Mobile Phones and the Death of the Personal Computer?

Everyone probably thought it when they first saw an iPhone: “will this eventually end the need for a desktop personal computer?”  From recent stories in the New York times and other places, it seems like PC makers are not just wondering about that – they are sure it will happen.

The main reasoning is that mobile devices can now handle at least 90% of of the things that most people do on PCs anyways.    Which is true… but there are still many times that I put aside doing something or looking at a site when I am on the go, because I want to see it on a full sized screen.

What is probably more likely to happen is that computers processors will move to mobile devices, while the computer screen merges with the television screen.  While you are at home, or at the office, you plug your mobile device into a docking station on a TV screen and pull out a keyboard and mouse. The docking station will have a faster processor (or a processor booster) to handle memory intense games, graphic design programs, and other programs that will probably always be a little too much for mobile devices.  Of maybe even we will see the screen actually be a holographic touch screen device of some kind.

At least, I hope this is the direction mobile computing takes in the future.  As I have said before, this could take the anytime, anywhere nature of online learning to a whole different level.  Instead of syncing multiple devices, you just have one with different interface options.  Campus computer centers, office buildings, community centers, and anywhere else you would go work on a computer could just set-up several docking stations, and users bring in their preferred work environment with them.  That would include settings, bookmarks, even wallpapers.

Of course, to make this happen, we would need to see an increase of faster mobile Internet access speeds.  3-G would have to eventually become the “dial-up” of mobile broadband access.  Online file back-up would become a must.  Wireless elecgricty would need to become a reality.  But most of all, we would need an industry standard for docking features (hardware and software), so that any mobile device can plug into any docking station and run natively inside of it.  Seeing how…errr…. nicely Mac and Windows work together as it is, I would hate to be a non-iPhone user searching for a Windows-based docking station to connect to Second Life to teach a class remotely while at a conference.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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