Bill Joy on PCs and Mobiles

Technology Review has an essay by Bill Joy:

Nearly 50 years ago, J. C. R. Licklider imagined computers as a communications device. When we look at today’s smart mobile devices, the BlackBerries and the Treos and the Nokia Communicators, we underestimate their importance. Their capabilities are relatively limited. Compared to phones, they’re big and bulky, but compared to notebook computers, they have frustratingly small screens and keyboards. Few people have them. They don’t really feel like our most personal computers.

But I think they are. The power of such devices will grow rapidly, as did the power of the PC. And they will become intensely personal, because they will be able to do more for you than anything that is as portable. They will thus naturally become the focus of improvements in connectivity and communication.

Much as the Google query you make from your home runs on machines located elsewhere, software run on behalf of your pocket PC could reside in remote server farms, on computers you time-share with others–but that you don’t have to maintain.

Does this mean that desktop PCs as we know them will disappear? I’m not suggesting that. Rather, I think, we will find that these larger computers with keyboards become less personal, become shared devices. In my household, many of us have accounts on several different computers, which share our personal information among them. None of these is “my” computer, yet all are, when they need to be. The individual machines are becoming access points to my presence on the network.

Your smart phone will benefit greatly from the next 100-fold improvement bestowed by Moore’s Law. It can acquire more sensors, becoming a personal medical scanner, tricorder, translator, recorder, and interpreter. There are many worthy dreams for such devices!

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.