Posted by: David | February 24, 2011

Cell Phones as CPU?

Over dinner at the National Press Club last week, my young engineer friend Nate was telling me about the future of cell phones.

We both agree that communication is all heading toward mobile devices. (If you disagree, stop reading. You really won’t like what’s coming.)

But Nate says we’re getting confused between form and function. We are tying function – the things we use mobile devices for – to form, roughly the palm sized device with a screen, microphone, speakers, etc.

And most importantly, we are assuming we need to have that device store content – rather than simply access content stored elsewhere – the cloud, a desktop, laptop, etc.

He asks: Why can’t our mobile device be the size of a credit card? Why can’t we just plug it in to devices like an ATM, only the device provides us a keyboard, mouse or touchy capability and monitor?

Hmm. I had not thought of those. I’m still focused on everyone accessing all things digital on a small device that can go anywhere. (Some of us on the leading edge of the Boomer generation are fixated – happily – on the iPad and tablets, which accommodate our maturing eyes, hands and ears.)

Two days after our dinner, Walt Mossberg comes along in the Wall Street Journal with a review of the Atrix 4G from Motorola Mobility, or as the headline writer described it: “Faux Laptop with a Phone for Brains.”

Although Mossberg is not wild about the laptop dock the Atrix is designed to work with — he loves the phone – I see it as step one toward Young Nate’s vision. Think in terms of vendors – restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, almost anyplace – providing the devices free, just like they used to make room for pay phones. (Sorry, I seem to have lost an entire generation there.)

So it looks like we are going to have to rethink this whole communications device vs. interface thing all over again. I’m kind of psyched.

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