Smart Phones represent an attempt to combine mobile telephones with the data capabilities and PIM (personal information manager)-like functionality of handheld PDAs (personal digital assistants). Already, smart phones such as the L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co.’s R380 deliver wireless Internet access and include built-in address books, calendars, and notepads. But in the next year or two, thanks to more memory, greater processing power, and multitasking operating systems such as Symbian Ltd.’s Epoc, smart phones will gain the capability of running more powerful, third-party applets, providing access to corporate databases and supporting interactive services such as personalized stock quotes and e-commerce transactions.
Currently, a number of vendors in the communications market are adding local intelligence (weather and traffic reports) and Palmlike PIM applications (address book, calendar, etc.) to their mobile phones, but most of these Web-enabled phones simply take advantage of network-based applications and services.
Smart phones are much more sophisticated. Instead of relying on the wireless network for their applications and services, smart phones will run robust operating systems that support programmability and the integration of PIM applications and data capabilities such as mail, messaging, and Internet access into the handset. Smart phones will have greater processing power and a larger display than merely Web-enabled phones, and they will be able to run local applications and store their own data. Despite these additional capabilities, smart phones will be no larger than today’s mobile phones.
We should expect to see increasingly intelligent smart phones becoming available in the next year or two. Technology advances and demand from mobile workers for lighter and more capable mobile devices will drive the industry toward a more software-centric model based on open standards, with platforms that allow users to select their own applications and services directly from the Internet. We are currently seeing a migration toward industry-standard OSes, such as Symbian’s Epoc, that will bring an impressive array of Java-based computing and data communications capabilities to mobile phones. For example, by the year 2002, according to Symbian, Epoc-enabled smart phones should support group scheduling, browsing of corporate databases and intranets, and encryption-protected online purchases, not to mention location sensitivity that will enable smart phones to alert users to local weather and traffic conditions. But first we’ll see more devices that attempt to put the functionality of a PDA directly into a wireless phone.
What will smart phones mean to mobile workers? For one thing, road warriors will have to learn yet another computing device and OS. For the many mobile workers who have already embraced Palm, Windows CE, and Epoc devices, the migration will be fairly easy but still fraught with some challenges. Users will need to learn new ways of interacting with corporate networks and applications. But in time, users will appreciate the ability to access valuable information and services regardless of time and place from their phone.
By the first half of 2001, wireless phones will combine voice communications with Web browsing, e-mail, and PIM-like functions such as address books, calendars, and notepad applets. And as industry-standard operating systems for smart phones mature, they will support more advanced applications, including group scheduling and database access.
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