not at work.

While some phones have taken steps toward this, it is rarely well-executed. To my knowledge, none of the phones use the GPS and location features to drive how the phone displays fundamental information like contacts, appointments, and e-mail accounts, and none allow you to set this up easily. My Blackberry requires eyeglasses and hours of patience to modify the hundreds of alert settings, and most other mobile operating systems are either too light or too complex in this area, and all seem to miss the concept that we want to interact differently with our phones in different situations.

Software could even take this concept to another level, with your phone politely asking if you'd like to turn off the ringer when you walk into a movie theater or museum for example and filtering messages to only those from a list of critical contacts.

Each of these three products is mainly a matter of integrating existing technologies, adding some software magic, and rolling out a system that could change the way we work with technology. In many cases, we're most of the way there: some polish and transition to newly available hardware could breathe new life into Microsoft's tablet platform, and some more intelligent software with Apple-like ease of use could make the split personality smartphone a common sight in every bar and boardroom. As many companies are realizing, success is in execution and usability, not necessarily in long lists of technical features and flash.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

17 comments
loharkarmv
loharkarmv

All this is useless ; basic things like CISCO VPN and office Proxy settings are missing and we call all these android mobiles Smart Phone? My earlier SE P990i was far superior in all respects. At least it had these basic features to be really called as "SMART PHONE". In last year or so no one has been able to address these issues very surprising indeed.... good by Android and welcome iPhone ....

mitzampt
mitzampt

1. I actually would like a 15 inch screen (like a laptop without a keyboard) built specifically for architects and artists... Like a portable Microsoft Surface. I think it's a better idea than a tablet because of the screen estate. Tablets have the advantage that they can fit in a hand, but so do all the MID phones out there. 2. I mentioned above something about application virtualization. I think the idea should be about having software, data and credentials on a portable device ready to be plugged (physically or virtually) in the device we use, giving to the virtualized app access to platform features as well as protected data. You will notice more and more the tendecy of virtualization sollutions to integrate with the native environments in order to gain the best of both worlds. Add cloud computing and Skynet will spell out doom. 3. Ok you are already bored but bare with me on this last point. We already have this contextual or rather smart technology growing in the android landscape. And I believe that web technologies such as HTML5 combined with Flash/Silverlight(cause they aren't going to die just because of HTML5) are going to gain more coupling with portable devices such as phones and provide not only the features you just mentioned, but also features of a robotic virtual assistant. You may never need to spell check again...

ralphclark
ralphclark

The Astrid task-list manager app on the Android Market has an optional plug-in which co-operates with the Locale application (also on Android Market) in order to provide you with reminders about specific tasks depending on where you are located. e.g. if the phone detects that you are near your local supermarket it will alert you about your grocery shopping list. This looks to me pretty much exactly what you were asking for. The only potential weakness (and only by today's exacting standards) is that presumably you need to identify the locales yourself and associate each task you enter with the appropriate locale. Given the rapidity of "Internet Time" it should be less than a year before the emergence of services capable of automatically matching some of the items on your task list with appropriate locale types while continually scanning google maps service for nearby instances.

howard48906
howard48906

Why not create an image of a virtual machine and copy it to removable hard drives? You can then use laptops or desktops with the option to boot from an external drive. Upon return to the office you can boot from a desktop to transfer needed files to the server.

Dave Vane
Dave Vane

There is currently software that does this: Mojopac. You can virutalise a desktop onto a thumbdrive/memory stick or HDD if you like. The FREE version does everything a home user would want - the licence version does all the productivity software as well.

v r
v r

Approximately 15 years ago or so Sun Microsystems created a sort of computer on a card the size of a credit card that held all of the user's credentials. Instead of carrying around a laptop, all the user would have to do is swipe the card in a slot along the side of a monitor. The user's applications, documents, etc. would be ready for use. Dependencies were on PC hardware technology (credit card swiping was not common then), cloud computing (not known by that name then) and card technology, of course. Where did that concept go?

mitzampt
mitzampt

Technologies like Smart Card can be used to login to an Active Directory server/service (or some other services) and are built in Windows ready to be configured. The only problem today is incorporating the required hardware and protecting from unauthorised authentication (somebody stealing the card). Why do you think many companies invest lots of $$$ into biometric sensors and other technologic security researches? Security is the sole reason cloud computing can't really take off and reign(or rain) over our computerhood. At least the concept of computer on a stick still implies a password.

