Martin’s Weblog

I never make predictions and never will: In 2010 Mobile will drive us

In the spirit of “I never make predictions and I never will” here goes.

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. Using my crystal ball to throw the light of the recent past into the near future I see network effects creating exponential growth in certain areas and it is on these areas that I will focus.

These days new technology is announced & piloted very early – there are few surprises. I have to agree with Miko Matsumura that in 2010 Nothing is going to happen – Bill Gates summed it up when he said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Like compound interest an exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds – change is occurring around us all the time and like a slow boiling frog we only  jump when we become aware of it – as if it emerged out of nowhere. Another factor in ICT change in particular is the Network effect (the value and effectiveness of a communication technology increases with the number of users) – this acts a sort of natural selection – operating both negative and positive feedback on exponential growth.

I’ve used only mobile since 2000 – at first it radically changed the way I operate but there hasn’t been much change for 10 years – mobile computers are still basically like little desktops. However, mobile developments from Apple and Google are changing computing and culture – 2010 may be the year when all the strands come together and the frog jumps in surprise at what emerges.

Mobile will drive IT

Manufacturers and developers will focus on mobile first – some of this will filter into traditional computing but much of it will be inappropriate in a fixed desktop type environment. All the action will be with mobile now. We already see this with announcements of Google operating systems and rumours of the Apple tablet.

Mobile will drive us anytime, anywhere in real-time.

I’m not referring to smartphones or netbooks but to the ability to access services anytime, anywhere conveniently. The always on, always connected immediacy of mobile has altered our culture and our technology – we expect technology and services to be constantly available anytime, anywhere. Mobile has contributed to the shift to real-time – you don’t need to get back to a desk to access and update – you can access and update in-situ in real-time and we expect to be able to.

Mobile will drive us to new Interfaces

Through necessity new technology will be developed for mobile and this will also filter back into traditional systems. Keyboard-mouse derived interfaces are not appropriate for mobile devices – as mobile really takes off we should expect to see radical yet device appropriate new interfaces. iPhone set the direction with mulitouch – we should expect to see development of this with more gesture and sensory interaction – pressure, speed, acceleration, orientation, audio, video etc could all be used. Data glasses are an inevitability – a necessary way to compensate for small display size – especially when combined with augmented reality.

Mobile will drive us to the clouds.

Mobiles have to delicately balance power, size, weight and battery life. Although there may be a diversity of devices types the overall trend is always to smaller and lighter. If mobiles prioritise communications (network and User Interface) they can off-load power to the cloud and focus on balancing battery life, weight and size. A tiny device can use the cloud to run the core of applications from word processing to media editing even.  Clouds are compatible with the the always on, immediacy of mobile culture – software on demand as a service rather than the traditional local application model of download, install, maintain, update and secure. Cloud and mobile culture will positively reinforce each other.

Mobile will drive us green

The holy grail of mobiles is to offer all day operation from one battery – to achieve this while balancing size and weight  mobiles introduce a new energy economy by reversing Wintel processor power inflation and focusing instead on better energy efficiency. Like better miles per gallon rather than just speed we will be expect our mobiles to go further before having to fill up.

Mobile will drive us social

In-situ mobile access is more natural and discrete than traditional styles of sitting at a desk eyeballing a large screen. On-line personal social interaction through mobiles is already normalised – people expect to txt, tweet, Facebook etc when and where it happens. People also to expect the same level of interaction at work which does after all involve interacting with other people.

Mobile will drive us knowledgeable

If you want to find out about something you no longer need to wait until you get to a book or traditional computerjust Google or Goggle it from your mobile or ask your social network – again from your mobile. We now have instant access to an abundance of information – we can all know anything as long as we have a mobile. Today”it’s not how intelligent you are, but how you are intelligent” – less what you know than how you know it.

Mobile will drive us to a new reality

Using its sensors (location, audio, visual, orientation, tactile etc) a mobile can interact with you and the environment in new ways and a mobile that knows where it is can better contextualise responses With traditional computing people entered new reality inside the computer – places like second life. With mobile the computers enter our world – we bring our computers with us into a new reality – an augmented reality where computers add to our in-situ experience.

