Friday, April 2, 2010

Have we Reached the Age of Pervasive Computing?

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo

For years I have been speaking about pervasive computing, the concept that technology will be ubiquitous in our everyday life. The debate has centered on whether we will focus on one powerful and flexible computing device to service all of our needs – from email, web surfing, gaming, managing personal finances to running our small business – or a myriad of devices that are optimized for our current location.

Watching people fumble with a 17” wide notebook on a regional flight or saving their work from a desktop computer onto a memory key remind us that a single device will never be optimized for all different uses. Our world has become increasingly connected, meaning that electronic devices are with us 24/7. It makes sense that these devices are becoming more web enabled and delivering more value than their intended use.

Today we are witnessing the explosion of Netbooks as a secondary device, either in the home or small business environment. These devices have changed the business model for the computer industry, for the first time offering “thin and light” for the lowest price. In the past, the thinner and lighter a Notebook was, the higher you would expect to pay. The other phenomenon behind the growth in Netbooks is price. Buying behavior research shows that the $300 price point, regardless of consumer electronics category, drives a product to be mass-market. Think of VCRs or DVD players, digital cameras, XBOX, cell phones, etc. When these devices hit $300, it seemed like everyone had them on the Christmas list.

Another segment of computer that you will see very soon is Thinbook. These devices are very thin and light, stylish, have larger screens and longer battery life than Netbook. Powered by Ultra Low Voltage technology from Intel, these devices weigh around 3 pounds, are less than an inch thick and have all day computing ability. The price point will be between a Netbook and a full function Notebook.

Looking at these growing segments from a screen size point of view, they fill the gap between smartphones and Notebooks. Thus, depending on your job or lifestyle, or simply depending on the activity you are planning, you may choose a 4-6” smartphone, an 8-12” Netbook, a 13” Thinbook, 14-17” Notebook, or 22”+ desktop to stay connected and add value.

Looking into the future, it makes sense that other electronic devices from alarm clocks to fish finders to car radios become web enabled and serve as the appropriate device based on activity. This concept of “location based computing” will better fit technology into our busy lives and make it a more natural environment for communicating. You will likely own 20 or more computers within 10 years, they will just be integrated in the things you already buy.

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