The future of mobile computing has arrived. Yet that didn't seem to slow down a group of industry analysts who briefed an audience at the Comdex show in Las Vegas this week.
The panel, 'Vision 2001: industry luminaries see mobile everywhere', brought together a group of market research analysts chaired by Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights. He pointed out that mobile computers are now bought as the primary PC by 75 per cent of purchasers.
The analysts agreed the transition from desktop to mobile computer will occur but said "the timeframe and look may not be what we expect".
"We get blinded by the technology today," said Kenneth Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at the Gartner Group. "We have to integrate the old and the new technology."
Rob Enderle, vice president of desktop and mobile computing at Giga Information Group, pointed out that there are two groups of buyers - ultra-portables and desktop replacements. The desktop replacements will be used by people who move between two workplaces, for example, home and the office.
The ultra-portables will be for users who primarily need to do email, fill out forms or manage schedules, but not power users on the road, he explained.
The middle of the market will either "have something closer to an ultra-portable or a luggable as they find the right mix based on their usage pattern," Enderle said.
The question of the importance of the new version of handheld operating system Windows CE, Jupiter, was also raised but the panellists were divided.
Randy Guist, director of mobile computing at IDC, said: "Yes it fits a need with more focus that the PDAs provide." But Enderle argued that it has limits based on the data technology.
Each analyst agreed that bandwidth needs to be straightened out and no one predicted that will be done until 2002 at the earliest.
Cost of ownership was also discussed. Jerry Michalski, president of Sociate, pointed out that it costs more to own a portable than a desktop and that technical support, especially diagnostics, is difficult to find.
Most analysts agreed that CE will dominate the palmtop market. Martin Reynolds, vice president at Dataquest summed it up. "Nothing exciting is coming from the Palm people. It's still a single platform device."
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