Tech guru lifts lid on mobile phone of the future


11 Mar 2004

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In ten years’ time mobile phones will have a terabyte of storage, connect at speeds of 20Mbps and will offer voice recognition and voice navigation. It may look quite different, possibly with a wraparound screen, and will integrate the functions of a laptop, MP3 player, digital camera, PDA and phone.

That’s according to Greg Garrison of PricewaterhouseCoopers, an internationally known speaker on technology trends and strategy. Garrison (pictured), who is a director of PwC’s Technology Centre at Menlo Park Europe, spoke at yesterday’s SummIT 2004 technology investment conference, outlining the firm’s research into the mobile arena.

Looking ahead to 2014, many of the setbacks in the industry will no longer be a problem, he said. “We’re in the process of wrestling this industry into existence and resolving the supply-side technology issues around the performance of mobile phones, such as battery power, bandwidth, form factor and navigation. In the future, we can say that all of the above will be solved.”

Even though the third generation mobile phone network is not yet publicly available, Garrison nonetheless predicted widespread 4G by 2014. It’s not an extravagant claim when NTT is talking of the next-generation network by 2006, he suggested. “Looking 10 years out, we can extrapolate an explosion of bandwidth that can give us all of the requirements,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

With the anticipated release next year of a laptop capable of forty hours’ battery life, along with the usual technological leaps that Moore’s Law continually predicts, Garrison said that future mobile phones will have fuel cells that will offer a month’s talk time. He added the proviso that applications such as streaming video, used regularly, will make serious inroads into that battery life.

This fully converged device, with the capability of a phone, digital camera, personal organiser and MP3 player, will have – and need – one terabyte of storage capacity, Garrison said. “It may be that we might want specialist devices but it will be possible to buy a single device to provide the functions of all these kinds of devices.”

With 4G the speed of network connection will be equivalent to high definition television signals. Despite this, Garrison doesn’t believe that service providers will use this capability to broadcast to phones: the business model will still involve users downloading content as they want it.

“Content is important, but we see it as being ad hoc, occasional. The mobile phone, we believe, will be used on a more continuous basis.” Content services won’t be accessed continuously, “but they are certainly important and there will be money to be made out of them”. This in turn has implications for convergence at an industry level, as telcos and media players will jointly seek revenue opportunities from the new mobile consumer.

Instant messaging will make the move from the internet to the mobile phone and will grow exponentially as a result, Garrison said. “There’s a very important psychological difference between email and chat: one is asynchronous and the other is synchronous. With instant messaging, you’re there together, conversing with someone, albeit textually. That behaviour becomes very important now that people can in theory be connected anywhere at any time.”

Another kind of communication that the mobile phone of 2014 will enable is full person-to-person videoconferencing, he added.

Increased bandwidth will also transform how the mobile phone is used, extending the reach of the internet beyond its current constituency, Garrison predicted. One third of the world’s population will use mobiles in 2014, many more people than will have used the internet, he said. “There will be new adopters who will not have a desktop – their device will be a mobile phone and their experience [of the internet] will be substantially different.”

By Gordon Smith