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Mobile and Cloud Computing - Will It Change Small Business? Is It a Killer App?

posted 2 Nov 2010, 06:44 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 2 Nov 2010, 06:46 ]


Can you predict the future of computing and mobile from
observing the behavior of kids? One of the things I have
always noted about my own kids, my nieces and my nephews is
the overwhelming attachment to hand-held toys - no, I am not
talking about cell phones and portable game players. While
those doll houses, sit-and-spins, backyard playhouse, push
cars, Lego sets, and other big toys are fun, they don't seem
to hold the attention of a child for very long. What kids
prefer are smaller toys that are hand-held, can be taken
around with in their book bags, and can be used just about
anywhere.  Let's face it, kids don't want to be in their
bedrooms playing with some big toy, they want to bring that
toy to where everyone is gathering in the house and play
where there are more people around. And when it's time to
go, they want to take the toy with them and continue playing
with it.


Will the Home Desktop RIP?

I see the same thing happening with consumer electronics.
People love their mobile phones and laptops, precisely
because they are mobile - they are much like those small
toys that kids play with more than those really big things.
I can see desktop computer systems, which are tethered in
our home offices, becoming a thing of the past. As laptops
and e-book flow into the school system, our kids will become
used to their school work, entertainment, and connectivity
carried around in one device and accessible from anywhere.

What Became of the 1930's Family Radio?

Likewise, it's not uncommon in a household for everyone to
be off doing something different - maybe I'm on my laptop,
my daughter might be reading a book, and so on. Why do I
need a TV set for the family to gather around? Will it have
the same fate as the family radio that everyone gathered
around to listen to in the 1930's?  My daughters both know
how to watch Internet TV shows and movies on their
computers.  And yes, both my daughters had laptops or net
books by kindergarten.  As long as they are each getting to
watch the TV show of their choice, I don't have to listen to
them argue over whose turn it is to watch their show on the
big screen.

The typical laptop sells for $645, the netbook around $500,
and a big screen 50 inch TV monitor is $1,500. Do I really
need that TV? Nope, I really don't. That's one TV for my
kids to fight over or three laptops that will create peace
and quiet in the house - and laptops do double duty for
school work!

Will Mobile Unseat Some Laptop Uses?

For some applications, it's just simpler to access them on a
mobile device.  I have no need to look up movie show times on
my laptop when I can just touch an icon on my iPhone.

Are Small Businesses Migrating to Mobile?

According to a Scarborough Research study, for the average
person, the major uses for a mobile device are text
messaging, email, Internet searches, and picture or video
capture.  The home computer use is for Internet access and
email. What I've noticed recently is that people aren't even
using computers as much anymore. I see small businesses that
have been established for some time and have investments in
desktop computers continue to use them. But those new
businesses run by those 20- or 30-somethings are moving
exclusively onto their cell phones to conduct business. My
kids, who are your typical overscheduled children, have many
afterschool activities and the providers of these activities
along with most small businesses I patronize, just use their
cell phones to correspond with customers - everything seems
to be tagged with "from my iPhone" or "from my Blackberry".
Appointments can be made and confirmed with online calendars,
bills sent to my email accounts and payments can be made
electronically.

Is Cloud Computing Moving Us Back To The Past?

Now consider that cloud computing is moving the compute
power of the commonplace software application away from the
desktop into the cloud. Why do we need to have QuickBooks
loaded on our home PCs when our files can be held in a
system elsewhere.  I really dislike when my home PC crashes
and I have to reload all the software and restore the
back-up. I am very willing to let that be someone else's
job! Apps were on the desktop because of inadequate
connectivity, but the Internet has improved dramatically
since the days when this direction was taken. At large
sporting events, crowds of fans still cannot all tweet
themselves silly because there are network capacity
limitations.  Greater mobile connectivity is coming.

Once there were mainframes and users accessed the compute
power from dumb terminals. Are we moving back to the past,
but with a new and improved twist? Will laptops and cell
phones simply become the dumb terminal interface to the
applications elsewhere?

Okay, you have me. The cell phone screen size is still
annoying to me, but I think a lot of that can be solved with
designing apps to be displayed on the smaller screens instead
of converting user interfaces meant to be displayed on larger
screen devices.

Cell Phones and Internet Access Are a Necessity

Nokia reportedly sells 260,000 smartphones worldwide each
day, Android sells 200,000, and iPhone sells 80,000 phones.
Super smartphones are in the works with on-board memory and
multi-core processors.

As city-wide Wi-Fi networks are established and our cars
become Wi-Fi hotspots and the vehicular and ad-hoc networks
technology improves, everyone will have greater access to
the Internet from anywhere and further push the
functionality of mobile and wireless.

Every country on the globe has developed their own national
broadband plan, and every one I've read, has Internet access
for the entire populations and education moving to digital as
top priorities.  Cell phones and the Internet have become a
necessity, much like any other utility such as electricity,
water, and gas.

In China, the youth aspire to have the latest and greatest
cell phone, not to the next generation laptop.  They cannot
afford both.  The same will be true of India - a large
population with cell phones, but not necessarily laptops or
netbooks.

The Connection to Start-ups

What does all of this have to do with start-ups? There is a
big opportunity to make smartphones and cloud computing the
platform for small businesses.  Cell phones and mobile have
made great strides in the consumer market, but there has not
been much traction in developing this technology to operate
small businesses. Young entrepreneurs, who are digital savvy
and already accustomed to smart phones, will prefer this
device to conduct electronically. And in regions of the
world, where ownership of both cell phones and laptops are
not economically feasible, it makes sense to move simple
small business apps to the available devices.

About the Author:

Cynthia Kocialski has founded three companies and has been
actively involved in more than 25 hi-tech start-up. Cynthia
has held various technical, marketing and management
positions at IBM and Matrox Electronics. She is a graduate
of the University of Rochester and the University of
Virginia. She writes a blog at
http://www.cynthiakocialski.com
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