Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The future of mobile devices

Last night I met socially with some mobile industry colleagues from a couple of large mobile payments players in the credit cards industry, and a large mobile operator. It was great to chew the fat and share stories about what we were all doing ten years ago and to compare that with how the market has developed since that time. This got me thinking about what have been the most reliable indicators of how things are likely to develop in the future.

I came to the conclusion that if we want to get some insight into how mobile devices might evolve into the future then we need to look closely at what the device component and chip manufacturers are doing today. 

The latest technology and features included in the silicon chip platforms being designed today will define applications and shape the mobile services available in five to ten years. This is a fairly logical assertion but I also know it to be completely true from my own experience; I recall ten years ago (like it was yesterday in fact) seeing mobile apps, app stores, and mobile music download services all listed as potential future propositions in telecoms service providers' innovation roadmaps. 

Telco industry product managers are not known for putting detailed planning in their slide-decks, and in the case of app stores and mobile music it's a good job really as it took almost another decade for those ideas to become reality for mobile consumers. That wasn't the fault of the telecoms industry nor of the product managers. It wasn't until the mobile device component and chip manufacturers got seriously onto the case around 2002/2003 that things really started to move, and then it took a further five years or so before there was the critical mass of capable devices available alongside workable commercial models and with the required volume of consumer demand, all which was needed, to tip the scales from niche market to mainstreet.

So without access to a crystal-ball then probably the most reliable way to understand how mobile technology might change our lives by say 2020 is to try and understand what technology the device component and chip manufacturers are working on today.

British chip manufacturer ARM is the UK technology industry success story of the last decade. ARM isn't a consumer brand in the same way that Intel is, they don't run expensive consumer focused marketing campaigns and you won't see an 'ARM Inside' strapline on any logos on the front of any devices; but that couldn't be any further from the reality as ARM chips can be found in devices used in almost every industry sector from health-care to consumer electronics. Most notably ARM chips power Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Indeed ARM has been a central player throughout the smartphone revolution.

Warren East has been with ARM since 1994 and CEO since 2001. Warren is an engineer in possession of a deep understanding of technology; but he's also a highly successful tech industry business leader, and has overseen ARM's amazing success story of the past 10 years.

Warren recently presented a view of the future of handheld devices to young professionals at the Institution of Engineering and Technology. If you're a registered IET website user you can view the presentation below. An interesting perspective on the future. 


Digital life on the go: The Future of Handheld Devices
Warren East
The 2011 Young Professional Lecture
London, 13 October 2011
Institution of Engineering and Technology
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