Could the Mobile Phone be the Next PC?

By Glenn Seiler

Will 2007 be the year for mass adoption of Linux in smart phones? This question is the one on everyone’s minds here at the inaugural Open Source in Mobile Event. Taking place in Amsterdam today and tomorrow, this event brings together service providers, carriers, software and hardware vendors, ISVs and everyone else involved in the open source in mobile community. Day one just concluded and since I’m here I thought I’d share some observations that caught my attention.

Needless to say, as this is the inaugural event, my expectations were low. Much to my surprise though, the event has been well attended with over 100 paying attendees. Worth noting to anyone who doesn’t believe Linux will have an impact on the mobile phone market: given the level of attendees participating, I feel pretty safe in concluding that manufacturers are taking the opportunity in mobile Linux very seriously.

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  1. Mobile Phones

    I’ve read a lot about the increase in cell phone usage, and the contention that cell phones may eventually replace a host of other devices, including – as you say – the PC. I know that lots of industry people are working on creating larger, QWERTY style keyboards, bigger screens with better resolution, and increased memory that might one day rival the PC. There does seem to be a certain backlash against this movement, however. Elsewhere, I’ve read of the problems that have been created by the integration of cameras into cells, for instance. At a number of military installations, in many courthouses, and to some extent in private sector business that regard their work as “private,” there has been a call for a return to more phones that don’t include camera functions. Also today there was the announcement from Microsoft of “Surface,” a move that seems to signal Microsoft’s interest in making PCs essentially everywhere, something that one could argue might undo interest in cell phones. Do you have an opinion on which of these sides seems to be more likely to win out in the end?

  2. Mobile Phones

    I’m especially interested in the “X Foundation” you mentioned, particularly in the cooperation of handset manufacturers and service providers. It does seem to me that solving the many software and programming issues associated with making internet access easier for mobile users also requires an equal amount of development on the hardware front, development that isn’t always discussed. I have noticed that the new Iphone commercials are really hyping the larger screen as a major advantage of the phone’s design – they say something about the fact that a user won’t be accessing a scaled-down version of the internet, but rather THE internet. This is an awfully bold statement, and it will be interesting to see if they can pull it off. I have no doubt, based on images I’ve seen, that they will have the biggest screen with the best resolution out there, but does that necessarily mean we will have arrived at a point where cells are as useful as PCs? It seems to me that if the transition is to take place, designers will have to find some way of offering a larger viewing area.

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