Mobile will drive us squared

A new paradigm will emerge from the combination of mobile drivers – a fast changing, real-time, any-time, any-where, green, social, knowledgeable, sensory, cloud, augmented reality. Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle described and named this paradigm as Web Squared – “when web meets world”. O’Reilly and Battelle describe the trend – 1990-2004 was the match being struck (Web 1.0), 2005-2009 was the fuse (Web 2.0) and 2010 will be the explosion(Web Squared).

Mobile will drive us.

Mobile will eventually change the way we work, learn and play – traditional organisation moved people to work, learn and play but with mobile work, learn and play can be moved to people and this may have profound effects on social organisation.

Predictions for 2010

The growth of cloud computing, real-time and social are well predicted and will become even more established. Below are some less predictable predictions….

User interfaces

By the end of 2010 there will be some radically interesting new user interfaces driven by mobile.

The stalled tablet interface will get seriously cool if Apple shock it back to life with an Apple tablet and the usual apple design flair in hardware and software. Others will learn, the bar will be raised and tablets will get interesting. Expectations are high.

The small size of mobiles will necessitate innovation in interfaces – I reckon that data glasses will be on Santa lists next Xmas.

I’m imagining that at sometime we will get IT designer clothing but maybe not until 2011 when we may be able to buy Apple and Google Glasses?

Augmented reality

During 2010 there will be exciting consumer applications for augmented reality (AR) that will lead to explosive growth and great demand from the general public due to the advantages and fun it will bring. Consider the Tesco visual search application for example. AR tech will be on Santa lists next year. Expect to see AR mentioned in adverts.

Some unknown development from combinatorial effects

Something emerging from interfaces, systems and social- Goggle Wave Glasses and waves perhaps?


January 1, 2010 Posted by | future, IT and society, mobile, predictions | | Leave a comment

Video confession 17 – Joanne considers the Asus Eee for Teaching

We are looking again at the use of cheap and small mobile computers – UMPcs and in particular the Asus Eee PC.  In the video I describe some of the history of mobile computing at the college, the current position and the paradigm being explored with the Asus Eee. Joanne gives her assessment of the Asus Eee and her ideas on how it could be used in teaching within her area.

Over the last 6 years the college has invested, developed and supported mobile IT for academic staff for resource preparation, presentation and MIS access such as e-registration in the classroom. We have built out a wireless network to cover most areas of the college and provided staff on 0.5 contracts and above with their own tablet computer linked into the staff IT systems and college resources.

There has been much discussion recently about new educational methods and we have been experimenting with the ways in which new technologies such as web 2 and mobile computers can be applied in education.

We provided the Foundation team at Hammersmith with three Asus Eee PCs for evaluation and ideas about how they could be applied in teaching in the foundation area. Joanne came back with a very positive response to the Asus Eee and talks in the video about using the Asus in lessons for information research in a more flexible way than possible in a traditional IT suite with rows of desktop computers.

We are experimenting with a new student IT paradigm here – the student computers are not running any Microsoft software and are not linked to the college student domain (or printers for that matter) – they are pure web access devices ideal for use with independent Internet cloud computing applications.

Experiments with these computers will provide some information on what future student IT use in the college may be like and I’m looking forward to seeing them used with students – watch this space.

June 7, 2008 Posted by | IT and education, mobile, video blog | Leave a comment

Video confession 16 – We look at the Asus Eee PC


The price and size of computing has been getting progressively smaller year by year but suddenly there has been a major change. Among the reasons for this are the scale of the market; the reduction in component costs; the use of free software such as Linux,  the effects of the OLPC project on manufacturers and the developed world and the developing web 2 culture. All the factors have come together to create the conditions for a new type of computer to be successful – the low cost Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (Umpc).

There have been Umpcs before but they have often used miniaturisation to justify high prices or have not been particularly practical. However, Asus have created a huge impact with their Eee PC – a significant departure from standard laptop offerings – A £200 price point, all solid state (no spinning hard disk to slow things down and drain batteries), just enough local memory to get by on and the use of Open Source Software (although Asus now sell a version of the Eee PC running Microsoft software.

I find the Asus Eee PC to be very impressive

– A £200 price point means we can purchase in large numbers and achieve new effects by scale

– A £200 price point means that more users can purchase their own – helping with social inclusion  and achieve new effects through personal computing.

– Small but useable- this size of computer is easy to carry around and is genuinely mobile

– Quick to start up – information and communication are far more pleasant without having to wait 2 or 3 minutes for the computer to let you get started

 – Very easy to use – Everything you need for most tasks is already installed and is easy to use

–  Fits well with the developing model of cloud computing  where we use the net for applications and storage. The Eee PC is quick and easy to get on line and comes with icons to connect you to Google Docs for example.

