2010: When Pocket Computing Got Serious



Ever since the first Personal Computer, they have been getting smaller, more powerful and cheaper — its what they’re about. Only a few years ago 4GB of RAM in a laptop would have been beyond the average user’s wallet, now it’s bog-standard for a full-size notebook. I could go on, but you know the point I’m making.

These days computers have gotten so small and powerful, you can even carry one in your pocket. Modern smartphones, or the iPod Touch for that matter, are no longer just glorified PDAs or PMPs, they’re actual computers. These devices handle all forms of digital communication, display and edit HD video, allow full featured web browsing on the move, and can run several programmes simultaneously. They’re fully fledged computers.

While RIM, Palm, Nokia and Microsoft all made evolutionary steps towards real pocket computing, it was Apple with its iPhone, that transformed the portable computing world.

Critics may claim that Apple was slow to add key features to the iPhone that would allow it to be defined as a real computer — such as app support, multitasking and basic text editing tools, but it was Apple who created the first truly great mobile operating system.

iOS is a brilliantly realised operating system, completely designed around a single user-interface: Multi-Touch. Each year Apple refines iOS, but it was the decision to dump the stylus and reliance on buttons, that led to a revolution in mobile computing. The iPhone is a brilliant piece of technology and a real pocket computer.

As if more evidence were needed, check out Infinity Blade for iOS. The iPhone has an enough graphical power to make the Wii blush, never mind the DS.

Traditional computing made a fightback with the Atom-powered Netbook, but it wasn’t long before consumers realised that these underpowered notebooks are a half-way solution to mobile computing, running unsuitable operating systems for such small screens. Anyway, you can’t fit a EeePC into your Levi’s.

Early this year, time was called on the Netbook phenomenon, when Apple launched the iPad — showing that a Multi-Touch OS is far more suited to a 10” screen.

2010 has been the year when the potential of mobile computing was fully realised.

And it’s not just Apple, Google’s Android has become the fastest growing mobile platform. And it’s challenging the tablet market too, with the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Tab selling over a million units, despite being out only a few weeks.

Microsoft has finally joined the party too, with the beautifully designed yet appallingly named, Windows Phone 7 OS.

Apple, Google and Microsoft are all competing for your pocket, and the level of innovation is stunning. Not just in hardware and software features, but also the device UI. Cell phone interfaces used to be terrible. Take the Nokia N95 — a brilliant piece of hardware with a glorious camera, but the UI sucked. Even the BlackBerry OS, which I used and loved for years, is lightyears behind Android 2.2.

The smartphone is the leading edge of the tech world. Every major player is investing in the future of mobile. We communicate, we browse, and we create content on smartphones. They’re where it’s at. Period.

Yes, I wrote this long post on a MacBook Pro, and wouldn’t have attempted it on a touch-screen, but I now spend more time surfing the web on my Android phone than I do on a full-size screen. In 2009 that wasn’t the case. So 2010 is the year, for me at least, that pocket computing finally got serious.