Srinivas Reddy’s Weblog

My Tech Rants

Mobile Computing

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Its been some time I have written, not sure if anybody really missed it, but I am back :o) My concern this time :

computing. If their’s one area where we are seeing most innovations today its mobile computing. I will try to broadly cover my views on this topic and hope you will find it helpful. Feel free to complain.

Nokia’s positioning of the mobile device as a ‘Multimedia computer’ best explains the potential of a mobile device. The feature set of the latest smart phones (like N93 models from Nokia) is amazing – you really need to go through the feature list to understand the potential of the device. While there could be many flavors to mobile computing: be it ubiquitous//pervasive/embedded/… never mind the jargon, personally I like the view of ‘edge device’. We are currently supposed to be in the transition to ‘edge computing’ or also ‘computing appliances’ if you like. Which in more simple terms means just like we custom ‘electrical appliances’ be it ‘tv, music system, washing machine,..’ we are increasingly going in for custom ‘computing appliances’. These devices have custom applications running (be it ip phone/ipod/xbox/tivo/navigation systems/..) and run in the so called edges. Actually the smart phones with their increasingly ‘general purpose computing/communication’ capabilities do not exactly fit this picture but we have spectrum of edge devices.

What’s new or different about mobile computing? Apart form its anywhere / anytime access (assuming network availability and hardware support) , its the convergence of computing and communication capabilities that make it a fertile ground for innovations. Mobile phone has come a long way form being a device just being able to help talk wireless to a being a ‘multimedia computer’. Agreed the smart phones are expensive and most people may never have one but the spectrum of devices already in market (with basic J2ME cldc profiles) goes into few millions. While from the software developer perspective there are not many ‘real applications’ that can developed for this devices, but then the pc industry also had to go through such growing pains. We are seeing increasingly ‘innovative applications’ being done on mobile devices ( check link for nokia winners for innovative mobile apps : http://www.nokia.com/A4136001?newsid=1081322). The emerging ‘computing appliances’ market means a whole new world for software developers.

What does it mean to develop for mobile platforms? While unlike the desktop or server world we have too many hardware/software platforms to write apps to, still the niches are getting increasingly large and few platforms are emerging. While Microsoft with its .NET compact framework is doing a catch-up with the J2ME and Symbian and other platforms, the market is huge for multiple players. Like in the pc world the winners will be decided by the platform to which developers (us!!) write most apps to. Which in turn depend’s on the platform capabilities and ecosystem off course. Microsoft already offers mobile office for smart phone and no. of apps available for J2ME devices runs into few thousands at least. The best place to keep updated is through the RSS feeds on this topics (you can check the feeds I read on my blog at http://www.bloglines.com/blog/Srini)

What skills would be needed to be a good mobile developer? In general good design skills would help for any computing type. In specific I would say understanding design patterns (if you are looking for details – check the ‘software factories’ articles in the latest issue of ‘architecturejournal’ from Microsoft here – www.architecturejournal.net), user experience design (will write on this in future article), understanding trends in device capabilities (never mind the software platforms supporting it) and off course actually using the different vendor apis and creating ‘real world’ apps. Being a emerging area you will be challenged by the amount of information available, but you can off course specialize in a domain (games/business apps/…). There is a need to understand the different modalities involved (gui / voice / …) and the network specific issues (offline application, online application, occasionally connected or mostly connected applications).

Hopefully I have motivated you to become a mobile developer than actually make you run away from it.

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Written by srinivasreddy

November 30, 2006 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Technology

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