– Can accommodate standard local computing –  it comes pre-installed with Open Office for standard “Office” applications which are easy to use and compatible with Microsoft Office too.

Like all successful products it is in the right place at the right time – it is a perfect consumer computer for the masses. It feels less like a computer and more like a “gadget”  something useable by a wider range of people than most computers.

I will be exploring possible applications for the Eee PC in education over the year. Some of the applications I will be looking at are:

– Use on external projects like work experience, trips and community use

– Use in non IT suites as an information appliance

– Use in new models such as allocating to individual students on various courses or projects.

 In the video Richard dons a white lab coat to investigate the technical aspects of the Asus Eee and Penny talks briefly about the effect such technology can have in teaching.

Richard carries out a boot race between the Asus Eee running Xandros Linux and a standard tablet computer running Microsoft Vista. Before Richard has a chance to log in to Microsoft Vista he has used the Asus Eee to get on the Internet and Google Docs and to launch Open Office for wordprocessing. The Eee PC is about 30% cheaper than a standard laptop, 30% smaller and lighter and 30% faster to start and stop – 35 seconds after pressing the on button you can be surfing the net.

Penny from the design team talks about how the use of personal IT can change the nature of teaching and learning as information is readily accessible to students – opportunities for more research based learning are possible. Penny also talks about how more and more students have smartphones with which they can take pictures, send emails and browse the Internet.

When is a computer not a computer – It looks like we are in entering a new phase of computer diversity – it looks like 2008 may see the beginnings of some exciting new developments in education and IT.


Asus Eee review

A review of recent UMPCs (12.3.08)

The new OLPC is really radical – folding book style and one side can be a screen or soft keyboard

HP HP 2133 Mini-Note PC 

Elonex  One – just £99

Dell announce a unit – due much later in the year though  


June 1, 2008 Posted by | ICT, IT and education, mobile | 1 Comment

video confession 11

Social Spaces and Innovation

I’ve been working on our Exchange email system upgrade and pop down to the staff common room to get a cup of coffee from the machine. I notice Rachel and Kathy using their laptops in the staff common room – they are joint tutors on a course and are working together to update the “paperwork” they share on the network pool area.  

The shared pool area has been available from the “dawn of networked personal computing” in colleges and schools (around 1985) and it’s mapped for all our staff as the P: drive – it provides a shared file storage area which is familiar and relatively easy to use. The wireless laptops have been available for most of our staff since about 2002.

There is nothing new in the video but what struck me is the ease and familiarity with which people now take for granted what was once extraordinary – access to our IT systems and the Internet from anywhere and without wires.

The objective of our staff laptop provision program was to develop just what we see in the video – the normalisation of IT mobility. Being able to work in the staff common room instead being of “chained” to the wired desktops in our own area offices is an advantage in its own right but provides the opportunity to work and share more easily across boundaries.

We often consider architecture as a way of influencing behaviour but in many cases we could let behaviour influence our architecture – in this instance it could be that we should provide more open social networking spaces.

With developing globalisation there is an increasing motivation to boost our ability to innovate – to compete in the higher levels of the global economic “food” web and the ability to innovate and develop innovation in education is a key to our future.

Innovation is the introduction of something new and useful, for example introducing new methods, techniques, or practices or new or altered products and services. Innovation is the active, implementation of creativity and invention. Creativity and invention often come from crossing boundaries – for example the recent Terahertz security camera is based on work from astronomers studying dying stars.

Boundaries exist in organisations to facilitate management – this is necessary, the problem arises when boundaries are used defensively and used to drive management – we end up with a rigid structure which is more likely to break than to bend in the “winds of change”.

In a sense innovation is like the creation of compounds in chemistry – you have to start with a mixture and then add energy and or catalysts to create a new product. The higher and the more rigid the boundaries are then the more energy that will be needed to cross them – the less likely that innovation will be able to happen – the more likely something will break instead.

Open Social networking spaces provide the conditions for people to mix and come up with creative and inventive ideas from which innovation can happen. We may not all be able to build Google style workspaces but I strongly argue that we consider the significance of the social in work and education.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | IT and education, mobile, video blog | 4 Comments