PDAs and Mobile phones: The Merger

Handhelds Come of Age

What’s the News with PDAs?

Mobile Multimedia

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Some of the demands of mobile users are the need to compute,the need to be connected (usually to the Internet) while on the move, and theability to do so without having to carry too many devices. The devices that weuse to meet the first two needs are a PDA and a mobile phone, respectively. Thelast need will be met by a convergence of PDAs and mobile phones. In thisarticle, we’ll discuss this merger. First, however, let’s see what a PDA anda mobile phone can individually offer in the next five years.

Computing power: PDA

In the next few years, a PDA will run full-fledged officesuites and even games, and not just be used for jotting notes or reminding youabout important appointments.

PDAs today do not consume power efficiently and have limitedmemory and computing powers. New technology, however, is already changing this.The Crusoe processor from Transmeta consumes power in mere watts. This processoruses a technology called LongRun in which power consumption is adjusted on thebasis of the processor’s usage by applications.

Silicon—the material used for making processors and memory—willalso kneel down before further miniaturization. What will be used in its placeis a molecule. Molecular technology will lead to microscopic yet powerfulprocessors and high-capacity memory modules. The operating system for PDAs willbe as powerful as those on desktops or even network computers. Transmeta hasalready developed Mobile Linux, which has efficient memory utilization andpower-management features. IBM, too, has developed a prototype of a wristwatchrunning Linux.

The applications that will run on PDAs will include allthose, that run on PCs, and more. Crusoe processors use a Code Morphing softwarelayer running on top of their hardware instruction set. This software layertranslates x86 instructions—used by Windows and DOS applications—to theprocessor’s native instruction set. It is claimed that the Code Morphing layercan make Crusoe processors compatible with other instruction sets, like that ofthe Macintosh. Add to the above, improved handwriting and voice recognition forinputs. As you can see, computing on a PDA is expected to be as powerful as inPCs.

Connectivity: Mobile phones

Internet telephony and connectivity—making long-distancecalls, video conferencing over the Internet, etc—will become a reality formobile-phone users in the next few years.

The most basic feature of a mobile phone today is to connectto other mobile-phone users through the mobile or cellular network. Mobilenetworks, however, offer limited throughput. This can be overcome by usingtechnologies like GPRS, which gives a throughput of 115 kbps and is based onpacket switching.

Today a major demand of mobile-phone users is Internetconnectivity. Mobile phones already enable sending and receiving e-mails, andtext-based browsing through WAP (Wireless Application Protocol). As amobile-phone user, you will soon be able to switch between voice and datacommunication or use both simultaneously. Using VoIP (Voice over IP), you willbe able to route voice calls from mobile phones through the Internet. A VoIPgateway digitalizes the analog voice signals and fragments them into IP packets.Once Internet telephony is fully legalized, long-distance calls will be routedthrough the Internet, thereby greatly reducing costs. Similarly, using Videoover IP will let you videoconference over the Internet. Technologies likeTeledesic (a project similar to Iridium) will make distances immaterial. Youwill be able to talk to anyone across the globe using satellite communication.

Teledesic will also facilitate broadband (64 Mbps downloadsand 2 Mbps uploads) Internet access through mobile phones. It uses about 288 LEO(Low Earth Orbit) satellites, eliminating the requirement of strongtransceivers. This will make live and high-quality video conferencing a reality.IPv6 reserves 2128 IP addresses. So, your mobile phone can always be connectedto the Internet with a unique IP.

Computing power+Connectivity

Given the features of both, won’t you want a device thatmerges PDAs and mobile phones into one? Certainly, since your new device will beas powerful as a desktop PC through which you can do computing and also beconnected. It will have an added advantage over the PC in being small enough tocarry along in your pocket. In fact, such devices—like the Nokia Communicator9110—are already appearing in the market. At about 253 g, however, the NokiaCommunicator is a bit bulky.

Such a device can compute and store all your business data,may be in a database as powerful as Oracle or MS SQL server. So, when someonequeries your device through the mobile network or the Internet, he gets theresult, no matter where you are and what you are doing. You only need to keepyour device switched on. You need not worry about power consumption since such adevice will have very efficient power-management techniques too.

Shekhar Govindarajan

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