An article over at The Feature talks about some of the implications of storage getting larger in capacity and smaller in size and power consumption. Although there might be some technical errors (for instance, the original Palms didn’t use flash memory, but low consumption battery backed RAM) I think the insights of the article are right on target. Increased storage capacity will have a great impact on the way that people use mobile devices. I’m not sure which of the two main usage patterns will win out however.
The two main camps of mobile device usage are:
Cheap and large storage will allow you to carry all your data with you everywhere.
Fast and ubiquitous wireless connectivity will allow you to store all your data online and access it from everywhere.
Both usages have their good points and their bad points. I personally tend towards the devices that allow me to carry my data, but that could of course change depending on the advances in wireless networking. I’ve been quite interested in the Modular Computing Core, although not enough to purchase one yet. And the use of iPods to store data files in addition to music has made that device quite interesting. I have a friend with a Mac who uses his iPod as a generic detechable storage device, it works just like an external firewire drive, and I’m pretty jealous of that setup as well.
On the other hand, I would really like to switch from my current pay-per-megabyte cellular plan to an unlimited plan so that I can start experiementing more with wireless applications. Certainly, current cellular data rates aren’t high enough to support all the different kinds of applications that would be needed to allow a wireless interface to replace local storage, but I haven’t completely discounted that possibility. Despite the many failings of cellular data here in the US, in general wireless technologies have progressed quite considerably. And maybe someone will have to end run the cellular providers, and setup an alternate network completely in order to get good data services, but I think eventually we will see high capacity wireless networks at affordable prices. Some companies, like WINKsite, already have services that allow online data to be used and created both from mobile systems and traditional PCs.
This is one of those areas in which the pendulum might swing back and forth multiple times before settling down. Or it might never settle down at all. Storage and networking could engage in a perpetual arms race, with people carrying their data or transmitting it depending on which technology had progressed further at a given point. And nothing says that there has to be an absolute winner either. Wireless could rule one segment while storage rules another, or it could come down to personal preference of the users.
Note however that synchronization of personal data isn’t even mentioned in my list. This is the model used by Palm and some other PDA style devices. I think many people would include it as a viable option, but I’m not. Even for the cases where applications have been well architected to work with sync, it seems like there are always major problems lurking here. I admit that it could just be my biased opinion on this one, but unless there are major advances in the way that sync is done I just don’t see this playing a big role in future consumer technology initiatives.