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Mobile computing: smaller, lighter, faster

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Computers, smartphones, laptops, netbooks and the wide variety of other mobile computing devices have become so much a part of consumers' everyday lives that they take their existence for granted until something goes wrong. People want to be connected to the world at all times, but they do not want to be bound to a desk to do this.

Small wonder then that notebook sales have slowly overtaken PC sales over the years, and as the price tag on mobile devices continues to shrink, the adoption rate will grow correspondingly.
Mobile computing devices are more affordable than ever, and have been taken up with enthusiasm by a wide range of markets, from high powered executives to developers, office workers, students and home users, as a portable alternative to the deskbound PC.
Responding to demand, hardware vendors are pumping out more powerful devices at a lower price point in a smaller body. Graphics on mobile devices are becoming more powerful, software a lot more sophisticated. The social networking revolution has driven the emergence of a range of integrated software that combines tools for sharing content and information directly with networking sites.
But for all of these advances in technology, two main factors have driven the true mobile workforce, who are the primary market for mobile computers: 3G connectivity and longer life batteries.
Fast, always on Internet connectivity has enabled people to work from anywhere, anytime, as they can connect into office networks from any place around the globe, and have the full functionality of a desktop PC without the tethers.
Alongside this the invention of smaller, thinner Lithium-Ion batteries has enabled ultra portable devices to be used for extended periods of time without being plugged into mains.
Notebooks have evolved to deliver more power than ever, recently coming out standard with 64bit operating systems and more powerful processors on lower voltage CPUs, for even greater computing power that uses less battery life than ever.
In fact, mobile computing has advanced to such a degree that many people now have multiple devices, from a notebook for office work to a smartphone and a netbook or tablet PC for content viewing on the go.
Further driving the trend towards mobility in South Africa is the newly available bandwidth that has been the result of additional undersea cabling.
While bandwidth is still expensive in the country the prices are dropping, which will facilitate the emergence of more "free" wireless Internet hotspots, which will draw mobile workers into places that offer these as it will provide an alternative to using expensive 3G connectivity.
For the future of the mobile computer, once thing is certain – the trend for more power in smaller, lighter, more portable devices will continue unabated as demand for products continues to increase.
The "green" trend will also continue as laptop users want CPUs that are energy efficient in order to deliver optimal battery life, and eco-conscious manufacturers will continue their efforts to reduce the number of hazardous chemicals used in manufacture so that notebooks and laptops can be recycled safely.
One thing that will change, as a result of customers demanding more choice and becoming more conscious of the aesthetics of computing devices, will be a greater influx of "designer" devices. The era of "you can have any colour as long as it is black" in terms of computers is over.
As technology is no longer much of a differentiator when it comes to mobile computers, people have begun to focus less on the utility of a machine and more on its looks as a first consideration for purchase. With this demand for aesthetically pleasing design, manufacturers are developing devices to meet this need.
From the point of view of advancing technology, users can assume that processors will continue to get faster and more energy efficient, screen technology will evolve to brighter, higher contrast ratio, more energy
efficient viewing to deliver a crisper clearer picture, and batteries will go through cycles from heavier in weight and density but longer lasting to lighter with the same efficiency as previous generations.
One thing is certain: mobile computing is here to stay, and the world will forever be changed as a result.