It really seems like the rise of the pocket computer is upon us. In many ways, the iPhone was first past the pole, but it is being joined by ever-more feature laden Blackberries, the upcoming Palm Pre, various portable media players with similar feature sets to these smart phones, etc. Additionally, the rise of the netbook features in as well, as smaller and smaller options become available. It would seem that we might eventually meet in the middle, with netbooks becoming smaller without sacrificing functionality, and smart phones gaining more and more of the features available in full-sized laptops. There are certain intrinsic limits to any smaller form gadget– both screen size and keyboard size are features that are hurt by miniaturization intrinsically. But one way or another, the era of truly portable computing seems to be coming on us quickly.
And, as any computing solution has to be connected to the Internet to be seen as a credible choice, the range of options and protocols to get these new portable computers connected to the electronic umbilical has increased markedly. There are many options– I really dig Mifi, although I could never afford to pay the monthly fee in the near future. But it’s essential, whether through your cell phone carrier or another option (like WiMax), that you get your devices hooked up online.
Lately, though, I’ve begun to worry about the carrying capacity of our various wireless forms of data transmission. Portable connectivity, of course, requires wireless connection. I keep reading posts like this one or this one suggesting that there are major bandwith and traffic bottlenecks ahead. I’m not educated enough to understand how big of a problem it is but it seems like it could be a real impediment to a genuine portable computer revolution in the near future. Advancements will be made, of course, but it’s not unusual for there to be a bottle-necking effect when it comes to the widespread adoption of new kinds of technology.
Personally, I probably won’t be joining the portable computing trend anytime soon, because I can’t afford a device, can’t afford the service, and most crucially, anything portable I inevitably drop and destroy. Which is a big reason I’m walking around with a $20 candy bar phone; for me, painless replacability is a key feature.