JonathanC3
JonathanC3

Computer on a stick? Why would you need a stick? The solution already exist and doesn't require a USB key, just ANY computer with a Remote Desktop Client (already available on Windows, Mac and Linux)...it's call Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI. I'm implementing VDI now in 2010, so on this point you should say whish it get's implemented faster. Microsoft & Citrix have a partnership on a VDI solution for XenDesktop with Hyper-V and it is much better and efficient than VMware View.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But what if there's no network access? Some of us road warriors work at client sites where we don't have or can't get access to our corporate site through the client firewall.

m.finlay
m.finlay

I'm not using the technology, but I believe that the Citrix solution has the ability for you to "check-out" the corporate VM and it will then run locally on your laptop when not connected to the network. When you reconnect to the corp. network, it can sync any changes.

ryumaou@hotmail.com
ryumaou@hotmail.com

If you're a DIYer, number two is already a possibility. Places like Lifehacker have been advocating a "PC on a stick" for some time now. Whether it's a suite of apps and data storage on a large, cheap USB stick or a bootable Linux USB stick, it's possible now. Again, at Lifehacker there are all kinds of resources for portable apps and portability in general, from a user stand-point, for both Linux and Windows. And, I, too, long for a good tablet with a pen input at reasonable prices. I'm sure they're coming, eventually, but, well, I want my personal jet-pack *right now*, too...

dennisepperson
dennisepperson

Good ideas, all within reach. However, with number 2, I think the virtualization could taken a step further. Why not access the processing on the server so that you can insert your stick into a keyboard/monitor combination? No processor at all at the client. Think of the cost savings then! Dennis Epperson PraxisPoint LLC

mitzampt
mitzampt

I don't think people would want to get back to the terminal+mainframe era, and not because of privacy issues, but because of performances and latency. Also the step further in virtualization is not about hardware anymore it's about application virtualization, meaning you shouldn't think of it as a complete decoupling from the platform to make something portable, but as an abstract and intelligent coupling enabling people to actually use the same app with different features on different machines.

vinu.km10
vinu.km10

Great one Patrick. I too am looking at something similar like the ones u hav mentioned above. I would be glad if i get a cell phone or an ipod with a camera which behaves just like the Hubbles space telescope, or something like a binocular which lets me watch the great shots of the Master Blaster at a cricket ground. I hope steve jobs would gift me an iphone or an itouch with these features atleast in 2011 ! ! !

seanferd
seanferd

Good luck, there. You need large optics, and if you don't plan to be hanging about in space, expensive, high power adaptive optics. Have fun fitting those kinds of optics and processing power to a phone any time soon.

Sagax-
Sagax-

Android is open source and growing rapidly. Get an Android smartphone and put out the call for a programmer to "scratch your itch"

phyrefly.phyre
phyrefly.phyre

I have an android, so can't talk to iPhone (ptooie) or Win7/BBerry phones. Profiles is the name of a basic app where you can set up any setting on your phone into a profile, and one-touch change them. Locale (now sadly out of beta and pay-only) and Tasker (more fully-featured, free, but sadly less user-friendly) are two apps that can use any number of triggers (including built-in phone events, software-driven app-specific triggers, and 3rd-party-plugin-provided conditions) to change any setting on your phone, again including quite a few provided by the app or plugins that you usually don't have direct access to change. Tasker is also compatible with most Locale plugins, always a bonus! There's no condition I have ever wanted for my phone that I can't control with one of these. Rich