Technology's changing faces
The face of the communication revolution is changing. Despite the doubling of processing power every 18 months and the price of computing stumbling down, desktops and even laptops don't offer the same appeal or the affordability to the common man. Let's face it; a majority of the population does not need a lot of processing power to get their daily tasks done. The majority of our ICT needs are centred on 'communication' rather than information or data processing.
If you had a laptop for a day – especially a 17" baby elephant like mine – you would know that they never really delivered on their promise of portability. However, very few of us are tethered to a desktop or laptop because of an addiction to graphics intensive games or earn a living by crunching complex spreadsheets. These days, our communication needs can be satisfied with a mobile phone – which has evolved so fast that they now let us access our email, browse most parts of the Internet and blog – with the freedom to instantly post pictures or video footage captured with its integrated camera.
If the direction that the big players on the Internet have taken in recent times is any indication, the future of communication technology is going to be highly mobile. The advent of creative new mobile applications powered by 3G communication technology at affordable prices; has created exciting new avenues for the advancement of communication technology in a few years.
It may not necessarily mean that the computer that I am typing at or the one on your office desk is going to be redundant. Desktops and Laptops may never share the same fate as mainframes of the 1960's and 1970's. No one with a sane mind would dare attempt to type up a thesis or open up a spreadsheet on a mobile phone or PDA.
The increasing popularity of mobile applications however, is filling a gap in technology that has been ripped wide open by our increasing dependency on information and the need to have easy access to it on the go. Despite the freedom offered by a mobile phone, we will always be hindered by its small keys and one-finger operability.
As the mobile phone grows its profile by broadening its repertoire of applications, the larger desktops and laptops will most likely diminish in significance as communication devices and build on their strength as specialised computing devices. The significance of the Apple iPhone in terms of the evolution of mobile phones is definitely the introduction of the touch-based interface which not only took out the frustration of having to poke tiny keys, but also made space for a larger screen by getting rid of the boring keypad.
It is important to understand the possibilities that the ever increasing use and sophistication of mobile phones offer and know their limitations. It is difficult to envision the possibility that they will ever be superior marketing tools than the large screens. Even though your mobile phone may give you access to live TV on-the-go, you may never want to watch a movie on it.
As exciting as it is to browse through Google maps on your computer, it will be a far more practically useful tool when you install the application on your mobile phone which - even in the absence of GPS capability – can triangulate your position with reasonable accuracy using the signals of the nearest mobile communication towers. The potential of mobile communication devices as sales tools – in terms of enabling secure transactions as well as using them as payment tools is yet to be realised.
The growing profile of mobile technology also underscores a demand for mobile application development skills in the not so distant future.
This could be a golden opportunity for the Sri Lankan IT industry to be competitive in the coming years, if higher education providers gear up to build a base of mobile application development skills in the Sri Lankan IT professionals of tomorrow.